Onward Christian Soldiers

Yesterday someone asked me about my earliest church memories. I didn’t grow up in what I consider to be a ‘religious family’. It was the sixties in Toronto and my parents, as I recall, were like the families I saw on TV. My parents were like Ricky and Lucy Ricardo or Ralph and Alice Kramden although I thought they looked like Don and Betty Draper. Have you ever noticed how much those couples fought? My parents fought a lot and those shows normalized some of the conflict. My parents were also quite young. By the time my mother was twenty she had two children. And I think getting the kids out of the house on Sunday morning was probably her motivation for sending us to ‘Sunday School’.

I remember on Sunday morning, my brother and I walking to church. It seemed a lot further away to me then but I just looked at a map and it was under a kilometer from our home. My brother and I would take our offering and walk to church. I was probably about 6 years old and we went to a church called the Salvation Army. I remember all the adults in uniforms. It was like we had gone to war. We learned songs like ‘Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus’ and as kids we would march around and stand at attention taking this battle metaphor quite seriously. Attendance was a big deal. We were in God’s army and we had to fight the enemy. If I didn’t show up how could we win the fight? I’m not sure how long we went there. Long enough that I received a certificate for attendance and the assurance that achievement had earned me a place in heaven. And long enough for me to figure out no one noticed if I didn’t put my offering in the collection plate. I could buy a lot of candy with that 25 cents my mom gave me. I can’t say for sure if my faithful church attendance had anything to do with the stop at the corner store on the way home.