Sunday, August 06, 2006

Don't think I just wanted to keep my doughnuts to myself

I was supposed to show up early this morning at the Episcopal church I've been attending lately, baked goods in hand, to be introduced with the others in the current Inquirers' group to the rest of the congregation at the little reception they hold between services, but I never made it. I had a bad night, feeling kind of lousy and not sleeping for more than a couple of hours, and I just couldn't do it.

Looking at it as one who tends to parse everything searching for hidden meanings, this one seemed obvious. Back when I still thought I would be there this morning, I was afraid I'd be appearing under false pretenses. The bishop is scheduled to make an official visit to the church next month, at which time most of the Inquirer's group will be officially received into the church. This visit looms as a sort of deadline for making up my mind, though it's an artificial deadline, because obviously this isn't a one-time offer. Anyway, I don't really expect to reach a decision in the next six weeks, but I wish I could. I'm still struggling to figure out how to even approach thinking about it.

How do you go about deciding which church to belong to? This was originally decided for me, long before I could take up the question for myself. Much later, I went through a process of embracing that choice and making it my own, but for me then it was a matter of being Catholic or not--I wasn't deciding whether to belong to the Catholic church or some other religion.

Do you decide based on what you think? I think my beliefs are a closer fit with the Episcopal church. Or is it better to pay attention to what you feel? I wonder if I'll ever stop feeling more Roman Catholic than anything else, but I also feel deeply hurt by by the Catholic church, by things that couldn't have happened as they did, in my opinion, if the institutional church was not deeply dysfunctional.

Do you make a list of pros and cons of switching, or two lists detailing what you like most about each of the churches you're considering?

Here's something I really like about the Catholic church: I like the emphasis on the idea that God is present in church in a special way. You might think that means that God isn't so present in the world beyond church, but in fact the opposite seems to me to be true. Though it might seem contradictory, the awareness of God's presence in church is just the beginning of the awareness of the Divine presence in the world, God with us always and everywhere, which is an amazing and wonderful thing to believe.

Here's something I really like about the Episcopal church: I like the way that people come to church on Sunday because they want to be there. For the most part no one comes late, and no one leaves early. People expect to arrive on time and they expect to stay until it's over, out of deference not only to God but also to the rest of us. They seem to recognize that we're there not just to pray but to worship, that our coming together to stand before God as a community is something that's important and deserving of respect.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that my issues with the Catholic church are all about some aspect of community. Who do we welcome to the table? How do we get along as a group? How do we go about making decisions, and who carries them out? What kind of community did Jesus intend to leave behind to go on his name? How I wish I could answer those questions ...


At 9:27 PM, Blogger revabi said...

Decisions, decisions. It is a hard thing to decide. God be with you as you decide. Community is important, true.

Did you eat the doughnuts?

At 9:46 PM, Blogger Nancy said...

Making decisions is often a difficult process. I've learned that feelings alone are only part of the picture. When I first went to the Episcopal church, I felt like I'd come "home" in many ways. I also felt that I was to wait one year before making any decision about joining. So I take every opportunity to learn about the church, yet without the pressure of having to decide anything at this point. It won't be a year until Jan. and I figure that by then I may know what to do. If not, I'll continue to seek God. What I do know is that the Lord wants me to be at peace, so I refuse to stress out about it all!

May His peace settle upon your heart and make the way clear for you.

At 10:23 PM, Blogger Rachel's Big Dunk said...

Oh, One Foot...

I don't think this is the kind of thing you can decide with lists of pros and cons. I agree with what Nancy said.

When I was struggling with whether to leave my Unitarian Universalist church, my UU minister gave me a great piece of advice: decide not to decide for awhile. He suggested that I decide that I would not decide for a specific amount of time... say 6 months. The 6 month date came and went and by not worrying about the decision itself, I was better able to focus on what was important. And then, one day, God just made it absolutely clear to me what he expected me to do. In the end, it is almost as if I never really did decide. God did.

So I would say to just decide now that you aren't going to decide for another 6 months or a year. Set the date on your calendar and forget about it in the mean time.

And in the mean time... prayers for you.

At 2:56 PM, Blogger Lobo said...

I'm glad you are thinking about it to make a decision. Many catholics grow up catholic and don't put much thought about it afterwards. Then many of them leave without knowing about the church other than some priest, nun, head of a comittee they got angry with or some speech, talk or sermon they thought was not the right one, or some scandal they don't like.

I agree with one of those who made a comment - wait! Give yourself 6 months or 1 year but during that time, really practice the faith - sacraments, devotions, sacramentals, readings, talking to others who are deep in the faith, community participation, praying, etc. When you do things that mean something to you, say to yourself "I am doing this because I am Catholic" when it matches your catholic values. Don't do it as the person you are (male or female with a name). Think of what God, Jesus & the Holy Spirit would want you to do and then find out how the Catholic Chruch thinks about certain areas of life, especially signifcant issues.

Practice the faith before you decide to do something else. Just going to church, talking to a few lpeople after Mass or gonig to some events is not a full practice. When you are a crisis of decision its best to involve yourself as fully as you can in what you are involved before deciding to change it. There is much to be said about being a catholic, especially a good practicing catholic, but you have to practice. Try it!

At 8:26 AM, Blogger Widening Circles said...

Thanks for all of the kind thoughts and prayers!


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