My experience with Sunday school was minimal due to my family’s only symbolic association with the Episcopal Church. A neighbor friend asked me to come with him one Sunday to his church, the First Baptist. I was hooked almost immediately. The sense of community, the promise of salvation, the excitement of Christmas and Easter, and the rewards and praise for behavior that was expected of you all won me over. My Sunday school attendance soon surpassed my friend who brought me to the church. For three or four years I had perfect attendance. I walked or rode my bike when I could not catch a ride. I took a liking to Christian trinkets and books. I read series after series about noble Christian children using their virtuous lives to help others and stop evil. While the church was a hell and brimstone institution and punishment and reward was stressed, I primarily remember emphasis on good deeds and community. Upon reflection I see this as the first example of throwing myself totally into something. A behavior pattern that was to repeat itself many times.
The pastor of the church was a short, stocky, man with his black hair slicked back. He was charismatic and preached a strong, expressive sermon. I was in awe of him. When I reached my teenage years my interest in Christianity began to wane. The more I learned of the world and Christianity’s place in it the more I shunned it finally completely abandoned it. But my association with the pastor did not end. In the early 1990’s I did a project of painted portraits and interviews with elders of various faiths in our region. I asked my former pastor and he kindly agreed to participate and remembered me well from 30 years ago. The interview went well although some of his family members were not overly appreciative of my expressive portrait of him. More years passed and when my mother died I asked him to say a few words at the funeral home service. Even though he had never met her he again kindly agreed. His congregation grew over the decades and he had a popular television broadcast as well. He died at the age of 99 a much loved man.
Perfect Attendance, 9″ x 12″, acrylic on shuen paper, 2021