Change the Game

When I was growing up, my family attended St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Waukegan. Originally it was a member of the Suomi Synod, a group of churches derived from the Finnish national church. More recently it had joined the Lutheran Church in America, but the pastor still held Finnish language services once a week well into the nineties.

As usual in churches, there were service groups that conveyed status. My mother belonged for years to the Sarah Circle, a group that made coffee for the after-service get-togethers in the church basement. Mom was always acutely conscious that she grew up poor on a Michigan farm during the Depression and felt that the wives of businessmen were snooty. In particular she felt that a particular woman, whom I will call Isanta, had it in for her personally. Isanta ran the Sarah Circle like the biblical Centurion. "I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh."

While I was growing up, I naturally saw these things from Mom's viewpoint. After I'd been at college awhile, I started to agree with my Dad, who frequently growled, "to hell with 'em." In late summer of my junior year, Mom came home angry from the Sarah Circle meeting, and I didn't want to hear it. I told her, "Well, if you don't like this group, start your own!", and walked off.

Shortly thereafter, I went back to college and left Mom to contend with her society. That fall there was a major upset at the church. Mom had taken my exasperated suggestion seriously and, with her friends, revived the Altar Guild, a group that arranged flowers on the altar and kept the altar clothes clean and pressed. By Christmas, almost the entire membership of the Sarah Circle had moved over to the Altar Guild, and Isanta and her husband had left St. Mark's and moved to St. Paul's Lutheran Church across town.

If you can't win, change the game.