Sunday, April 05, 2009

I Didn't Go Planning To Do Research

The 365 Story Project involves daily life for children on a street in a smallish town. If you're covering 365 days, you're going to have to include 52 Sundays.

Hundreds of thousands of kids in this country are getting some kind of formal religious instruction related to the faith their families practice. Just the fact that they are attending formal religious lessons, no matter what the faith, interests me. Therefore, many of my main character's Sunday mornings are spent in Sunday school. He attends an unspecified (so far) mainstream Protestant Sunday school because, though I started out life as a Catholic child, I taught Sunday school for 11 years in a mainstream Protestant church. Catholics don't even call their children's religious instruction what it was called when I was young. Protestant Sunday school is what I now know.

So today I got myself into church for the first time in probably two months. It's Palm Sunday. I like Palm Sunday. (Though I must say, when I was a child we were given palms in church that were like a freaking branch. Now all we get is what I think is the palm equivalent of a leaf. Oh, the glorious days of my youth.) No sooner had the service started, then I began getting ideas for the Sunday entries for the 365 Story Project.

And I started taking notes. In church. With the pencil the deacons leave in the pews for filling out the prayer intention cards.

To be perfectly honest, I've done that before. Seriously, church is so inspiring for me workwise, you'd think I'd get myself in there every week. But what seemed wrong this time was that I filled up the equivalent of half an 81/2 by 11 sheet of paper. It was the back of one of the program inserts!!!

I mean, I've made notes on the program before. (Lots of times I lose them after I get home, if I even manage to get them home.) But this time the material just kept coming and coming, and I kept picking up the pencil again and again and writing more and more.

For instance, all the kids from the Sunday school came up to the sanctuary to do a little palm parade. I sat there checking them out to see how long the boys were wearing their hair and was there someone there I could use as a physical model for a couple of my girl characters? I did find a hairdo I liked for my main girl character, as well as a couple of very stylish cuts on preschoolers that I wouldn't have minded for myself.

I had to struggle to control myself and sit with my hands folded while the minister was praying because, you know, it didn't seem right to be making a note about my main character and his brother using their palms for sword fighting while the minister was asking God to remember all those in need. And then Communion came and no way should anyone be working during Communion. But it went on forever.

I think that what happened would be bad, very bad, if I had gone to church intentionally planning to harvest material from the experience. But I didn't. I went to get a free palm. I'm hoping instead that all those ideas I was getting were divine inspiration.

2 comments:

tanita davis said...

Heee hee! At the Episcopal church on Main Street in Benicia where I lived (before we moved temporarily to the UK a year and a half ago) they still gave everyone really big branches -- and the kids did about the same thing. Of course, the parade went out on part of main street and circled the church, so the sword-fighting happened in the free air, too. You'd have had a great time, trailing after them with your bulletin...

Jeannine said...

I'm sure it was divine intervention.
I read that Harriet Beecher Stowe got the idea for Uncle Tom's Cabin in church. I've always wanted to visit that church in Maine and, of course, bring my laptop. Just in case.