Part 2 of early religious impressions- my teen years:

My brother married Joanie fresh out of High School.   She belonged to what we called an “old-fashioned” Church of God-or Pentecostal Church. Over the years, many in the Pentecostal movement slowly dropped  convictions against the evils of televisions and earrings and replaced them with modern representations of worldliness.

My sister-in-law’s Church leaned more toward conservative tradition. Interestingly, my maternal Grandmother had belonged to the same church when my mother was a girl.  My mom’s hair was so long she sat on it, tucked it along with her skirt when she took a seat.  As soon as she was of age, she cut it up to her shoulders,  an act of defiance my grandmother never quite recovered from.  I never understood- she herself always wore short bouffant hair popular of the day even when long-hair was a woman’s glory, her proper head covering, according to the church.

When my mom was young, she and her sisters would peer through the windows and entertain themselves with the activities of the worship service- the yelling and occasional dance.  As she grew older, the experience became personal- how “sister” so-and-so used to drag her or someone else up to the altar while the whole congregation wailed, cried, prayed…which she recalled with severe distaste. As far as I know, she never followed in any of her mother’s footsteps.

After several invitations, I finally agreed to visit the church. I wore a cute safari dress with a high slit in the front; my usual make-up and jewelry.  My brother told me how men in the congregation had no compunction for pointing out an improperly dressed brother- making an example out of them- in order to correct any potentially wayward sheep.  I guess he wasn’t surprised when he was called on the carpet for the purple streaks in his hair. I don’t know how well he was known by the congregation at that point, but regardless, they had claimed him as their own.

I enjoyed watching the people fill the choir loft while slapping the backs of their red-back Hymnals, keeping time with the music.  They sang of some way-off place that possessed everything we were lacking here on earth. One lady had her hair parted down the middle, and it was rolled to frame her face like someone had mashed a halo down on her head.  I saw her just the other day wearing the exact same hair style…only the color was worn away.

Off and on throughout the service, I scanned the crowd, wondering what was made of my high-cut skirt. No one seemed to mind except the man sitting parallel to me, whose eyes were fixated on my legs. I just knew he was thinking about the depths I had sunk wearing such a thing into the Lord’s house; all I felt was daring and privileged to have my freedom.

I may not have been bound to wear an ankle-length skirt, but I was bound by more powerful, intangible things.


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