Christ the King Church #AtoZChallenge

C is for Christ the King Church: Third of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Wish me luck!

Researching an ancestor’s religion is a good way to find valuable family history information — and during my childhood Christ the King Catholic Church in Endwell, N.Y., was both a house of worship and a social gathering place for my family and the other catholic households in our neighborhood.

Christ the King church

Christ the King was walking distance from our house — and my mom, a music education graduate of SUNY Potsdam, was the choir director for many years. The Sundays I spent at mass were a formative part of  my childhood — but not in the way the church or my parents expected.

Christ the King Church in 1993. The church is now used for non-denominational services. But during my childhood Christ the King was a Catholic church — where my mom directed the choir — and it bustled with activity each Sunday. Photo: Molly Charboneau

In the years before ecumenism, we had a fire-and-brimstone priest and his sermons were sometimes disturbing — especially his constant exhortations to urge our Jewish and Protestant friends to convert to Catholicism so they would not perish in hell. Yikes! I felt this was unfair and told my parents as much — and thus were sown my first doubts about the church.

Lives of the saints

Other times, his sermons were just boring,  so I would turn to my Daily Missal — with my name embossed in gold on its white leather cover — and read the inspiring lives of the saints, which sparked my interest in social reform.

Christ the King Church interior in 1993. When I went to this church as a child, the interior and exterior were as dark as the beams shown here. I was amazed to the new, light interior when I visited during a high school reunion. Photo: Molly Charboneau

Eventually, my favorite service became Good Friday — when the altar was stripped of ornamentation and all the usual pomp and circumstance was replaced by a simpler celebration of mass.

In this way,  week by week as the 1960s unfolded, I began to move away from the church and seek progressive social change in the secular world.

The Infant of Prague

1993: Infant of Prague statue in Endwell’s Christ the King Church. Photo: Molly Charboneau

One unique feature of Christ the King — different from St. Madeline Sophie Church where we went when we lived on the farm — was a gilded statue of the Infant of Prague.

Endwell and the surrounding area had many residents of Czech descent. So a statue of the Infant of Prague was a feature in many of my neighbors’ homes, too — sometimes sitting atop the TV or on a curio cabinet in their living room.

Not only that, but the statue was dressed in various homemade outfits throughout the year — such as for Easter or Christmas.

I was fascinated by the intricate craftsmanship with which these tiny outfits were sewn — a tribute to Czech cultural heritage — and I am still reminded of my years in Endwell when I see a statue of the Infant of Prague.

Up next: D is for Darn: I change fifth grade classes. Please stop back!

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12 thoughts on “Christ the King Church #AtoZChallenge”

  1. Fire and brimstone weren’t only in the Catholic pulpits, believe me lol Lucky to not have had too much of it though. I always loved the sermons laced with some humor. Got a lot further with sugar than vinegar as they say.

    1. Interesting! I had always thought it was a Catholic thing. And yes, I preferred the softer sermons — especially when visiting missionaries showed up. They were usually milder in manner than our parish priest.

  2. I had a non-Catholic father and we hounded him mercilessly to convert which he refused. I swallowed it all hook, line and sinker until Vatican II and university. Ironically it was Good Friday 20 odd years ago when I walked away.

    1. Ha ha, we did the same with my dad. He eventually did convert. Meanwhile, my sibs and I grew away from the church — much to Dad’s chagrin.

  3. Your post resonates with me. As a young catholic with a protestant mother I was always frightened for hear when priests and nuns told us that protestants were not of the one true faith and were likely to burn in hell.

    1. Exactly! What’s the point of scaring children with these terrifying sermons? And p.s., they apparently did not work on me, you and many others.

    1. One of the moms from my neighborhood worked part-time at a local dry cleaner in retirement, and she told me that well into the 1990s people were still dropping off Infant of Prague outfits to be dry cleaned. So, a longstanding cultural practice.

  4. I recognise that statue as my mother had a small one in her bedroom but I was unaware of its cultural origins, interesting will have to explore further.

  5. A very interesting account of your relationship with the church. I was brought up in the Church of England and over time I was involved in the choir and as a Sunday School teacher – my father sang in the choir and his grandfather was conductor of his Methodist church choir – I am lucky enough to have inherited the silver crested baton that he was given on retirement. But yes, I think it is in teenage years we begin to questions the church. I stand by the church in giving moral guidelines, but on the other hand have experienced a minister (Irish protestant) who was very anti-catholic and one who had an affair with a member of the congregation and had to resign. Church music means a lot to me, but I have to admit now I rarely go to services. You have sparked off my own memories!

    1. Your experience mirrors my own. I grew further from the church in high school before leaving altogether in my 20s — but the seeds of my discontent were sown pretty early.

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