Can’t We Have More Than One Church Family?

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If you have read my previous blogs you know my family is a mixture of religions. I have been a Catholic and turned Lutheran when I had my family. As I get older and ponder my religious upbringing the more I seem to question, not whether I believe in God, but why I need to attend one sole church.

The thought crossed my mind as I attended my Granddaughter’s confirmation. I knew why we had to belong to one church as my children grew up, so they could attend Sunday School, Bible School and learn more about God. That’s the way it is done. As I get older and have no children to raise I ponder why I can’t have many church families.

I loved the church service at the confirmation ceremony and the way my Granddaughter’s church, Cross of Peace Lutheran Church in Shakopee, MN, prepared their children for confirmation and made their day special. It made my day special too with the upbeat and contemporary service. You could feel the joy. I enjoyed the experience of worshipping in a congregation that was not my home church.

This week I decided to test my theory in my own home town. I decided to drop in and visit Open Doors United Methodist Church. It was my dad’s home church. I felt welcome the minute I walked in the door. The chatter and feeling of warmth immediately drew me in. As I experienced the services, different from my home congregation, I was moved. Looking at the bulletin I was drawn into wanting to attend some of their activities. It was Mother’s Day so the kids handed out homemade bookmarks to mothers. A woman I met briefly a few weeks earlier, invited me to dinner with her family. I already had plans but I appreciated the invitation. Another person invited me to a Bible Study.

After leaving I pondered visiting two different churches so close together, both different, but both feeding my heart and teaching me about the Lord and the gospel and church family. Each church, my own included, has an energy all their own.

I love the people in the church where I belong. My point is not unhappiness with my own home congregation, Good Shepherd Lutheran, it is something inside of me that wonders why we can’t have more than one church family in 2019. I know the doctrine of each church differs, but I also know very few people who 100 % follow the doctrine of their church. I am a mixed breed of religions and perhaps that is what is fueling my questions.

In my cozy mystery series books, the Fuchsia, MN Series, I think I addressed what I was feeling without knowing it. In Fuchsia, we have the We Save You Christian Church. Everyone in Fuchsia goes to the church. The denominations are not the same. The building is shared by all religions with the Priests and Ministers presiding over each denominations services but sharing the building. Residents can attend the service of their choice but many times they attend a service of another denomination because they want to change it up. Because they are all under the umbrella of one building, they are all one church family holding some events together. Maybe I pulled that out of some deep down feelings I have been hiding.

What would happen if we attended different churches on Sunday, expanding the church families that we have?  What if we weren’t so territorial about our people, but encouraged them to not only worship and take part in our church activities but of other churches too, and we welcomed others to join our activities without expectations. What if we welcomed and encouraged expanding church families and encouraged them to give their money wherever they worshipped for the Sunday? It would come back to us when others worshipped at our church.

I found events enticing me to attend in both churches where I worshipped in the last two weeks. At Cross of Peace Lutheran, I would love to participate in their Women, Wine and Woods event. At Open Doors I would love to participate in their Bible Study. There are things in my church too to attend. And there are events I wouldn’t mind helping with at each church such as a library and children’s book Sunday.

Am I advocating a pick and choose religion? Not really. I am advocating expanding and becoming part of a larger nurturing family of believers, rather than limiting ourselves to one inclusive congregation where attending another church or religion in your community might be viewed as a betrayal. I view it as enriching our lives with a bigger family brought together to learn about God.

I find I expand my world by seeing things through others eyes and the same can be said by learning about how others worship and what they do to feed their flock.

We have a fear in our congregations, I think it is underlying and not said, but in smaller communities perhaps, fostered silently, and that is that we are in competition with others churches and religions, and we need to keep people within our walls.

I love Billy Graham’s quote: Christianity means a lot more than church membership. And we’ve all heard the quote by Billy Sunday: Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile. I agree with both. But having a church family that has your back can change your life.

Spending time with others with like interests in various activities feeds us to come together in prayer and outreach, bringing with it laughter, and comfort and a deeper understanding of the word.

These thoughts are just those of a rebel old person. Whose hallowed halls will I still be welcome in?

Mother’s Day Musings

Sunday is Mother’s Day. Advertisements for Mother’s Day gifts are peppering my social media feeds and filling up the inboxes of my email. I have a feeling of loss as I read the ads, as I am sure so many others do because our mothers are no longer with us.

It is another holiday celebrated, but which brings mixed feelings for many mothers and children out there. This year I will admit, holidays have been hard for me. Life is very different than I expected it would be. I do not know why we have this fairy tale idea of life, because in reality, life is messy. Relationships are messy, especially with families. It isn’t always a Hallmark moment. That is what makes Mother’s Day and families so special because they persevere together through the muck of life, held together by love, even though it isn’t always front and center but hidden, ready to come out at unexpected moments

In the 52 years, I had my mother,  I never missed a Mother’s Day with my mother. I might not always have been able to spend the entire day but I always made sure I visited her at some point in the day. I always made sure I gave her a gift whether it, large or small. It wasn’t a chore, it was something from the heart I wanted to do. We didn’t always have a great relationship and didn’t communicate things to each other in a positive way but the love never died.  I miss spending Mother’s Day with my mother.

I think my parents taught me Mother’s Day was a day to take the time to spend with the person who loved me and raised me. My dad, my mom and I always visited my dad’s mom on Mother’s Day. She only lived until I was six but that is one thing I remember. My mom’s mom lived with us, but my mom always made it a special day for her and my dad made sure we did that for my mom too. It was a celebration. It was a day for families to take time to be together.

