Monday, June 8, 2015

I Went to Mass and I Liked It

Yes, I am singing that to the tune of a specific Katy Perry song.

As I've shared, we left our church home of 11 years. And now we are on a journey to find our next church. We don't have a list of churches we intend to visit. Instead, we find one and then we visit and if we like it well enough, we come back. Should we find something that doesn't work for our family, we move on.

We had spent the last few weeks attending a non-denominational church near home. We liked the worship experience, the lead pastor, the children's ministry, the authentic way the church and leaders shared church and personal struggles. So we kept going back. But we've learned that the church has a strong culture (and it's interesting that it comes from the congregation up and not from the pastor down) of women submitting to men.

That doesn't work for our family.

So we're moving on.

Part of what I want out of these next few months is the opportunity to have different faith experiences together.

This past weekend, the kids and I went to Cincinnati to visit my family (leaving Jeff home to work on projects). On Sunday, we went to Mass in a Catholic Church. Well, we actually went to Mass twice in 2 different Catholic Churches.

My brother and my dad are Roman Catholic. Both are very serious about their faith, their relationship with Christ, living a spiritually driven life that is pleasing to God. My mom is Lutheran - which is how I was raised. Growing up, I went to Mass many times with my dad. I wasn't Catholic but I enjoyed going with him and I enjoyed the conversations we would have - about baptism and about Mary and about faith.

I left home for college and started seeking my own path.

For the past 11 years, I've been a member of a United Methodist Church. But I haven't had an actual Methodist experience because the church did things in a different way. I didn't grow up Methodist and I've actually not attended a traditionally Methodist church before. The foundation of the church we've left was Methodist - don't get me wrong. It's not like the church went renegade or anything. I'm just saying that if you grew up in a United Methodist Church and then went to that church, it wouldn't feel Methodist to you.

I am not tied to or defined by a denomination at this point in my life. We teach our kids that we are Christians and that there are a lot of churches and a lot of faiths that are also Christian - we all have the same foundation but we practice it and teach it and live it in different ways.

This past Sunday, my kids and I had the opportunity to go to Mass with my brother. He has recently moved back home for a new job. He is working on finding his own place to live and his own church (parish) to become involved with. He invited us to visit a church he was interested in. He felt it might be more contemporary from the little he had seen.

Well, he was right. It does seem to be a church that is trying to be more contemporary. This was my first experience of walking into a Catholic Church and walking past a large staff office area, the sanctuary felt the same as any other room in the church, the priest didn't sing any of the liturgy and there wasn't any stained glass. One of the things I love about Catholic churches is the stained glass and the beauty of the Sanctuary. While Mass did follow the readings and calendar of all other Catholic Churches for that Sunday, there wasn't as much of the ritual and tradition I used to experience in Mass.

Then we went to the Catholic Church where Ted basically grew up and where my dad is very involved.

Stained glass. Check.
Richness of tradition. Check.
Sanctuary feels like a holy space. Check.

Turns out, this past Sunday was a special Holy Day in the Catholic Church - the Feast of Corpus Christi. At the first church, I had no understanding or sense that this was a really special Sunday. At the second church, I not only knew this was a very special Sunday, I loved feeling the awe and respect and depth of spirit just walking into the Sanctuary.

The Knights of Columbus were present. There was a processional they led of the priests and altar boys and the cross and the incense. There was deep respect and solemnity of the handling of the Host - the Body and Blood of Christ. I had to leave prior to the processional that took place - but I wish I could have stayed for it.

I don't see myself ever becoming Catholic. There is a lot that I don't agree with or that doesn't make sense to me in my life experiences and my faith experiences. But that doesn't mean I discount Catholicism.

I believe that God works through different faiths in order to reach different people. My dad and my brother live their lives very close to Christ because of their Catholic faith. I know people who live their best through their Baptist faith or Lutheran beliefs or whatever. There are megachurches and there are almost micro-churches.

My experience in Mass the 2nd time was that God is present everywhere. The Holy Spirit is working through people and buildings and music and faith in many different churches and gatherings.

Just as I can be moved while singing a contemporary song of praise, I can also be deeply awed in soaking in the beautiful voices that made me feel like I had taken a tiny step towards angels singing in heaven while sitting in a Catholic Church.

Yes, I do believe the Church can be dangerous - power in the wrong hands, used the wrong way.

But mostly, I believe that churches and church-goers and people of faith and people seeking are all just trying to find the best ways to love, to be compassionate. It's going to look different in each person and within each set of walls. But it's truly the foundation of Christianity - love. And it can be found in different forms, different traditions, different songs, different people all around us.

Our next family church experience will be a United Church of Christ - the church we plan to visit is very women-led and is open & affirming. I've done a lot of digging on their website and like what I see in terms of ministries, listening to sermons, and community outreach. 

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