I used to be a big church-goer, back in the day. Along with that, I was heavily involved in the music program.
I was thinking about the little Methodist church I went to with a friend called Jan. We’d known Jan from my time in the USAF and our church involvement there. When she could no longer be a part of the base church program, she and the choir director we both knew moved to this little church.
When my then-husband, Joe, and I moved into our house in Dayton OH and I got out of the USAF, we elected to attend church there as well, and we were both deeply involved in the music program.
When I first began singing, in my youth, I’d not learned how to ‘push’ my voice out using my diaphragm. However, given time in this particular music program, I eventually learned how to do that, and developed a very nice mezzo Soprano voice (mezzo meaning my range went from Alto to mid-high Soprano). Our friend Jan was a lyric Soprano (bottom Soprano range to highest), which happens to have been Julie Andrews’ range as well.
Soon enough, I began to do solos in the church, and picked music that was often by the same performers that Jan used. We would go to the local religious bookstore and find the cassette tapes of the background music, as well as the sheet music for the pieces. We would play the background on the cassette player while we sang the pieces. It didn’t take long for me to gain some notoriety with my voice.
The kabosh came at Christmas, which was when we did Handel’s “The Messiah”. That last year we were there, I decided to try out for the Alto solo (Jan always had the Soprano solo and, out of consideration for her, and the fact that she was ‘favored’, I decided not to try for that one). I not only got it - I shocked everyone with how I could make my voice literally bounce off the back wall of the church when doing the intro piece.
Jan and I went out shopping for dresses. We had to have something semi-formal to formal in all black, or as close to all black as possible. She found a very nice 3/4-length dress with white accents. I was having a harder time finding something till we went to this one little store and I found a real beauty - a full-length black formal with a velvet top, sweetheart neckline, and taffeta skirt with crinoline. Think Snow White in all black and you pretty much have it. Jan wanted to use that dress instead of the one she’d already bought but, for the first time, I put my foot down with her, refused to give in, and said I was going to use the dress. This was actually the first time in our friendship that I did not let her have the upper hand in something that was relatively important.
I got the dress, and soon enough we were performing - two full performances of The Messiah, one for each of the main services. I was singing the Soprano choruses and did the Alto solo - and did it SO well that people were asking me, with all sincerity, if I sang with the Dayton Philharmonic.
Jan, being the Leo, and the type that always needed the adulation and praise, was entirely and completely devastated by the attention I got. Nobody ever asked her if she sang for the Dayton Phil. Nobody fawned over her, like they did me...and in my case I was very aware of what this did to her self-image, and it wasn’t something that I’d asked for or hoped for.
She soon made both of us pay for what she perceived as a huge ‘slight’.
She began talking behind our backs. Began whispering mean things to others in the choir room. Began acting entirely green with jealousy.
Things got so bad that Joe and I went to our Bibles, and then to the Pastor, after we’d found Biblical support for the idea of the Pastor helping us work through this problem in a very Christian and loving way.
Long story short: Instead of helping us, the Pastor suggested we leave the church. You got that right - rather than engaging in counseling and mediation to help us work through our problem with Jan, he told us to leave the church.
I will leave you sit with that a moment...
I can say, without any doubt whatsoever, that Priests and Pastors are very much human beings - even more so than most devout Christians will either admit or realize.
When you come to realize this, when you see that they aren’t any closer to God than you are, despite their degrees and Station, you lose faith in the purpose and meaning of going to church at all.
We did leave that church and began attending another Methodist church, in town, closer to home. We got involved with that music program and had a very good time, for awhile. Life changes.
I am a practicing Hungarian Shaman and Third-degree Celtic Wiccan High Priestess now. Looking back on my time as a Christian, I just shake my head, especially when there are so many people out there who are mixing their religion and politics and saying God-this and Jesus-that. All of it makes me shake my head.
I never believed in mixing politics and religion, and even if I were a devout Christian today, I would never do such a thing. There is a very good reason for the separation of Church and State and I’m all for keeping it.
Just remember, folks - the officials of your church are likely even more human than you can imagine. That means they’re very fallible and very prone to making just as many mistakes as you are.