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Saturday, October 1, 2011

God is My Ancestor

In the Beginning

By Diana Lucas Leavengood

Every summer for over half a century my husband’s family has summered at Kanuga. As the saying goes “Wherever there are four Episcopalians there’s a fifth” (thank you Cousin Susan for that gem). And so, on a lovely Saturday each July, we nestle into the mountains of North Carolina with our brandy and beer. We put the cares of the world out of our mind (no TV, no air conditioning) and settle back for a weeklong Sabbath.

Come Monday we freak out and decide we need a trip to the Fresh Market just to get some fruit and maybe some flowers for the cottage. During this year's Market rush, as we passed the Unitarian Church we saw their sign advertising Sunday’s upcoming sermon: UNDERSTANDING BAPTISTS. Bigotry from the Unitarians? Surly a sign of the impending apocalypse. We were stunned and cameraless. (Shame on me).  We weren’t sure we just saw what we did. We shopped. We bought a few extras. We drove back and yes, it was still there and it was still taking itself seriously. Perhaps North Carolina Unitarians are different from every other Unitarian I have ever met.

By Wednesday we were tragically out of beer and unwillingly were forced to go back to the Fresh Market since our imported tastes couldn't be satisfied at the nearest gas station. This time we took a camera and as we gained on the church we saw that someone had stepped in and dialed it back a notch. It now read UNDERSTANDING OTHERS. No need to take a picture of that. That is a lesson we need to have on a daily basis because with understanding hopefully comes respect. Tolerance. Mutual admiration. Adult behavior that children long to model.

But the question remains: Why did the Unitarians specifically target the Baptists? Who are the Baptists and why do they need more understanding than any other sect?  How is a Southern Baptist different from other Baptists? Is there such a thing as a Northern Baptist? Why are all my Swedish ancestors Baptist rather than Lutheran (okay I am the only one besides my sister Jennifer asking that question). And so it is with a glad heart I start a new chapter of the Checkered Chicken entitled “God is My Ancestor”. No? Okay. “God and My Ancestors”. Or perhaps we can take a page from the Unitarians there in Hendersonville and call it “God loves my Ancestors more than Yours.” Well, perhaps the name will come clear as I proceed.  I will be examining the religious life of my people at the turn of the last century in that beloved corner of New York State known as Chautauqua County. Meanwhile it is time to hit the books and figure out why, at my father’s passing, I inherited some 15 or more Bibles in various states of disrepair dating back to the 1870’s along with hymnals and books on Christian Theology and all that. Can’t wait. It should be fun so watch this space.

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