As a young adult, I wasn’t exactly the most disciplined churchgoer, but (like most “God Fearin’ Southerners”) I did make it a practice to attend on a regular and (almost) frequent basis. After about eleven years belonging to (and for the sake of anonymity) “Church A”, I decided to go back to my family roots and transfer my church membership to the church where I was baptized and confirmed as a child (which, for the same reasons, I will call “Church B”).
I didn’t think it would take little more effort than making a phone call and having my letter of membership changed from one church to the other.
Is it just me, or do churches take this “membership” thing a little too serious? I think it was easier getting accepted to College than it was trying to transfer my church membership.
First, “Church B”, the church I was trying to re-affiliate with, wanted to know all my background over those past eleven years and what I’d been up to. (It’s not like I had been one of those people who wear white robes, shave their heads and hang around airports asking for handouts for the sake of Spiritual Karma or anything like that). I told them that I had joined the “Church A” several years after moving back to Tyler in ’82. Then they wanted to know “why” I switched churches in the first place.
I had become close friends with the Pastor there. He had officiated at my father’s funeral and joining his church seemed like the thing to do at the time. Prior to that, I had spent four years of college in Missouri then did a few years in Dallas and a few years of post-collegiate hedonism, so I had, pretty much, lost my emotional connection to the church. (Seemed like a simple enough explanation to me).
Then they told me that I would have to have a letter of membership sent from Church A to “Church B”. I always thought that they handled that, but, agasin, being a “God Fearin’ Southerner”, I followed their instructions.
Next, I went back to the “Church A”, where my friend, the Pastor who officiated at my father’s funeral, had since moved away. They wanted to know “why” I wanted to transfer my membership. I told them that there was nothing they had done to run me off, I just felt like getting back to my childhood roots. I probably should have left it with that, but I continued to explain that the sanctuary is larger, making it easier to find a seat on holidays not to mention that parking lot is larger and less congested. I don’t think they appreciated that.
When I went back to the administrative office of “Church B”, I explained that they should be receiving a letter of transfer of membership very soon. Then they explained that I would have to meet with the Session and have a personal audience with both of the pastors.
It was at this point that the conversation went a little something like this:
I said ok… “When?”
“Three weeks from next Thursday. Then you’ll have to meet with both pastors (individually) and make a statement of faith.”
“Just to transfer back? But I was a member here for almost 30 years, baptized and confirmed here!”
“Well then, you just should have thought about that before transferring to that other church.”
“What if I don’t want to and just show up on Sunday anyway?”
“Then you won’t get a Church Newsletter!”
I continued sneaking into “Church B” on Sundays but I tithed with cash only. I was afraid someone would get my name and address off of my check and, not only know that I was there, but would track me down because I hadn’t met with anyone yet.
When you get right down to it, I guess anyone can attend any church and call it “their” church, without actually being a “member”. I mean, exercising faith through worship is what it is, regardless of the location of the particular plot of real estate he or she chooses to worship.
The only real crisis was not receiving the church newsletter in the mail for a while. Seriously, I think the Associate Pastor felt sorry for me, sneaking in and sitting on the back row, so he must have “rubber stamped” me into the general membership.
I’ll admit that it’s nice to belong somewhere.
Copyright © 2013 Denning Key