Candy bar revival meeting

I don’t know where this lands in the chronological events of my religious life, but one evening I attended, with neighborhood kids, a sort of revival meeting. It was held in a building (maybe a church, but maybe not) with a room full of chairs — not pews. I remember only two things about this evening. One involved chocolate. One involved Jesus. Both were peppered with my shyness.

Jesus first. The room was full of children, some young and some older. The speaker (minister? pastor?) stood in front of the room and talked. The one thing I remember him saying was that all we had to do to ensure ending up in Heaven was to accept Jesus Christ as the savior. We could tell one person or a whole lot of people, but we couldn’t just tell ourselves. I knew, then, I was doomed. How could I tell anyone that I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior when I was terrified to talk to strangers? At the end of the evening, possibly seeing that I’d not talked to anyone, the man who’d told us about accepting Jesus approached me and said that if I whispered it to him I’d be saved. I don’t remember if I did or not. I think I didn’t, but replayed it over and over in my head afterwards to the point where I believed I had whispered to him the words that would save my soul.

Now about the chocolate. At the beginning of the evening, after the adults quieted the roomful of children they said that they had a surprise for us for attending. A select few of us would get a candy bar, just for being there. They told us to look under our chairs and if we had a piece of paper with a dot or something taped to the bottom we were the lucky winners of the candy bar. We all looked under our chairs. My chair had the winning piece of paper. I told my friends, but was too shy to tell anyone else. I think I gave my paper to a friend. She got the candy bar. I don’t remember if she shared it with me or not.

At some point in my youth my parents started going to South Elgin Community United Methodist Church. The church was across the street from their friends — perhaps the friends went there too? At least once they sent my brother and me to the Sunday school classes while they went to the service. Big mistake — for me, at least. I don’t remember how my brother dealt with his Sunday school experience — perhaps he was young enough to go to the nursery, but I didn’t handle it well.

I’ve always been painfully shy and new social situations were always difficult for me. I vividly remember sitting in a circle in Sunday school and having to introduce myself:

Sunday school teacher: Welcome to Sunday school! What is your name?
Me: Dona
Other Sunday school student: What is your last name? Dona? Are you Dona Dona?
Me: [silent]
Other Sunday school students: Hahahahahahaha

I was embarrassed and near tears and didn’t participate any further. When my parents picked me up I told them I’d never go back again. I don’t remember if they were upest — I suspect so — but they didn’t make me go back again.

The next time we attended this church I went with my parents to the service. I remember listening to the minister and later attempting to discuss the sermon with my parents. Neither of them paid attention during the sermon enough to actually discuss it with me. On subsequent visits I remember bringing my bible with me and following along during the readings. I also remember looking around at the other worshipers and wondering if they were true believers or hypocrites. Did they follow the 10 Commandments, I wondered?

My parents quit going to the church after the minister  arrived at their home, unannounced, one morning and chastised them for not paying their church dues. After that we rarely went to church.

Mrs. Wewell

I’m not sure exactly how old I was when I prayed for Mrs. Wewell, but I must have been at least 10. The story is this:

Mrs. Wewell was a kindly and elderly neighbor who lived in the house next door. She loved when neighborhood children would visit, and we’d find reasons to stop by her house because she offered a stick of gum when we did. I remember picking violets and making small bouquets of violets and giving them to her (for a stick of gum).  She had a friendly black and white  Mexican chihuahua named Pepper who she walked each afternoon. She loved that dog.

One day when I was visiting Mrs. Wewell the subject of prayer came up. I mentioned I prayed for the soldiers in Vietnam and she suggested I pray for her since the soldiers were all people I didn’t know and she was someone I did.

I must have thought this a good idea, because that night I prayed for Mrs. Wewell. I don’t remember what I said to God about Mrs. Wewell — but I’m sure I prayed that she be kept safe.

The next day as I sat on the front porch I saw Mrs. Wewell walk by with another neighbor, Mrs. Wolf. Something was wrong — Mrs. Wewell was not walking Pepper, but carrying Pepper who was draped limply over her arm. Blood was dripping out of Pepper’s mouth.

Later we learned that Mrs. Wewell was walking Pepper, as usual. Pepper pulled to the end of his leash while they were walking along Lawrence Avenue and a car ran him over. This may have been before sidewalks were laid along Lawrence or else they were walking close to the street.

Of course I thought about my prayer and Mrs. Wewell’s misfortune. I told no one that I’d prayed for Mrs. Wewell before Pepper’s demise.

Sometime later I tried again — to prove to myself that my prayer for Mrs. Wewell was not the cause of Pepper getting hit by a car. I, again, prayed for Mrs. Wewell.

Soon thereafter Mrs. Wewell’s grandaughter pounded on our door. Her grandmother was injured. She’d been washing clothes with her ringer-washer and her arm was caught in the  ringer part up to just below the elbow. Her arm was never the same.

It is possible I’ve transposed these memories. The wringer-washer memory may have been before the Pepper incident. But either way, I prayed for Mrs. Wewell and both times something horrible happened to her.

I decided after the second incident that I would not pray for anyone ever again.

I was baptized when I was an infant at Epworth Methodist Church in Elgin. I think that it was the church my mom and her family attended occasionally when she was a child. My mom and dad attended Epworth for a while, when they were first married and after I was born. Dad even participated as a person who took the offering plate, whatever that is called. Mom doesn’t remember when or why they stopped going to church.

I don’t remember much about Epworth, although I do remember going there occasionally — who could forget the magnificent organ in the sanctuary?

I have an early religious memory of learning The Lord’s Prayer from a little bible I owned (Called, I believe, the Little Bible). I remember bragging to my father that I knew it and him being surprised that I’d learned it on my own. I remember feeling proud and knowing my father was proud of me.

I also remember going, occasionally, to a  Methodist Church in South Elgin, coincidentally only blocks away from the nursing home where my father spent his last month alive and aware. The memories of that church are unpleasant and will be featured in a different post.

In writing this, I realize I had more of a religious background than I thought I had.

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