September 28, 2013


For adults, choosing a church can be a bewildering experience. Doctrines, worship styles, and liturgies vary widely from one denomination to another. Imagine how much more confusing going to a new church can be to children.

I was in that precise position in September of 1964. Having already suffered the shock of knowing I wouldn't return from Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind until Christmas, being forced to attend a different denomination's church each week confounded me even more.

On my first Sunday morning at the dorm, drivers from local churches arrived to bring us sight-impaired children to their worship services. When my supervisor asked which church I attended, I answered that I was a Lutheran. Nobody from that denomination came to the school so she sent me with the Anglican children.

The church was much fancier than the one I attended at home. For one thing, it had stained glass windows and ornately-carved pews. The building was also larger than the Lutheran church I was used to.

Having never seen kneeling pads before, I assumed they were foot rests. "Get your feet off there," a woman scolded. "Those are for kneeling on." I leaned forward and dusted off the spots where my shoes had rested as we waited for the service to start.

The hymns were different too. I didn't understand a word the congregation sang. It all sounded like "blah blah blah" to my uneducated ears. Not being able to read the hymn books, I stood mutely while everybody else sang.

The minister then gave his weekly homily. I recall only one of them regarding a donkey who wouldn't work on the Sabbath. I also remember him leading us in The Lord's Prayer.

Then all the  children were sent downstairs to Sunday School classes while the adults did whatever they did next. I never did find out what mysterious things happened upstairs while we heard Bible stories and played with play dough.

A woman rang a bell at the end of Sunday school and all the children stood in the isle between our cubicles. She prayed, asking God to help us be good little boys and girls. While the sighted children rejoined their parents, we waited for our driver to take us back to the dorm.

I certainly had many new customs and routines to learn at that residential school. Being only seven years old, these sudden changes were hard to take. No wonder I received so many spankings and detentions that autumn.

Bruce Atchison is a legally-blind freelance writer as well as the author of How I Was Razed, Deliverance from Jericho, and When a Man Loves a Rabbit. He lives in a small Alberta hamlet with his house rabbit, Deborah.

1 comment:

  1. I am sure it was bewildering for someone so young. I am often amazed at the callousness of unthinking adults - both back then and now


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