School on Sunday??? What the….

I don’t have fond memories of Sunday School. My sisters and I went to the Methodist Church in Station Street, Box Hill. Mum was Catholic and it was a huge thing for her to marry into a Methodist family, but whilst she didn’t continue to practice she couldn’t quite bring herself to attend a Methodist church on a regular basis.
Dad’s mother was a very straight laced pious woman from a strict Irish orange background. The families men were Mason’s and many of the women Sunday School teachers so when Mum came into the family she was given a hard time. It was like a Martin marrying a McCoy.
Dad never showed any great interest in Church, for him Sunday mornings were spent pleasantly at Andy Scott’s place across the road where the neighbourhood men would gather and knock a few tops off some long necks when the sun came over the yard arm. At least that’s what I was told. I never understood the nautical term until I realized that the as the bottles were drunk the blokes began to talk like pirates with lots of arrrrghhhs and squints of the eyes.
So while that was going on it was Mum who drove us to Sunday School. We were usually dropped off out the front and left to find our own way in. I guess Mum thought that she would end up in purgatory if she set foot inside the door of a rival faith. Sure she wouldn’t go back to her own Church but there was no way she’d enter a building for fear of being struck down by lightning.
I don’t remember a lot about what we actually did there – I can remember a sandpit and being told the old testament stories, like Noah’s Ark and Samson and Delilah – but I do remember that I hated going. Getting up early on Sunday morning having to wear good shorts and a bow tie wasn’t my idea of fun, particularly when the California poppy was spread through the hair.
One of the issues was that we didn’t know anyone. None of the kids we went to school with went to that church so we only ever saw these kids on Sunday mornings and if I sit here now I cannot remember a single name or face of any of them.
And there were days when Mum or Dad were late picking us up, not often and not really very late, but I do remember feeling stressed if they weren’t out the front waiting for us when the session had ended. I think I felt pretty early on that they were a bit hypocritical in making us go to church when they wouldn’t.
For all that I grew up as a god fearing kid. Said my prayers every night on my knees beside my bed and if for some reason I forgot I’d sometimes get out of bed when the light was off and complete the ritual. I can still remember the words now –
“As I lay me down to sleep I pray the Lord my soul to keep and if I should die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
Then I’d ask God to bless my Mum and Dad, my sisters and our pets, and all my cousins and friends. I don’t think I realized the gravity of the words I said until much later.
Some time in my early teens we were no longer forced to go to church and the sky didn’t fall and I haven’t yet ended up in purgatory. One day I’ll learn if those Sunday mornings of ritual boredom were really necessary or not.