Religious and Moral Issues
Part 12: Hamilton M E Church - Finale
I was nominated and elected Education Chairman for 1977-78-79. In that capacity, I felt it appropriate to visit the youth and children’s Sunday School classes in session. I was appalled and dumb founded when I paused in the Jr. High (7-8 grade) class. Mae Baker chose my time there to tell the pupils that God was curing – had already (tho she had no medical proof) cured her – of some medical ailment which one generally expects to live along with. She knew she was cured because in the Bible God had promised to do whatever she asked – if she were “born again” and she was that. I cannot after this length of time remember the exact statements. But what she said came through to me that what she asked of God, God was honor bound to grant to her. I cringed to imagine how 7 & 8th graders would interpret that. I think it was Maxine Cottrell’s illustration from the R. W. Butler time and old Tricle class that I tried to use. Maxine’s story was of a young girl who pined to own a horse. Her parents tried to explain why she could not, but the girl prayed for the horse anyway. No horse. Finally the parents wondered how their daughter accepted no horse from her prayers. Very matter of factly the girl told them. “God said NO.” Well, that was not at all an answer for Mae Baker! She spouted all sorts of Scripture at me. She seemed to think God was trapped and must give her the healing whether or no! I felt there was no foundation there for discussion.
The Tricle S.S. class had been an older adult class taught by Maxine Cottrell, by Fred Ballard, Al Knipe. John had been a regular member. Even now some of the members remember how John’s questions and comments added spice to the class. But John claims he never received answers to his question (such as “What is Salvation”). John says even the ministers, who sat in the class, failed to reply. Al Knipe took the class off on a Christian Science type of tangent (from which I managed to get one idea – that God is a river of love – goodness – truth & we must put ourselves in that current. I’ll dwell on that later I hope).
For a time I “taught” or led the discussions of this class, and then substituted for John Humphry. For sometime I spoke up rather strongly with my ideas on the “International Lesson series” prepared by the Methodist Curriculum people. Then I began to feel others of the class leaned very strongly to a literal interpretation of the Bible. With the idea that I did not want to disturb another's faith, I talked up less and less. Now I wonder, as I write this, if I was wrong to keep silent. There are two “perhaps” here. Perhaps their faith can very well withstand my ideas. Or Perhaps some would get a new perspective on religion from what I might say!
In 1977 it was proposed the church have an evangelistic week. Jerry Belts was invited to speak and do his artwork. He accepted for a week in the fall. Don Riley had heard him once or twice, as had a few others of the administrative board. Belts was Babtist and not on the approved list for Methodist churches. Belts did have a short time period on Ottumwa TV – which I had never seen. He painted large acrylic pictures as he talked, and had a system of giving the pictures to those who brought the most newcomers to a meeting.
I attended most of the meetings. One might well ask, “Why go if you feel you will not like it?” Well, I was a church “official”. I had expressed some opinions ahead of time. I guess I feel those who wanted Belts and the meetings deserved a chance to prove to me I was wrong. I had the same sort of reasoning when several gospel singing groups came to Hamilton Methodist for a program. I showed up – even tho I found it necessary to move farther and farther to the back, stuff my ears, and finally slip out and go home before the end. Most of those groups had too much electronic amplification for my ears!
And so I attended Jerry Belts. I found his painting style very interesting. I think he must repeat the same pictures time and time again. I’ll guess he has some ten or fifteen paintings, each of which is frequently repeated so that the painting comes out with a slap and a dash of his big paint brush.
One big thing I objected to was his “put down” of school teachers. I do not pretend to claim teachers are perfect and without faults. But I resent teachers being ridiculed at a church meeting – and students encouraged to give smartie answers back to the teachers in school class. I think some of this was in regard to the study of evolution. And I find my religion has no problems with evolution. Perhaps Jerry Belts had some run-ins with some teachers, which increased a bitterness on Jerry’s part, for some of his remarks I actually found offensive. That was likely the night I was in a mood to get up and leave in the middle of the program. Only the fact that I had slid to the center of the pew to make room for Norma Mosena and girls – so I’d have to squeeze past them to leave – kept me from stalking out. I did leave with the last song – a little early. Gayle Nelson opened the outside door for me and with the quarter smile on his face, I think he was making a good guess at my feelings!
Jerry Beltz sent ahead of the week, a questionnaire for Sunday School. As we understood it, the SS teachers were to have copies so the classes could be given that quiz. I mildly hit the ceiling. In no way, I told the committee would I give that quiz around to the classes. Beltz had said the quiz could be reworded for Methodist Beliefs. It was a quiz not in the slightest designed for children. Several of the teachers thot it very difficult…
(The writing ended at this point)
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