Posts Tagged ‘protestant’

To start reading from the beginning, go to May 11, 2008.

From what little I know, Alaska, during the nineteen century first missionary days was divided between the Catholics and Protestants. The Protestants specifically Covenant. During my Golovin days I was still a Born Again believer who did not know much about Catholic vs. Protestant, Protestant vs. Protestant . . . I didn’t know church history or theology nor much about the Bible. Some years later I determined I would be a missionary and attended events and schools like The U.S. Center for World Missions (Pasadena, CA), Champaign Urbana spring missions conference (1979) and the Billy Graham Center graduate studies school (Wheaton, IL) where I studied mission history, church history, hermeneutics, theology, the Old Testament, New Testament and more. But back in Golovin and all my studies later, I had never heard of Covenant Protestantism. I imagined Covenant worshipers cloaked in black capes and hoods;
figures in a dark stone room carrying candles and chanting. Of course, it was nothing like that.

Golovin villagers had, at some point, been proselytized by Covenant-ers over Catholics either by first come first served/converted, by lottery or geographic allotment. Maggie was raised covenant by a devout mother (who was really her step-grandmother). In Golovin Maggie was the primary keeper of the church. She opened the church door Sunday morning and during winter started the wood stove an hour before service in order for the building to be at least above freezing for the congregation of no more than a six or eight, maybe a dozen on some Sundays.

Maggie attended every Sunday and for those of us in her home, all were expected to attend and participate (except Martin who never went). We were, at times, asked to give a sermon when Old Man Siegfried was unavailable (see July 25, 2008). Maggie chose the hymns to be sung and would start them ac-capella. There was never an accompanying musical instrument. She would then announce the speaker. Around Christmas I had been asked by her to give the sermon. At first I balked but then became somewhat enthusiastic as I have a penchant for pedantic-ism. The results, however, did not match my unrealistic expectation of an enthusiastic response.

During my 13 some years as a born-again Christian and faithful church-goer, I always felt something of the odd-man out. I was among a culture of people who had all primarily been raised in the church. Looking back I see the church as more a culture than a monotheistic faith system. I was culturally a square peg in a round hole. I would ask questions in Sunday school like: during a serious lesson was on the Biblical principle that believers should obey their leaders, I innocently asked, “So, America was founded on dis-obediency and un-Christian behavior?” My Sunday School teacher scowled and ignored me from then on. Seems merely logical to me, but most often my skewed perception of things went unappreciated. It would take many years for my “artistic” nature to find a mature voice and appreciative audience.

But the Holiday sermon I gave in Golovin landed on confused ears. My sermon appropriately enough was about Jesus’ mother, Mary. I identified with her because she was also in a socially awkward place. She must have been the village weirdo having claimed to be impregnated by God and to still be a virgin! “What the hell?” “Are you kidding me?” “Who does she think she is!?”  I spoke (minus the expletives) of how lonely she must have been. How she must have had to dig deep within to manage a degree of self-respect and faith.

I could not tell if my congregation of eight was with me or dumbfounded or bored. I believed one man, Pungak, was mesmerized with my train of thought as he had one unblinking eye beamed in on me. Then I realized it was his fake eye. His good eye was sound asleep. Jimmy watched and listened with rapt attention. Afterwords I asked what he thought but it was clear he had no idea what I was talking about. Maggie, walking home wanted to know why I chose such a strange subject. I wasn’t asked nor did I offer to give another sermon. I wasn’t surprised.

note: I am no longer a Born-Again-er, nor do I believe in the literal Bible. The Virgin Mary is, to me, an archetypal mythological reference to the birth of oneself; belief in oneself and giving birth to one’s authenticity. Choosing to live an authentic life may be a perilous decision risking possible rejection by one’s family or community.

(to be continued) copyright Tamara Ann Burgh, all rights reserved

Aboriginal kids
During my missionary days, I volunteered for six months (1980) as an illustrator/graphic artist with the Summer Institute of Linguistics, Wycliffe Bible Translators (SIL), in Darwin Australia. Here children color in a coloring book I created of an aboriginal text Bible story.

A good book on the de-conversion of an SIL translator to the Piraha Amazon people is DON’T SLEEP, THERE ARE SNAKES by Daniel Everett. Fascinating.

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