Skit Churches and Freaky Women

There was a woman in my home church growing up who used to completely freak me out. She was always dressed average, and she spoke average, and she walked average, and she drove an average car.  So what about her was so freaky?  Honestly she was about a hundred when I was nine and she was still about a hundred when I came home from college.  That’s sort of freaky.  But her freakiness came from something else.  From the time she was my Sunday school teacher in third grade to the time she passed away, whenever someone talked about church, “she” was the image that came to my mind.  This “freak” was my idea of Church.  How is it that I can make such a statement and feel so at ease in doing so?  Can one person be the Church?  Isn't the accumulation of a group of believers the Church?  Isn't the building that houses and protects that group of believers really the Church?  Isn't the leadership that oversees and guides that group of believers the Church?  Yes, Yes, Yes and No...Not at all.

When I was about twelve, almost thirteen, and trying to be very attentive to the teachings of the new teen minister, I was perplexed by a skit that was played out for us in Opening one Sunday morning before we were divided into age groups and sent to separate classes.  It was a simple skit about a traveling salesman who was visiting a church to worship.  The re-enactment seemed very much like our own church service.  

The program was planned and scheduled. The service agenda was printed on a nice fold-out paper and passed out to congregational members. The songs were from the hymnal and appropriate to the preacher's speaking topic. The offering was taken on time by the ushers. Someone arrived late and the congregation turned to give them a look of disappointment. The message was given, announcements followed. And then there was a prayer and song of benediction.  

At one time during the announcements, a woman stood up and addressed the preacher.  She said, “Minister, I would like a moment to tell the congregation about just how good the Lord has been to me this week.”  The pastor was pleased and asked the woman to speak.  She was not long in words, but her testimony was sincere and filled with thanksgiving and praise for the Lord.  I thought it was interesting that she spoke of such simple things that were so much like the things in my life, yet she was so grateful.  

At that early teen age, I remember thinking “How strange, yet beautiful”. Actually the skit seemed boring.  It was like watching church and then knowing that we were still going to have to go to church after Sunday school.  I looked around the room and tried to categorize what the popular teen leaders were thinking, so that I would know what response I should be feeling.  They all just looked perplexed.

As Opening began the next Sunday, I noticed that the same members of the teen crowd were missing from the audience that had been missing last week due to their involvement with the skit.  Sure enough, the curtains opened and the setting on the stage was exactly the same as the week before.  As the congregation arrived at the skit church, things got really funny.  

The congregational members no longer looked like themselves, but were dressed and made-up to look 20 years older.  Then I began to notice things about the skit church building.  It wasn't as clean as it used to be.  There was a crack in the wall and one of the church pews was broken.  This pew was marked with a sign.  

The agenda was still printed on a fold-out paper, but instead of being handed out, now the programs were left in a pile at the back of the church.  And, there was a new sign posted above the pile that said, “One program only per family”.  At one point, an usher actually snatched a program back from a family member who had taken more than the allowed amount.  The family member was directed to read the sign.  

The songs that were sung were from the hymnal and appropriate to the preacher's message topic, but only the first and last verses were sung of each song.  There was a new group of musicians that were going to play a special, and much was made about how long they had practiced and how talented they were.   They were good...I was impressed.  

Then the offering was taken and the preacher took a moment to talk about the budget and the “shortage” on the church's financial plan.  Someone arrived late and the usher ask them to stand at the back of the church until the preacher was done talking and the offering had been collected.  The usher made it clear that the visitor should wait until he was motioned to from the head usher before finding a seat, “because it would be less distraction”.  

The message that morning in the skit church was on “Compassion for others” and the congregation nodded and once in a while you could hear an “amen”  One of the congregational members in the mid back of the skit church was clipping his nails, and although he tried to time his clipping to the speaking of the preacher, he often was off time and his clips would loudly be heard across the quiet sanctuary...not to mention the nail trimmings that kept flying forward to the hair of the woman sitting in front of him.  

The skit was very funny.  I didn't even check with the “Populars” to see if I could laugh, I was laughing almost the whole time.  We were all still laughing when we were dismissed to our separate classes.

