I have not wrote about my UPC (United Pentecostal Church) upbringing anywhere other than on this site, so these blogs will be my first attempt to organize these memories. Here goes.
I remember the first time I went to a UPC church. I was 4, and my Mom and I went to visit the church we would eventually join and I would spend most of my childhood in. I loved it. It was beautiful, there were lots of people, fast music, and Sunday School was fun. I can’t remember much else about those early years, except we started spending a LOT of time there.
Soon, things were changing in our house. Over the next 3 years or so, Mom started trying to get us kids to stop watching TV, even though Dad still watched it. (Dad did not go to church.) She started insisting on praying out loud before meals, even though that meant that Dad wouldn’t come to the table till she stopped. Mom started spending all her time reading books that looked like encyclopedias and laying on her face ‘praying’ in a process that looked very painful. If me or my little sister interrupted her, she’d become enraged, sometimes hitting us. The hitting wouldn’t really be considered abuse if the harshness of it was compared to a ‘normal’ spanking, but if only the reason for it were examined, the result might be different. It seems abusive to me to hit a child who needs assistance simply because the child interrupted a prayer. This doesn’t seem Christlike.
Another change in our home was that we had to start wearing dresses all the time. When I started school, this became a big issue for me. The kids at school asked a lot of times why I wasn’t able to dress normal, and not being able to wear pants meant that I was excluded from many activities. I could have done the activities in the skirts, but the school wouldn’t allow me to try. My Dad hated all this, and it caused no end of conflict between my parents because my Mom never backed down on any of these rules. Things in my home got more and more tense.
At 5 and 6 years old, there would be occasions where I would cry for hours to be allowed to wear a pair of jeans. I wanted to be normal so bad, but I couldn’t seem to articulate my feelings in any other way than “I just want to wear jeans”. My Mom had no patience with these crying spells, she would get very angry and want my Dad to punish me for being so silly. Dad would reply that he’d just give me a pair of pants so I would shut up. Mom would then say something to the affect of “I’ll just deal with her myself” and I’d be punished. Grounded from seeing friends or going to Grandma’s house – inevitably, something that I enjoyed would be taken away for a time to teach me not to “lust after the world”.
Around this time, I noticed that my Mom started getting up behind the pulpit at our church and preaching. I remember hoping that this would make her happy and things would get better at home. It didn’t happen that way.