I have vivid memories of my religious youth — sitting in pews during Saturday evening teen masses. Teen mass was the mass where the cool older kids led the singing with a rugged, acoustic church band instead of the usual middle aged man.
I’d be wearing some Mischa Barton adjacent knee length skirt and polo shirt combination, hair tightly tied back in a ponytail, multiple Livestrong bracelets around my wrist.
At that point in my life, I was so curious about the future. I’d often wish so badly that I could get a sneak peak into my future — where would I be living? What would I do? Would I be insanely successful? Would I have a family? Would I look pretty? I wished a future Alex could come back and give me a condensed version, or at the very least, a nod — it’s going to work out, you’re going to be great. I knew at that moment that being twelve was only the beginning. I knew there was so much more to come, and I was desperate to get there.
I have never stopped listening to church music. Now thirty years old and not religious, I still spend a few hours each year going through Spotify, finding old church classics. Songs like On Eagles Wings, The Lord of the Dance, One Bread, One Body, and Lord, I Lift Your Name On High really get me going.
It’s a complex relationship, I guess, because I find the songs very comical now. How was it that, as a young person, I was told to sing all of these odd, adoring songs about a potentially existing spirit who will save me when I die? And yet, the songs were always so visual and earthly — in one, we’d be dancing with the Lord on some Irish hilltop, on another we’d be soaring through the sky. We’d always be having an awesome time on earth, protected by this attractive adult male figure who loved us so long as we devoted our entire lives to them.
At the time, though, I think I genuinely loved the songs. They were relief after an unrelentless twenty minute droning from a monotone man in a big, white cape. They were my singing practice. They were when we could stand up. They meant we got to eat a small rice wafer. They meant it was time to leave.
They were the rhythm of the church that I was forced to attend, and the rhythm that never changed. I can’t attest for now, but back when I went to Catholic mass, there weren’t ever any new church songs. The church songs were on rotation, and so I heard the same thirty odd songs over and over for ten years until I left for college. This is all to say that I…