Thursday, July 10, 2008

Part 3: Church

First, I really appreciate your comments and empathy about my homesickness. I feel like I'm being pretty whiny and selfish by not appreciating all the great things I do have in St.L.ouis, so I hope it's not coming off entirely like that!


It has been surprisingly helpful to write all of this down. I have always loved to make lists, and writing through all these feelings is kind of like making a list of what's wrong and what I could be doing to pick things back up.


So on to the church situation. I need to backtrack for myself some on this so that I can really try to figure out where I'm headed. I spent the first 18 years of my life in a S.outher.n Ba.pti.st church - a wonderful church. Upon going to college, in a different state, I visited the local Bap.tist churches but didn't really find one that fit. I was dating a guy who was Met.hodist (also was at a school affiliated, historically, with the Met.hodist church), so that was a big influence and there was a big Met.hodist group at the school. In fact, the opportunities for involvement with a christian group at school was pretty split into two options: (1) the met.hodists (2) the ultra-conservative group (what some refer to as "Jesus-freaks"). I never fit in with the second type of group - simply put, I partied too much to be comfortable with that group and for them to be comfortable with me. But since I needed some connection to religion, and some outlet for my faith, I went with the metho.dist option. It worked for me during that time, and I came to love some aspects of this denomination and found a good outlet - I discovered new songs that I had never heard in a baptist church ("Lord of the Dance", "Sanctuary", "On Eagles Wings"), I attended and helped lead weekly campus services, I volunteered for a week over the summer as a counselor at church camp, etc. In sum, I was busy in the faith, but in retrospect what I was doing lacked, for me, a personal connection to God.


My junior year of college, I spent a semester in Colora.do Sprin.gs at a conservative, evangelical christian program for college students. (I won't mention it by name here, but if you know what program I'm talking about, and you attended there also, I'd love to hear from you - just email me at midwesttexan(at)gmail(dot)com). It involved classes and an internship, but most importantly, it gave me the opportunity to be enmeshed in my faith for a semester and to be surrounded by others who were of similar mind. I had never before, and don't expect that I ever will on this earth, experienced something like that semester. There aren't even words to describe it or to describe the lasting impact it has had on my life (oh and the friendships from it - when I talk about some of my friends that are true soul-friends that live so far away, two of them are from this semester). I started to experience what true faith could look like. During this semester, I attended lots of different churches and really explored what felt right for me. It was nice to do this, without the feeling that I had to commit to a church. What I found during this time was that the church that felt most right for me was, not surprisingly, a medium-sized baptis.t church with a strong mission and bible study emphasis and an emphasis on salvation by grace alone.


I went back to college and tried to again reconcile my college life with my now-renewed faith life. It didn't really happen so well. There was a lot going on (my boyfriend of 2 years and I had broken up, my roommate had gotten married and I was living alone and spending more time with a group that loved to drink (to put it mildly)) and church just got pushed to the backburner. I think since I had realized that the meth.odist church wasn't really doing it for me in a way that the bapti.st church did, I stopped going, but without finding a new place to settle.


I didn't really settle on a new church until I was off to grad school. In this new town, I looked for a bapt.ist church to become a part of, but I didn't find anything. There was a popular meth.odist church right on campus with a strong young adult program and a great youth program (I was looking for a place to volunteer, and I've always loved working with youth and wanted to contribute in this way). I felt comfortable-enough with the metho.dist church, and so in the absence of other options, I joined. Unlike in college, when I just attended a met.hodist church, I went ahead and joined the denomination through this church. My thinking was that if I was fully a part of it, then maybe it would "work" better for me.


Like before though, the church just became a place I went. I worked with the youth group, sponsored a few girls for communion, attended services, and went to Wednesday night dinner/prayer group. I went, but I didn't grow in my faith. Of course, it probably didn't help that I was not exactly living a christ-like life at this time, but that's a whole other story.


