June 16, 1999


___ONE OF THE JOYS (or perhaps challenges) of moving to a new town is looking for a new church. It's hard enough for adults; but add kids into the mix, and the trouble factor i
ncreases by 10.
___Our twin boys, who just turned 7, have grown up going to church. They're church regulars, and they know the drill. But they still would rather stay home and play on Sunday morning than get dressed and go to church. And on top of that, they are naturally apprehensive about going new places where there are strange people.
___One way I found myself trying to help them (and help myself, to be honest), was to put up the strongest front possible that we knew exactly what we were doing, where to go and what was going to happen. Unfortunately, my intentions sometimes fell short of reality.
___Even someone as immersed in Baptist life as me no longer can predict how a Baptist church will do much of anything--or how they'll arrange a building or where they'll place a welcome center (if they have one). So, more often than not, my attempts to present the situation as though "Daddy has everything in control" ended up in embarrassment.
___That's not to say our children didn't do their fair share in trying to embarrass me either. Like the Sunday Garrett was frightened when the pastor started his sermon by talking about the devil.
___Garrett--who had been tormented at his old school by a first grade Jehovah's witness telling scary stories about the devil--immediately stretched out on the pew and covered his ears. He didn't want to hear anything about the devil or even see the preacher talking about the devil.
___About five minutes into the sermon, Garrett shot up from his reclining position on the pew and, with his hands still firmly covering his ears, shouted at me: "Will you please tell me when this is over?"
___I assured the pastor afterward that I didn't think the sermon was that bad.
___In fact, we joined the church a few weeks later. We just don't sit so close to the front anymore.

___WHAT MARK didn't tell you about that same service was everything that led up to Garrett's proclamation. Our church has pillars at intervals along the sides, and without thinking
about it, we happened to sit on a row behind one of these pillars.
___So the boys started out by arguing over who got to sit behind the pillar. Luke won that battle, and I had to continually keep him from putting his feet up on the pillar.
___Then, just as were settled and the service had barely started, Luke had to go to the bathroom (yes, we had neglected to take him ahead of time). Upon our return, we saw that Garrett had naturally usurped Luke's place behind the pillar. I'll leave the ensuing whispered discussion to your imagination.
___As if that weren't enough disruption from one family, I had a coughing fit in the middle of the pastoral prayer and finally had to leave the service. That meant Mark was left by himself with the ear-covered Garrett and the pillar-footsying Luke.
___I didn't dare try to traverse the aisle again, so I sat out the rest of the service, listening in on the speakers in the foyer. I actually heard a complete sermon for the first time in months. Sheer bliss.
___Believe it or not, the church actually let us return and even seemed pleased we had joined. If anyone who sat by us during that previous fateful Sunday didn't make it up to shake our hands, I didn't notice.
___Leaving our church family in Louisville, Ky., was the hardest part of moving for us. If that episode had happened there, we would have had friends to laugh and commiserate with us.
___But we see doors opening to friendships here in Texas as we settle in to life in a new church. We just don't plan to sit behind any pillars.

___He Said/She Said is a new regular feature of the Baptist Standard's on-line edition. Mark Wingfield is managing editor of the Standard. Alison Wingfield is a freelance writer. The Wingfields moved to Texas in January from Louisville, Ky., where Mark had been editor of the Western Recorder, in which this column appeared weekly.


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