My first exposure to religion was as a small child. At the age of 5, I was baptized into The First Congregational Church of Brewer, Maine. For all those not familiar with the Congregational Church, a quick history lesson should refresh your memory. Does the word Puritan mean anything to you? My church was a quaint white church overlooking the Penobscot River. The beautiful stain glass windows illuminated the interior as the morning sun rose high in the sky. When I attended church with my family on Sunday morning, I sat quietly on the pew mimicking what the others did when they did it, yet I can't remember a word of what was ever preached in that church. The singing was nice! The peaceful atmosphere was nice, but my only true memory was the feeling that there was more to it than what I was being told and I personally wanted to be touched by the hand of God.
By the time I was 11, often times I walked to church alone or occasionally with a friend who I asked to accompany me after our usual Saturday night sleepover at my house. Her mother was dying from Hodgkin's disease, so she sought refuge in my home and in my life during that dark period in her life. One Wednesday night she asked me to go to church with her. I remember thinking to myself, “It’s Wednesday! Who goes to church on Wednesday?” I soon found out the answer to that question! The Baptist preacher bellowed from the pulpit condemning all sinners to burn eternally in the flames of Hell. As he spoke and thumped his fist on the pulpit to drive home his words, I knew he was speaking to me personally. I was doomed to burn in Hell if I didn't seek out Salvation, so when my friend asked me to attend Bible camp with her during that summer, I eagerly accepted.
We were divided into groups and met in tents outside the church for various religious classes and activities. We were expected to memorize a new Bible verse each day. Whenever that feat wasn't accomplished, off the unfortunate person went to see the preacher. They always would return subdued and very repentant. When they upped the verses from 1 to 2, I seemed to have difficulty focusing and remembering the words. I froze when asked to stand and say my verses. My mind went blank and the interior of the large tent darkened and filled with impending doom.
I felt true shame as I walked to the preacher’s office inside the church. I remember my long, slender legs shaking and feeling weak as I entered his office after knocking. I stood humbly before him looking down at the floor. At first he spoke softly and I lifted my eyes to meet his. It felt as if he peered into my soul and I shivered. He finally stood and walked around me, then laid his hand on the back of my head. I trembled as he prayed for me and it seemed my fear ignited something in him. His voice slowly became louder and louder until it filled the whole room. I was a sinner and was going to burn in Hell.
The tears ran down my face and when I was instructed to kneel, I felt almost relieved. I cried and prayed and asked God's forgiveness. My pleading was frantic. I asked God to enter me and fill me with His Spirit. I truly wanted His Grace, but the only Grace I would receive that day was being bent over a desk and receiving what Grace there was in being spanked. As he spanked my bottom, his voice trembled as he prayed for me. Each time his hand met my backside, it lingered for a moment. When he finally stopped, he stood behind me while I repeated the verses. I could feel the intensity of his eyes gazing down upon me. Each time he said "say them again", his voice trembled and his breathing quickened. Suddenly his voice changed and the words that came from him were ones I had never heard before. Finally there came silence. It was finally over! By the time I stood erect, my bottom was so sensitive it hurt to have the fabric of my shorts and panties brush across my cheeks.
As I walked back to the tent, the realization that “something” had just happened filled me with trepidation. Had I finally been touched by the hand of God? It wasn't until many years later when I awoke screaming from a nightmare that I realized what had actually happened and I wondered how many others had been touched by God via the good Pastor.
Gratitude statement: Since I have completely changed the look of Mildred Ratched Memoirs, I have decided to make this my last gratitude statement. I am truly thankful for all good beginnings, but I'm also grateful when all those beginnings come to an equally fitting end.