Ok, so fast forward a bit. During grad school, I met my husband, who is Ca.tholic. Didn't seem like a big deal - he himself had expressed a bit of uncertainty with with where he went to church and had been considering other places. And I went with him to Mass a few times, and thought it was ok. And neither one of us was really attending church all that regularly anyway.


So we get married (at the church I grew up in), get settled, enjoy our first year of marriage, we alternate between visiting a bap.tist church I found and the cat.holic church near our house, then we're pregnant, baby is on the way, and I start feeling like we should figure out a church and decide on something so that we can get more involved and get to know people, etc. Husband says "I'm Catholic, I've always been Catholic, my family is Catholic, and I'm going to the Catholic church. You can do what you want".

What I want is for us to go to church together. I grew up seeing my parents develop wonderful relationships with other couples at their church, I want to go to the married adult Sunday school (not the "ladies class"), I want it to be something we share and can talk about together. I want to be on the same page when it comes to our faith.

So Catholic it is. And while pregnant with J, I start going through the classes at our local parish to join the Catholic church.

Whew. Does it make you laugh or roll your eyes if I tell you all this was just the introduction to what I'm struggling with?

I'm finishing this later. I doubt anyone made it this far as it is! But if you did, thanks. :)

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3 Comments:

  • Growing up catholic, I feel for your husband. I've had a very hard time letting go of the tradition & the Catholic church just because it's what I've always known. I grew up in a family where we were always taught that just cause we're Catholic doesn't mean that there aren't other religions & churches out there that might work for us. Even knowing that, it was hard for me to explore other options. Right now we're going to a Lutheran church that I love, but I haven't had the time to get involved that much so who knows if we'll stay. I know exactly how you feel though, because finding a church that is exactly in par with your faith is so difficult!

    By Blogger Liz, at July 16, 2008 at 9:33 AM  

  • It's funny--your faith journey is kind of backwards from mine. I grew up Catholic, and hubby grew up Methodist. We used to go to Catholic church at first, but then I started exploring my faith and decided maybe the Catholic church isn't for me. He was OK with it either way, as long as we liked the church we found. So we went Methodist for a while, and now we go to a non-denominational church. It's hard, that search. I hope you're truly happy with the religion and not doing it just for him, but if you go through those classes, you will learn more than 90% of the lifelong Catholics!

    By Blogger Karen, at July 16, 2008 at 6:07 PM  

  • I did make it through the entire post :), and I'm interested in what else you have to say on the topic.

    My thoughts on this...I grew up in a Sou.thern Bap.tist church, then as a teenager started going to a Church of God (a pente.costal church), took some time away (aka not doing much in the way of living a Christian lifestyle), and started going to a Meth.odist church when I met my husband. So, I've been around the denominational block as well. What I've decided is that I will NEVER call myself a Meth.odist, Bap.tist, Cath.olic, etc. I'm a Christian, and as long as I'm going to a church that teaches that the path to everlasting life is truly accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior...well, then I'm happy. The rest, to me, is just details. I will probably never fully agree with every teaching of whatever denomination I am attending, b/c obviously the Bible can be interpreted in so many different ways, hence the reason for having so many different denominations, and the odds of me just happening to interpret everything in the Bible just as the church I attend is not very likely. As long as I'm in a place where I can serve God and be comfortable doing so, then I'm cool. Catholi.cism would be a slight stretch for me, as I think that sometimes it gets a little too caught up in rules and traditions and focuses slightly less on having a personal relationship, but when it comes right down to it, that's something that is up to the individual. Sure, the church should encourage the relationship, and I'm sure the Catho.lic church does, but it's up to the individual to keep up with it anyway. I just want to add that I know plenty of Catho.lics that do actually have a relationship with God and don't just title themselves as Catho.lic. Hopefully, you're settled enough in your faith that you can thrive anywhere. Just remind yourself along the way that Metho.dism, Catholicism, etc. aren't religions...they're denominations...just a piece of the pie that is Christianity. You're still a Christian wherever you are.

    By Blogger Sugar&Ice, at July 18, 2008 at 7:42 AM  

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