"My Church" by Ben Arzate

I grew up in a family that went to church every Sunday. I think our church was a little bit different, though.

           

Instead of a church building, our congregation met in the basement of an abandoned theater. We sat in folding chairs and the pastor's pulpit was a cheap, beat up looking lectern. The basement was lit with work lights hung up on the ceiling.

           

The pastor was really old. He looked like he was about eighty. He would start the service by having us bow our heads and pray for about ten minutes. After that, he would read a few chapters from his Bible. The problem was he usually forgot to bring it. When he did, he would pick up this moldy phone directory from the seventies that was always lying on the basement floor. He would read names and phone numbers from it for about half an hour.

           

When he was finished with that, he would pass out these hardcover hymn books. I think they were the result of some weird printing mistake. The cover had an English title that just said Hymns, but the inside was written all in Russian.

           

We didn't sing any hymns, though. The pastor would kill the lights and we had to hit each other with the books. I was the only kid in the congregation, so it was easy to stay low and avoid getting hit. When I did get hit, it would really hurt and I'd sit on the floor and cry until it was over.

           

One day I asked my mom what hitting each other had to do with God. She told me to ask the pastor. When I asked the pastor, he got really angry. He beat on his lectern and yelled, “The suffering of Christ is greater than yours!”