Monday, September 04, 2006

Where it began (Teri)

I was raised by a Methodist mom and an Evangelical dad. We attended church pretty regularly, and I have memories of Sunday School and so forth. But when my parents divorced in 1978-ish, the church-going came to an end. From junior-high on, I went by myself. I tried Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, even went to a Mormon dance or two. I "settled" by high school on a non-denominational church because it had the coolest youth group, guitar music in the worship service, and that's where all my friends went.

It was during college that my faith and relationship with Jesus were cemented. God worked in my life through the ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship first as a student then as staff.

I met Kevin through InterVarsity. He had a Baptist background, and we were married in his hometown church. In eight years of marriage and in the midst of five moves, we've attended an American Baptist church, a Presbyterian, a Conservative Baptist, and two non-denominational churches.

My step-father, Tony, had a devout Catholic background, but hadn't attended as long as I'd known him. Then about two years ago he got more serious about "going back". My mom had always said if he went back she'd go with him. They started attending at Eastertime, 2005. This was the first I heard about RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults): a class just for them to learn (or re-learn) about God and the Church. Well, curious me thought it would be fascinating to learn what they were learning, even if we were in different states, so I called up our local Catholic church and got connected with Sister so-and-so who gave me the day and time for the RCIA meetings and told me I'd be welcome. I worried that Kevin would think I was cuckoo, but he was supportive and so I started going.

RCIA was interesting. I learned a lot and it was fun to talk about with Kevin, but especially with Tony. Since my "classes" started before theirs, I enjoyed giving him pop-quizzes to see how much he remembered.

My biggest impression of that time was how quickly all my stereotypes --- some of them quite negative --- fell away. I was surprised that these people talked about the same Jesus and appeared to really love and worship him. And they never said anything that I could argue with. Admittedly, I was disappointed when one of the sponsors had a difficult time finding the book of Acts when he agreed to read a passage, but I kept observing.

From discussions with my Presbyterian-Pastor's-Wife close friend, it seemed in some ways simply that different churches emphasize different aspects of faith, but that doesn't make them wrong. Perhaps my non-denominational church emphasizes scripture more than anything. And a Pentecostal church might emphasize the Holy Spirit. And the Catholic Church might emphasize tradition. But, news to me, those emphases don't mean the other aspects of faith are unimportant --- not at all. The whole sola-scriptura- Bible-only - thing will come up later.

Unexpectedly, Tony died just a week or two after he and my mom started their RCIA. She continued to go, and I was able to travel to witness her confirmation at this past Easter Vigil. It was a special time, and I couldn't deny how meaningful it all seemed. How "deep", I guess. But that was it.

Through my time in RCIA, I asked questions of Tony, but sometimes also of our friends Rich and Kristi. They are Catholic, and we know them from college. It was helpful to have their current perspective, and that they are our peers.

A month ago, we attended an InterVarsity reunion that Rich and Kristi coordinated. While there, Rich mentioned a book he had told me about during my time in RCIA written by a man with a Baptist background who converted to Catholicism. Honestly, I have a basketful of books I'm looking forward to reading, and I couldn't understand Rich's persistence here, but I had no reason to tell him not to loan it to me. When he came to say goodbye before we left the reunion weekend, he forgot it (so had I). We said goodbye and then I hopped in the shower. He remembered the book, and returned with it. Kevin answered the door and took it. Later, on the road, he told me Rich dropped a book off and what was the story? I told him and thought now there was pressure to read it since he went out of his way to deliver it - I'd add it to the basket.

Once home, it never made it to the basket. Kevin started reading it. This is especially noteable because Kevin rarely reads books. And I had finally talked him into reading a book on Calvinism which he had finished just days before. Now he has picked up this book and suddenly he's exclaiming about the interesting scriptural truths he's learning. Bigtime. And calling Rich to ask more questions, and referencing scripture and joining message boards where he can ask more questions. Wow.

Rich and Kristi ordered some tapes and a CD for us and they arrived last week. We already listened to one. It is the testimony of a Presbyterian pastor who converts to Catholicism. Rich had mentioned how good it was ages ago but my thought was, "For every convert to Catholicism, there must be 9 million out of it." I meet people in every church who are former Catholics. So what gives? I have a few theories, but I'll end with a Fulton Sheen quote I heard on the testimony CD: “There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church— which is, of course, quite a different thing.”

Hate is a stronger word than I could use to explain my feelings about the Catholic church. I'd use "confusion", "disinterest", "stereotype", "arrogance", "judgement" and, in capital letters, "MISCONCEPTION". It might be fun to read this blog as those things continue to change.

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