On the way to church the next week, my teen siblings and I started talking in the car about the skits.  I was surprised to hear that my older brother thought there would be a continuation this morning.  Then I got excited.  If it was as exciting as last week then maybe this morning’s Sunday school hour would not be a complete bore.  As we arrived in the teen building, sure enough, things were set up like the past two weeks.  The curtains opened and the preacher took the pulpit.  It was hilarious.  

He was 20 to 30 years older than he had been the week before.  There was no bounce or energy left in him at all.  He was not the man we saw in the first skit that had been fired-up and ready to change the world.  He looked tired and sad and overwhelmed.  I felt sick for him.  I wondered why the skit church hadn't replaced him with someone younger and more entertaining.  

As the congregation arrived at the skit church, things became even funnier.  The leaders of the teen group that were playing the roles of the congregation and choir members were now in their 60's and 70's.  They were old.  They used canes and walkers.  One was even in a wheelchair… but he could no longer be in the choir because there was only one place appropriate for him to sit with his wheelchair, so he now sang from the back with the congregation.  He looked really sad and dropped his head when the choir was ushered in to start the service.  

The schedule of the morning services was printed on a program and was also shown on an overhead projector.  In large print there was a note to the members of the congregation.  It stated, “To help assist with the new convenient technologies of the service, no changes or interruptions are allowed to this schedule”. 

The choir sang, the band played, a soloist performed and although no one raised their hands or said amen, a lot of applause was given because the entertainers were really good at what they did.  The leading elder of the church even came up and spoke about how this young soloist was a performer professionally and that a lot of people pay “good money” to hear her sing, and that we are privileged to have her sing in our church.  Then, he asked for another round of applause for her.  He also said that an offering plate would be passed in her name, and that anyone who wanted to help further her career could participate by giving a little extra to her cause.  

I noticed that the crack in the skit church wall had not been repaired and that in fact it looked as if it had gotten larger.  A sign was now posted above the crack that said that the church had not been able to repair the wall due to a shortage in the budget and to PLEASE watch your step because the church could not be responsible for accident or injury.  The sign was the same color as the sign on the broken bench, except not as faded.  
As the pastor came to the pulpit he almost stopped.  For a minute I thought he was going to say something to the crowd, then a man in the congregation cleared his throat loudly and the pastor moved slowly to the pulpit.  He looked out over the congregation and studied it completely.  He looked sad.  I looked around me to see what he was looking at.  

The skit church congregation looked funny but not sad.  They were doing the same things they had done the weeks previously.  The man who had been clipping his nails last week was still clipping his nails.  The woman “with the hair” who had been sitting in front of him was not there.  In fact, I didn't see any of that family in the congregation at all.  In fact, there were almost no kids or teens in the skit church now. 

The preacher said that his message was on the “Hope of Christ” but he did not seem hopeful.  The message was short, but that was good because the announcements were really long. A prayer and song of benediction was given and we were out of there.  

How depressing.  I couldn't wait to leave, my stomach felt sick and I didn't want to think about this anymore.

On the way to church the next week, I made up my mind to tell my parents about this disturbing skit church.  I felt they could do something to stop this whole play acting thing and not let me be so uncomfortable.  As I told my parents, my siblings joined in to add bits and pieces and correct me with their views.  My mom told us that surely the teachers were trying to get a message across to us and that if we were patient, we would understand.  I saw my dad's face in the rear view mirror; his expression looked a little that morning like the skit preacher.  He looked sad and grew very quiet.  I hoped things were going to be different today in Opening, because honestly, new teenage group or not, I didn't want to go anymore.

Well, just as I thought.  They were going to do it again.  How much worse could this skit church get?  As the curtains opened, the congregation was already seated. 

One traveling salesman arrived a little late but left after he read the posted sign on the sanctuary doors that stated “These doors are only to be opened 10 minutes before the service and until before the choir sings their first selection...thank you for your consideration”   In small print at the bottom of the sign it read, “a printed permanent schedule is available upon request from the head usher before services for your convenience”. 

The skit church board all stood on the platform and announced that the pastor had “retired”.  A search was beginning for a new pastor.  They requested that everyone pray for guidance in this selection and that the Lord would quickly send someone to fill the position that would fit the already established system and guidelines of the local church.  Then with a chuckle, the board member said “we have worked hard to refine this nice church and don't want to stir up things or start from scratch.”  A couple of men in the congregation of the skit church nodded in agreement.  A prayer was said asking for what had been spoken earlier.  While all the heads were down, except the “nail clipper” in the mid back row, I noticed that most of the chairs were empty.  

