Everything has a beginning. My beginning happened in a small town where my dad was pastoring, (or rather attempting to pastor) a church that had never really existed, but in the mind of those who wished to start it. There were no constituents, and it is my understanding that my parents lived on what my dad could make working in a grocery store. It was there I was born, and where I lived for nine days, before they packed up everything and left to evangelize.
According to my baby book, written in my mother’s handwriting, I received my first spanking at the hands of my father when I was only a little over two months old. She followed this revelation with a little smiley face that she wrote, before explaining that they later found out that I wasn’t getting enough milk and that’s why I was screaming so much. It seemed not to bother her or my father particularly that they had “spanked” a tiny infant for being hungry. They just knew that they did not want to raise a child who would “throw fits”, and they were starting early to make sure I behaved as the child of a minister should.
I was the oldest child, and perhaps these mistakes could be chalked up to inexperienced ignorance, but it nonetheless sheds light on the mindset of two young people starting out a family, when both of them had been raised in Oneness Pentecostalism their entire lives. They both had been raised to expect perfection of themselves and others, because after all, God expected perfection, didn’t he?
My parents still brag about how well they trained me to act in church. I am that shining example that they hold up in front of every other young parent who crosses their paths. They had me trained on how to act in church from the age of nine months old, so they know it can be done!
I have no recollection of that time, of course, but I am told that I would sit on the front seat all alone at nine months old. I am told that I was expected to sit there looking forward, and not get up or turn around. On those occasions where I did get up and turn around, my parents said that one of them would leave the platform and take me out for a spanking. My mother played the piano and sang, while my dad led the services and preached. It was my job to sit down and be quiet. Apparently I learned the lesson they were trying to teach me fairly well, because they used that experience to teach other parents how to train their kids to act in church.
Years later, when I allowed my two year old to bring a quiet toy to church and to play between the pews quietly, I received major lectures and severe criticism, because “We know children can be trained to sit on the pew quietly. We trained you when you were only nine months old.”
Dad never allowed for a church nursery at any church he pastored, because he felt like babies need to be trained from infant hood how to behave in church. If a parent was struggling to accomplish this, he would go back to that example of me at nine months old.