I grew up in a little Presbyterian church in the suburbs of North Carolina that believed in predestination and the importance of keeping in touch. Church wasn’t all bad, at least not back then. It was more than just Sunday mornings. It was weekly dinners in the fellowship hall, Bible study, choir practice and kickball. We ate dinners at each other’s homes, formed (incredibly problematic) Indian Princess groups together, and prayed for each other. When I think of those times, it feels like I’m watching it on VHS – all static, shaky zooms, and kids running up to the camera. Even now, at the age of twenty-six, I think of myself more as I was then than I am now: six years old, running through the field behind church as the twilight falls around me.
In these little grassroots churches, someone is often tasked with making a weekly bulletin to pass out with the sermon. The bulletins have notes on the sermon, the list of songs, and a social section. The social section is the preferred way of itemizing what amounts, basically, to the hot godly gossip of the week: births, deaths, engagement announcements, illnesses, calls for celebration. (Ours also had a section on who to pray for and why. If I still went to church, I’d probably be on it every single week.) These bulletins are strangely designed, with inexplicable margins and mystical Clip Art that are somehow supposed to illustrate the movings of the Holy Spirit.
I don’t keep in touch with anyone anymore. The community has moved on without me, and too much has changed, anyways. I’ve changed – lost my faith, fallen in and out of love, moved far away from God and home. Now, I watch them on Facebook as they go back to school, get degrees, slowly settle into marriage in unsurprising combinations. And I think about those bulletins a lot. Social media gives me the general idea of what’s happening, the very basic outlines, but I wish there was more. It’s impossible to keep in touch with everyone, but I can’t help but want it anyway. Any relationship that has been lost feels like a part of myself that was also lost, even if I recognize that there was no realistic way to move forward. It seems criminal to have had such formative and emotional experiences with someone and have no way to translate it into the present. It’s one of those things I don’t think I’ll ever fully get over.
In writing, that’s really all I want to do. I just want to keep in touch. It’s cathartic to me to feel fully known, if only online. Social media grasps at it, but there’s so much curation that goes in it that it mostly just feels fake.
There were honeysuckle bushes that bloomed behind the church. There is no reason to think they aren’t still there.