Well maybe it just looked that way because of the new chairs.  They were supposed to help people feel more comfortable while watching the church service...sort of like a play or concert or similar production.  Everyone got their own padded chair.  Many people seemed really proud of the improvement.  A guest minister was sent to preach the message today.  He was young and full of energy, but seemed to be really nervous and waiting for something, for almost everything he said.  He looked like a boy being bullied on a playground at someone else's school.  

I studied the congregation to see if I could find the villain but the only movement I detected was from a really tall guy that couldn't get his knees to fit in the new padded chairs.  I giggled to myself because he looked a lot like one of the Gumby rubber figure toys with the wire legs that you could twist in all sorts of directions.  He was sitting at the very front of his seat trying to work around the comfortable arms of the chairs, with his left knee in the aisle and his right knee angled in front of the chair beside him.  Boy did he look funny.  He was not the villain, and I couldn't tell who was.  

I tried to pay attention to the pastor because his voice was nice and he seemed like he was excited to say something.  But all those hesitations and looking around and those downward glances broke up his message so much that it was difficult to understand what he was trying to say.  No one said amen.  No one really did anything.  The choir performed and the band played.  

The board stood up and with offering plates began to take the offering at the appropriate time.  Maybe the ushers were all on vacation, or maybe they hadn't been doing a very good job.  Either way, the offering took a long time.  

When announcements began, one woman in the back of the room stood up and asked for permission to speak.  One of the board members, serving as usher,  checked his watch in full view and the visiting preacher told her politely that the service was running long and that if she was willing to wait they would schedule her for next service but would love to hear what she had to say at that time.  She quietly smiled and sat down.  The first verse of the benediction was sung and a short prayer was said.  But no one was adjourned.  

Our teen minister and lay ministers came to the front of the crowd and stood between the skit church and us.  He said, “We have a choice about what kind of church we are.”

For thirty years I have thought about that skit church and the freaky woman in the second row of our real congregation.  I have visited and attended several churches of denominational varieties over my now 50 years. And, I have had both the pleasure of being part of churches who behaved like the Church Christ intended and the heartache of attending churches which did not. From those experiences I have figured out why I thought the woman in my childhood church was so “freaky”.  

You see, she was different that she was set apart in my mind as a freak.  And she was: she was a freak for the Lord Jesus Christ.  She was so in love with her Lord that she could not be undone by the schedule or the posted signs or the program or any of the other things that were going on around her.  She wasn't in church to receive anything; she was in that building to be the Church.  She was the bride of Christ.  And like a bride on her wedding day, every moment was so wrapped up in Him, her groom, that all she could do was overflow.  And that overflowing was freaky to the rest of us.  All her hankie waving and marching in place, and yelping in delight was not intended to be a freak show in a civilized church congregation.  She was the worshiping, praising, warrior praying, absolute faith believing Church in an average church congregation.

Oh Lord, please let me overflow. Keep me aware of the eyes that are watching me, and how easy it is to suffocate my witness.  Do not let me become like members of the skit church who judge, and in so many little ways create an unwelcoming environment in Your house...a house that I myself am a guest in.

Change what is happening in your churches so that we become less of us and more of Your bride; 
More loving...
     which will be more desirable to a broken world,
More faithful...
     which will be more inspiring to a hopeless world, 
More prayerful...
     which will show us the way to reach a lost world,
And Lord, if I freak people out,
     let it be apparent that I am absolutely “freak...ily” in love with You.  

In obedience
Rhonda D Loucks

Skit Churches and Freaky Women

What can you expect?  Straight talk, laughable humor, real truth, simple living, and passionate yearning...

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On the way to church the next week, I made up my mind to tell my parents about this disturbing skit church.  I felt they could do something to stop this whole play acting thing and not let me be so uncomfortable.  As I told my parents, my siblings joined in to add bits and pieces and correct me with their views.  My mom told us that surely the teachers were trying to get a message across to us and that if we were patient, we would understand.  I saw my dad's face in the rear view mirror; his expression looked a little that morning like the skit preacher.  He looked sad and grew very quiet.  I hoped things were going to be different today in Opening, because honestly, new teenage group or not, I didn't want to go anymore.