Hope United Methodist Church

From as far back as I can remember until I was about 10, my family attended Hope United Methodist Church in Belchertown, MA. My parents were leaders of Hope’s youth group while they were there. It started out with about 6 kids, but grew to about 20 or 22. They ran it for about 6 years. I was young, so my memories of that are obscured by the clouds of passed time, but I remember a few things. One of them is Tanya.

Tanya was the best friend of a girl who lived on our street and went to our church, named Crissy. Crissy was a Christian and Tanya wasn’t, but they both came to youth group; it started as Crissy dragging Tanya, but it was such a warm place that she stayed.

I wasn’t yet a teenager, so it wasn’t my youth group (my own youth group is a whole different ball of wax), but I remember my parents’ tried to make it as welcoming and as spiritually nurturing a place as possible. They made no bones about it being Christ-centered, and it was no secret that if you came, you were gonna hear about God. But my parents also tried to meet the kids where they were, and for some of them, that meant not really knowing much about God or Christianity.

Back to Tanya. She was a Belchertown girl that was the stereotypical from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks type. “Wrong side,” which implies a “right side,” really means “less accepted side.” As such, Tanya didn’t feel much acceptance from society, small as her world was at the time.

Also, she didn’t have a very good home life. Hers was one of the poorer families in Belchertown. I remember I tagged along to a progressive dinner the youth group did, and the night ended with dessert at Tanya’s house. Her house was very small, poorly lit, not well-painted, on the main road of the town, and had loads of assorted junk out on the front lawn. All of us were huddled around a linoleum-covered table in the kitchen with metal and vinyl chairs. And we had to keep a little quiet, because her dad was watching TV in the other room, about 20 feet away.

I didn’t know much about her parents, but I got the feeling they were not the most attentive or loving. And so, Tanya got all her love and affection from her best friend (Crissy), her best friend’s family, and her best friend’s youth group. After not too long, it became her youth group. And my parents purposely constructed it to be it a safe haven for kids like Tanya; a place they could go to get something they might not get anywhere else, and know it comes from the Lord.

Pink Floyd

Life circumstances influence what type of music you get into as a teenager. Combine that with personality and what a person’s been exposed to, and their musical choices start to make sense. For Tanya, it was Pink Floyd. According to my father, Tanya was a sweet girl and not a troublemaker. Someone less sweet with her background could have easily taken to hard rock or heavy metal bands; that would have worked out their angst and given voice to their discontent. But Tanya, being generally mild-mannered and introspective, found solace in Pink Floyd and their wide, spacey soundscapes. The Floyd makes music that encourages the listener to retreat into their own head, and that would be attractive to someone like Tanya.

Then there’s the other dimension to Pink Floyd, which is the general angstiness of their lyrics. They talked about some weighty subjects other bands weren’t at the time, like greed, the loss of self, and defying authority. To someone like Tanya, their “be your own person and everyone else be damned” ethos might have been attractive as well. It probably made Tanya feel more able to do everything her circumstances were hindering her from doing, being the person that her parents and how much money they didn’t have were keeping her from being.

My very first experience with Pink Floyd comes from Tanya, and that’s why I mention her. It was seeing the cover for A Momentary Lapse of Reason on a cassette Tanya had and was passing around at youth group. It was probably Storm Thorgerson’s brilliant artwork, but I was captivated from the first time I saw it. The kids in the youth group probably thought it was amusing – someone so young being interested in such “adult” music.

Few though they are, I have some very vivid memories of the kids in my parents’ youth group. They were like heavenly creatures to me, ineffable and perfect. I didn’t try to imitate them (I didn’t know how), but I looked up to them for certain. Though the passage of time does funny things to the memory, they will always hold a unique and honored place in my mind.