Wednesday, March 29, 2006

God's Gonna Trouble the Water

In the past month, Partner and I have been to three houses of three lesbian families in our church. Saturday night, we'll be going to the fourth. Since every one of the other visits we have had have been just lovely, I imagine this Saturday will be delightful also. Not only that, but I've been invited to help work on the new website for our church-- we want to make it a little "exciting." And we've been solicited to help with clean up for coffee hour, plus I've been asked by the rector to make a dinner for a group of people taking a class on a Sunday evening in May. This all adds up to a lot of "church" for me. Even though I am a regular attender at either the Catholic church or Episcopal, I feel the involvement seeping into my life, and it's a good thing.

Let me try to explain one of the positive outcomes: When we started going to the Episcopal church, we were urged by a friend (alas, no longer with us as a friend) to try out the Anglo-Catholics. The suggestion was followed by a specific mention of a church where a friend of hers was the temporary stand in until a new Rector could be found. Finally I plucked up enough courage to try it, and we slidled over the church one Sunday morning, arriving more than half an hour early. Partner kept wondering why we weren't getting out of the car until I admitted to her how early we were. I cried a lot in the car before going into the church. And then once in the church, I cried more realizing how similar the service was to my beloved Catholic Mass. And that temporary stand-in? Loved. Him. What a gentle soul. I didn't know the politics of the church, but I really hoped he could just stay. (Okay, I knew a little about the politics from a friend who used attend the church, but I didn't realize this was his church when I went there the first time.)

And of course, at the kiss of peace, here came this women from the opposite side of the church to shake our hands. It ended being frog, the official spotter of new lesbians.

Not long after this, the church found their new Rector, and Partner and I waited with baited breath to see how the new guy would be. As great as the temporary stand-in? We probably didn't have the same anticipation as congregants who had been with the church a long time, but still-- By this point, we were pretty sure we'd like to get married in that church.

The new Rector came. We approached him with our request as soon as we saw he wore Birkenstocks to preach in. That had to be a good sign. And he took our request to the Vestry, who said 'by all means, let the girls have a commitment ceremony here!" Which of course solidified how we felt about the church. (To be slightly more brief here, I am skipping all my associated Catholic guilt about all this.) In the interest of being open and honest, the Rector contacted the Bishop, who also said okay, but we had to avoid the trappings of "marriage." At some point before the wedding--oh excuse me-- the celebration of a covenant, my step-grandmother called the church and talked to someone there. She queried how they could marry us? After all the name of church is Saint Something of Somewhere. Sounds Catholic. And someone (I still don't know who) apprised my mean-spirited relation that it was an Episcopal Church. Ha ha ha. All of this was exhilarating, as I am sure you might imagine. But as this was happening and lighting my soul, something else was going on.

I am fairly used to extemporaneous speaking in church-- and while at sometimes that has even seemed canned, I wasn't used to seeing the priest read off notes, almost verbatim, sometimes even faltering when losing his place. The pastor at my Catholic church was a soft spoken, very intelligent man who went to the center of the altar and spoke to us without any notes. And he always closed his homily with the words, "Something to think about." Nice, huh? To my mind, he gave us room to take in his homily and mull it around and engage with it. And I always did. More than one Sunday morning breakfast was spent discussing his sermon. However, at our new church, the priest read off notes, and it bothered me. There was nothing charismatic about it. And then the sermons and speeches about money-- well, you wanna watch me squirm? Watch me at church some Sunday when that's the topic. Maybe because I was raised in a family where you just didn't talk about money, and certainly no one at any Catholic church I ever went to pressed about money. Perhaps this is because the parish I grew up in was as repressed about money as my family. I don't know. (For the record: It's not talking about giving that I object too. It's okay to emphasize giving in church. Because isn't that part of the whole deal? There was just a different tenor to the talk I was hearing at the new church.) So some Sundays I was just bored and squirmy. (In my head: Were we giving enough? Oh shit, and we're behind on our pledge. And oh crap, we haven't made any money in months because no houses are selling and our lives are on credit, but shit, where's the pledge money?) I'm neurotic enough about money and then there I was in church, my least favorite topic being harped on again and again. And beyond this, there was this and that that bothered me also. I even was emailing another church member from Paris about it this past spring.

I tried. I tried very hard to not let it bug me. But I thought very much I was alone in these feelings about this and that, and it started grating at me during church. The Catholic church started pulling me back very hard, despite all the positive experiences we had at the Episcopal church.

The problem I had, however, was putting more in terms of expectation onto Saint Something's than I ever had to the Catholic church. After all, I have always been very vocal about the Catholic church not being perfect. Why was I expecting this Episcopal church to be perfect then? And didn't my grandmother always tell me it was about the church, and not the priest? Of course, she was referring to the RC, but still-- Why was I having such a hard time remembering that? Perhaps because when I'm at the RC church, I'm well aware that there are parishioners there who don't like the current pastor, or are annoyed there aren't women priests, or think priests should be able to be married. I don't feel like I am alone in my disgruntledness, and then somehow because I am me, I am able to put that aside during the Mass and just enjoy the Mass for what it is.

And let's just say that one of the positive outcomes of so much "church" stuff lately (with the Episcopalians) is that I've found out I am not alone with some of my issues. And that somehow has allowed me to open myself up a little more. And because of all this, I'm back to being okay with being part time Catholic and part time Anglican. I've even started admitting publicly to both groups, the Catholics and Episcopals, that I'm aligning with both of them. I'm more open to everything, even the things that were previously annoying me. This could be spring creeping in my heart, or could be finding community. But whatever it is, I'm gonna wade in the water.

"There is one river of truth, but many streams fall into it on this side and that."
-- Clement of Alexandria (ca.150-215)

5 Comments:

Blogger fisher queen said...

I had some friends in our old Episcopal church (which we only left b/c we moved) who maintained allegiances to Catholocism, and some others who identified themselves as Lutheran though they came almost every Sunday. I think it is about the individual church. Part of that for me is the rector though. Good sermons are so important for me.

5:45 PM  
Blogger Sophia said...

We at MCC struggle with his all the time. Most MCC members are from other traditions. Some traditions stressed "stewardship" others did not and whenever stewardship was mentioned it would make me wince since I came from a Catholic tradition and my dad hated appeals for funds and would tell the priests to go pawn some of the Pope's jewelry for cash!

MCC churches have the autonomy to tailor their services to their congregations. One MCC may be more Catholic in feel another maybe more Baptist in its service.New york has three services a 9am traditional (Catholic) service, a mainline protestant service and a praise and worship evening service

10:26 AM  
Blogger frog said...

Well, YAY!

You know how I feel about all of this, I suspect. :)

10:06 AM  
Blogger Career Guy said...

My, a long post, but well worth reading. We struggle with some things on our church, like getting people to participate in activities and to take on more of the things that priests used to do. Stewardship is about sharing your time, talent and treasure. I like that definition--it's more than money. btw, when I was a kid, if you saw the pastor (of a four priest parish) come out to do the homily, you knew it was going to be about money. That's the only time he spoke. We didn't mind--it got to be a joke kinda.

9:00 PM  
Blogger M.Thom said...

I really enjoyed this post. I am Catholic, and although I disagree with some of the teachings of the Catholic church, I have been Catholic for a long, long time, and I can't separate that from who I am.

In college, I went to an Evangelical Free church. It was an amazing house of worship and celebration. It was basically the opposite of the Catholic church. Sometimes, I want to enjoy that same kind of worship experience...but the Catholic church always pulls me back.

I hope that whatever you do with your Catholic/Episcopal leanings is what works best for you!

2:04 PM  

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