It is 2019 and families are spread out far and wide. Many moms will spend the day alone because of various reasons. I will be one of those. Life is busy for families and getting together isn’t always an option. Some will be spending Mother’s Day alone because children and parents have been separated because of strife and disagreements. And so this holiday might be one of those that some want to pass over and not acknowledge it is happening.

I would give anything to spend another Mother’s Day with my mom and my mom-in-law, Dorothy. I am sure there are moms who have lost a child that would give anything to see them again on Mother’s Day.

It isn’t the presents, mothers want on this day, but the presence of their children in their lives, whether it be a phone call every week or a visit. The love of a mother never goes away.

I will visit my mother this Sunday at her grave. And then I might take myself to a movie and laugh a little. I will celebrate being a mother because I have three successful, healthy children. So if you are alone on this day, treat yourself. Take time to remember those who are no longer with us and then take the time to celebrate you because you deserve it.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom.

 

 

To Pray or Not to Pray?

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I have a granddaughter that will be confirmed this weekend. We will all be there to celebrate this milestone in her life.

I remember my confirmation. It was a moment in my life that I do remember and treasure. I know what I wore and I remember the day and what I chose for my confirmation name. We had to do that in my church at that time. Usually, it was a Saint’s name.

As much as I have written about my days growing up Catholic and telling you the tales of things that unsettled me about my religion, there were many positives too. As a young child, you don’t appreciate all the prayers you need to remember or the religion classes, but those are the very things that get me through my life.

I changed religions for a couple of reasons. I wanted to attend church as a family and I was impressed with the faith of my new nieces and nephews and their religious instruction in the Lutheran Church. I was impressed with their knowledge of the Bible. I was impressed with their confirmation programs that encompassed many hours of study. I was impressed with their Sunday Schools. I was impressed with their knowledge of other religions.

Today I use some things from my upbringing still, and I use things I learned as a Lutheran and from other relatives of other religions. But forming my faith started as a young child.

I have fallen away from church time to time when I was lost and searching, but I was always drawn back because of prayer and what I learned from both religions.

One day I was at a baseball game with my grandson. They were losing by over ten points and it was getting worse by the minute. Before the game I asked him if he prayed for help to do his best, not win, just to do his best. He told me no and gave me a funny look. I decided I would pray for his team, not to win, but to do their best and possibly bring the score up so it was a little closer and they wouldn’t feel so defeated. I did and I have to admit, I was amazed they scored over ten points and brought the game to a tie that inning. They did lose but not the terrible loss they would have had. I told my grandson I did that, and again I got the funny look. I was convinced it helped, but he wasn’t convinced.

Another time when chatting with another grandson who was about to play in a basketball game I again inquired if he asked God to help him do his best. His funny look appeared and he said no. I told him he should. I asked him later if he took my advice and he didn’t because he thought it was a strange request.

Both these boys go to church and Sunday School. I was taught to pray without ceasing no matter how little or unimportant my needs seemed. We’ve all heard the “someone needs it more than I do” speech.

Sunday School was more intense when I was growing up, and I know this even though I was not in a protestant Sunday School. We Catholics in our school had to go to church every day during the school year. Sunday School for people my age in protestant churches, and for my kids was every Sunday morning for an hour. Going to church was a requirement. It didn’t matter what was happening in the community with sports, church and Sunday School came first.

Confirmation was another matter. Saturday mornings for my Protestant friends and for my children were for two to three hours and Wednesday nights were church time. There were memorization and work that had to be done, and if it wasn’t, you were not allowed to be confirmed. Some might argue that this is too harsh for the young ones of today, but I argue it is why I have a foundation to hold on to at my lowest times; even the times I shy away from my church community.

John McCain tells of how his faith was strengthened, restored and tested as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. One of his prayers was to be given another minute to keep living. Orson Swindle was a Marine Captain who spent six years in captivity. He and his fellow prisoners would cough the letter C for church and tap a code so they knew it was time to pray together, and they would say their prayers on their own, but at the same time. The prayers were the Pledge of Allegiance, the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm. Prayer was their sustenance. Had they not learned that at their parent’s knees and in their Sunday Schools and churches they would not have had those memorized prayers in their darkest hours or been able to whisper their personal words of prayer.

Our churches today have changed in what they expect of our youth. Sunday School classes are shortened. After confirmation teenagers disappear from their churches because they are given the option by their parents and society to not be a part of a community where their faith will be sustained. Many teenagers, even Confirmation age have a hard time reciting any rote prayer such as the Lord’s prayer or the 23rd Psalm. We have dumbed down the teaching of our children to conform to society’s expectations, rather than keeping the expectation of what our children should be learning to be able to withstand the world today. Sunday school and education programs, along with youth events, are among the first cut when trying to save money. We seem to lower our standards for our youth to keep people in our churches yet churches are emptier. We expect less and we are getting less. How is that working for us?

I know people are falling away from the church communities for many different reasons. There is a lack of trust in the old church establishment. Yes, fragile leaders have let us down. Judgment has driven us away. The politics of churches have driven us away. Yet we still need that “old time religion” to grow up those kids so that if they are in situations they cannot handle they know prayer and faith will help. They can turn to a common prayer together as those prisoners did or if they cannot eke out a prayer of their own because of their situation. Our children today need a foundation and we are failing if we don’t give that to them.

If I can leave one moment of wisdom for my grandchildren, it is to never quit praying in all instances, no matter how small the request might be. Memorize those prayers; there will be times you can’t find your own words for prayer but your heart will pull up that which is memorized embedded in your heart.

There are thoughts which are prayers. There are moments when, whatever the posture of the body, the soul is on its knees. — Victor Hugo