time to put your happy face on

"Please Take One" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Please Take One” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

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Once many years ago when I was an assistant pastor at a large church, Lisa and I were driving to the Sunday morning service and were arguing. When we pulled up to the church she looked at me and said, “Well, let’s put on our happy church faces and go in!”

In reality, this is what many people experience all the time in their church communities. They feel pressure to deny their struggles, their hardships, their questions, and feel like they have to appear that they have it all together.


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7 Responses

  1. Esta Ann Ammerman says:


  2. Angie says:

    I use to teach Sunday school for five year olds. One Sunday a precious little girl stomps in with a scrunched up face, sat down and crossed her arms. I was trying to find out what was wrong. She said she didn’t understand why her family always had to have a big fight every Sunday morning. I’ll never forget her.

  3. Caryn LeMur says:

    I recall being told by one man ‘that I was a breath of fresh air’ due to my honesty in church. And by another woman, at the same church, explaining that the reason I was untrusted by leadership was ‘you don’t know how to wear your mask makeup very well.’

    We wear masks at work; masks at the gym; and masks at church.

    I use to strongly disagree with wearing ‘masks’ at church.

    Now, I am not so certain. If the purpose of the church institution is primarily outward conformity, then ‘wearing a mask’ is very good.

    If the purpose of a community is inward healing, then wearing a mask would be very bad.

    I’ve come to conclude that the church institution is incapable of a wide and diverse community, and therefore the masks are removed by only very a very small number of people in ‘safe’ subgroups.

    The community developed in the small subgroups becomes dynamic and ‘alive’.

    The hierarchy realizes that community cannot be controlled.

    The hierarchy disbands, threatens, shames, etc. the subgroup.

    The subgroup disbands.

    The masks return.

    Conformity (and hierarchical control) continues.

  4. Gary says:

    Angie…what a great story. Children can be so revealing can’t they?

  5. Jonathan says:

    Everyone at church thought we were the happiest family and all of us children so well behaved. They had no idea that many Sunday morning drives to church was filled with yelling and screaming from my abusive father, and tears from my mother and us kids. I always knew there was something wrong with our family, but not until two years ago (at the age of 31) did I understand it was abuse. We always had our church faces on.

  6. Brigitte Mueller says:

    Mary, Jesus and Joseph, also had some trouble with their travelling to worship. — It happens in the best families.

    It was more stressful, too, when the Dad’s wore suits and had to shine shoes, and tie ties. Also the days of wool pants, and sweaters, and nylons, and hats and what not. I am never sure whether I am glad all that is out, or if it was nicer. Certainly, I think, we were slimmer, even with that Sunday roast in the oven. But then, higher protein is better for the waistline.

  7. Brigitte says:


    “Getting to the church on time.”