Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Do You Believe in Signs?

This Sunday we went to mass, not church. (Mass=Catholic week, church=Episcopalian week) We decided we'd get some stuff done around the house, return a lamp shade that didn't quite work for a bigger one, go workout, and then attend the 5:00 p.m. mass at the student parish. I was quite involved in this parish when I was an undergraduate as a peer minister, lector, Eucharistic minister, parish council member, I ran a retreat once-- I even worked as the evening and weekend secretary for awhile. I had great attachment to that church until I had a run in with the pastor at the time who wasn't very pastoral. It happened after my grandmother died, and I stopped attending church for a few months. He's long gone, and when I go back, I still love the feel of the church. It's vibrant and young and Catholic. Which still means a lot to me. More on this in a minute.

The priest's opening prayer asked to think about what we were most longing for this advent season and I got that sudden pricklyness that happens behind my nose when I know I'm going to cry. I didn't have to search very hard to know what I'm most longing for, and then it struck me how apropos it was that I was longing for a baby during the Advent season. And then I thought, boy, it's going to be a loooonnnng Advent season.

Next thing I know, I've got Partner elbowing me in the ribs because there was our dentist! Singing with the choir! Boy, do we like our dentist. A lot. And I hate "the dentist" actually. But I love this dentist. The priest's homily made a lot of sense, was just long enough, and hit home with some of the same issues he introduced in the opening prayer. And then, inspired by the service, Partner ate the "cracker" as she says. This is, of course, par for the course at our Episcopalian church, where "everyone is welcome at God's table." This is one thing that made me cry the first time we attended the E-church; I hate gate-keeping as part of religion. I loved the first time Partner and I had communion together, rather than me leaving her behind in the pew. I asked her before we went up, "Do you believe, right now, that is the body and blood of Jesus?" (Look at me gatekeeping!) She said no. Whatever. My mother attends communion every week and doesn't believe it either. She wanted the "cracker" and who the hell am I to deny her this? (Oy, don't challenge me on this either. It's been another one of the doozy fights with my father. I understand the theology, okay?)

After mass, we congratulated our dentist since just mere hours before when we were opening the mail, we got the announcement that she was pregnant with her third. (Hm. More babies.) She's incredibly sweet and remembered to ask about us, and was super when we told her our news. I recounted my history at this parish, and she asked if we came there all the time. I gave her the short half-time Catholic/Episcopalian answer, along with my concerns about when we have children. Oh no, she told us, but this particular parish has a gay and lesbian outreach ministry, and I should email Mr. X, who's straight but is the coordinator, and ask him about it. I had such a nice time at mass, I wondered if running into our super-kind dentist who told us about the outreach ministry was a sign.

Over beer and stilton fries after mass, both of us questioned what the outreach ministry did. Welcome and affirm the identities of gay and lesbians Catholics, or make small noises about dignity and larger noises about reconciliation. Maybe it wasn't a sign after all.

This is clearly not something we worry about in our E-church where the Vestry voted as one to approve the blessings of gay and lesbians unions.

Still, I picked up the advent book from the Catholic church and have been doing the advent reflections. Thus far, every single one of them has focused on Elizabeth, and how she was "barren." Is this a sign? What does it mean? And lately I've felt pushed back onto the Catholic side, for no reason in particular other than probably I'm just very comfortable with the mass, and as similar as the E service is to the RC mass, it's still not. And I love our E church. I do. But as I said above, I can't quite seperate from the RCs. It isn't really an issue until we have children, but as many problems as the RC-church has, it's been a solace to me in times when I have needed it. Maybe I can't leave because it's so familiar? Maybe I thought, I just need to reconcile myself, and understand I'm meant to be an active dissenter about the way the RC church is totally schizophrenic on some issues. (Having children throws a wrench in for me.)

And then this week, we read this news, which of course infuriated me. Incensed me. And I thought, good Lord! Just as I feel the scales tipping, something this happens. Is God trying to tell me something? Or just challenge me? Or perhaps, more likely, I have nothing at all to do with this, but it's all coincidentally happening as I become, once again, introspective about faith.

And then today, our priest of the E-church called our home to see how we were since he hasn't seen us for a long time. And then that felt like a sign too.

Looking at this post, I sound very superstitious about it all, don't I? Hm. Katie's Church of Vague and Coincidental Signs. Come one. Come all.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's all so complicated I'm glad I'm pagan. :)

10:15 PM  
Blogger ~cj~ said...

When I was growing up my best friend wanted to go with me to bible school in the summer. She was Roman Catholic too... I was raised Lutheran. After that summer she always said when she was old enough to decide her own religious path she'd be Lutheran. I'd always found that to be strange since the religions were so similar. It wasn't until years later that I asked her why. She said to me "Because we're saved by Grace." About 5 years later she came out and said she was a lesbian. It broke my heart to think that all those years she didn't feel a part of a religion because of that. I wish that everyone knew that - we're all the same in his eyes and no one is left behind.

10:21 PM  
Blogger Christy said...

I am so sad that we Catholic lesbians struggle like this.

I looked at my partner yesterday when she mentioned the new document and said "Do you realize that it's advent and I'm not going to Mass?"

It's heartbreaking.

Please know and perhaps take some solace that you are not alone in the struggle.

9:33 AM  
Blogger LilySea said...

Oh my god, I just got into the biggest war with some folks online because I admitted to taking RC communion and I'm not Catholic.

You just reminded me.

But that's neither here nor there a la your post. Glad you're having good church times. I feel so out of my usual church loop these days. I'ts been hard to get there regularly with the baby in tow...

12:12 AM  
Anonymous pixi said...

I hate the politics of the RC church. But I'm also a confirmed Catholic, and I struggle with the idea of walking away from it completely. Somehow, I feel that it's a part of who I am & where I've come from. And I probably won't make any real decisions until I have a child. Because, I'm fairly certain that I don't want my offspring being exposed to or buying into the teachings of the RC church. So, I'm considering looking for a UU church at some point. I'm not sure, though. I've still got a lot of internal push/pull going on over this issue.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Nico said...

I've read this post about four times! I'm also struggling with religion - I believe in "God", but I don't like a lot of the constraints / politics / hypocrisy associated with the various churches. (Similar to your situation, I grew up Anglican / Episcopalian, M grew up RC. We're both 'lapsed' at the moment).

1:50 PM  

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