I tried to make us a church-going family. Short story is: That didn't work.

By Jessica Hartshorn
April 16, 2014
We're the Family That Only Goes to Church on Easter 34743

I grew up in Pittsburgh, which is largely Catholic, and my lack of churching was an occasional scandal for friends or a teacher. (Kindergarten was held in a church basement and the first time we went upstairs, I cried in fear.) My teenage besties brought me to youth groups and masses. It opened my eyes to how much I wasn't learning: I didn't know Bible stories, I didn't know what communion was, and I couldn't wrap my mind around what made one religion different from another.

In college I took a "Bible as Literature" class and, in the way you do, had deep discussions with people who were Jewish, Unitarian, and everything else. I went through a period of announcing I was "nothing" or an atheist but that wasn't true. I did believe in a higher power—I just couldn't figure out how to express it. Then I started taking my mom to church, just for Christmas Eve services in the little Lutheran church that my grandma still attended. We giggled through a lot of it but it still felt good.

I married a Unitarian and found a nice Unitarian church; he joined me for some education classes there, but out of a lifetime of habit, I couldn't get it together to go every Sunday. Then I became a mom, and copied my mom's example with a Lutheran baptism for my daughter, and a Unitarian naming ceremony for my son two years later. Unlike her, I tried to make us a church-going family.

Short story is: That didn't work. My kids are fine with going sometimes, to see a family friend who plays the organ in his church, or to see cousins sing in theirs. We've gone to synagogue to see other cousins at their Bar Mitzvah. But my kids (and let's face it, me) balk at an every-Sunday schedule, even though they seem to enjoy services. My daughter, in particular, likes to participate in open communion. At least I can be thankful they aren't afraid of a church, right?

We're the Family That Only Goes to Church on Easter 34744

A lapsed-Catholic friend, also from Pittsburgh, found a little church near us in Brooklyn that has a lovely Easter service. We went last year and with serious intentions, I asked about the Bible study classes for kids. But I didn't sign my children up. Now a year has gone by, and I'm planning on showing up again this Sunday. No doubt the regulars who keep the church running will spot us once-a-year folk a mile away, and sigh.

Here's what I want them to know: We're lazy Christians, but we own it. We're still proud (if extra guilty) members of the club. I mean, I named my children Grace and Joseph, for heaven's sake. I've talked to them about what faith means, and the importance of having it. I have a book of Bible stories in the house. I tell them what Christmas celebrates, and the story behind Easter, and why the Easter cake I bake, the same one my grandma always insisted on, is lamb-shaped. I've told them that they can talk to God anytime they want to; He's always listening. Even if they only show up in His house once a year.