Thursday, February 22, 2007

Am I Conventional?

Do I go to a conventional church? When we I started, I didn't think so.

I can hardly remember those ancient days when men wore suits and women their best clothes of a Sunday morning. So much nonsense has been written about the '60s, as though the old world passed away with the first Mercury launch; but the truth was that in almost any place as much of the '40s survived and lived on for decades more. But by my day the men's hat was gone, and the woman's hat was disappearing fast in white culture. But I suppose in most respects my parents' Presbyterian congregation was everything the stereotype of "conventional" church promises-- except for the Sicilian pastor.

But then I went off to boarding school. Perhaps in its way it was conventional for an Episcopalian school; today, it is perhaps much more so, though the convention has changed greatly over the years. But to me it was anything but, and not just because it wasn't a lot like my old church. Indeed, it took some two years for me to become comfortable with it.

When I came home from high school, I choose my parish "conventionally": I looked up the phone number in the yellow pages and called to see what time servics were. Such a commitment is perhaps now unconventional, and now, twenty-five years, two parishes, three interims, and five rectors after high school, it is perhaps only some misbegotten loyalty that keeps me where I am. We seem to follow the local convention of a guitar service around 9 and a "traditional" service at 11, and frankly, guitars in church are not my thing; I'm not a pep rally kind of person. But the convention now is that young people and young kids are supposed to go to the "contemporary" service, and the gray hairs go to the "traditional" service., and never mind that "contemporary" really means "20 years ago" or more.

So I'm having a big problem with the word "conventional", because as far as I can see pretty much any kind of church service, at this point, follows some sort of convention. I don't think we can get at the badness of bad church on these terms.