I Never Went to Sunday School


I had this thing for the playground in the back lot of Ellinwood Malate Church, I loved those acacia trees and the way the filtered sunlight softly lights the sandbox on sunny Sunday mornings (see here if you missed it).  That, and wanting to play kept me from staying focused in Sunday school and I whined myself out of attending.  It was a surprise that my mom actually allowed me not to attend—on the condition that I had to go to the adult service with her and my dad.

The surprise comes from the fact that most of my cousins were in Sunday school.  In fact, some of my teachers would have been my cousins and it was only a matter of time that my mom started taking flak from my uncles and aunts—who were elders and deacons at some point of their lives in Ellinwoodfor consenting to my whims (“kunsintidor”).

So I never went to Sunday school.

Now the nice thing about being a kid in adult worship is that you can get away looking bored during the service.  You cannot really do that while in Sunday school since in a class of 20 or so, the teacher cannot miss you daydreaming, which I did a lot.  In a packed church of over 800 you get lost in the crowd where a kid can daydream all he wants and even fall asleep.

I would let my parents sit in the pews first while I took my time talking with friends before the service started.  The idea was, that by the time I sat down, the pews were already full.  So when I sat down, I had to squeeze myself between my mom and dad.  That tight fit propped me up when I fell asleep; and it would pull me up as well when it was time to stand up for a hymn or prayer.

That worked quite well until I was tall enough to be seen over my parents shoulders.  And at which point I was beginning to understand what was going on.

This was Ellinwood Malate Church.  The largest UCCP church in the Philippines and it had the ambiance of a cathedral.  It was awesome.  You looked up into the welcoming arms of Jesus in the stained glass with the admonition “Come Unto Me”.  For a skinny little kid it was God’s grandeur displayed.

PENTAX *ist-DS + SMCP 135/2.5

But I never went to Sunday school.

And that delinquency left some blank pages in my soul. Later, as a teacher, I would observe that it was easy for others to be "inoculated" by the vaccine of shallow Christianese
—and the way children are spoon-fed their faith have a way of doing that. 

And the smallness I felt sitting in this big cathedral left within me a void that needed to be discovered. Of course, there were the episodes when I ran away from that emptiness, attempting to fill it with something else.  Growing into adolescence also made things a little complicated. But I remember intentionally putting last in my high school career choices anything to do with religion. Which was strange—thinking about it later—that I would even put something “religious” at all in my career choice when I could have left it out altogether.  Eventually the journey I would take to fill that emptiness would take me to where I am now.

And all that was because I never went to Sunday school.