After sharing that our family had joined a non-denominational chuch, I had a friend ask me if we had made the right decision. Our decision didn’t come easy as I had spent the last ten years attending the Catholic church and my husband was a cradle catholic. My friend, who is also a Catholic, shared that our decision saddened her. Although I did not understand her sadness, I appreciated the concern. To be sad about my decision would indicate that I had lost something by changing churches. I will miss some things by not attending mass, but being raised a Baptist, I felt like my faith was well rooted and strong before I joined the Catholic Church.
My Baptist faith is a far cry from the Catholic Church and it’s long standing traditions. I spent Sunday mornings in fellowship around a coffee pot, our noses in a hymnals, while wearing out the pages of our Bibles. Unlike the Catholic Church where the eucharist is at the height of service, ours came when the preacher would deliver a sometimes over-zealous sermon. At the end of each service we would have alter call. The alter was open and the preacher would ask people to step out of their pews and commit their lives to Christ or come forward to pray, often resulting in an alter lined with people in prayer. In my ten years attending the Catholic Church, it was never lined with kneeling or praying parishioners in that way, rather bowed before in reverence. To me, one was no better than the other, rather, I have appreciation for both. My heart was joyful when I could physically bow before it in silence or in prayer. Yes, Sunday morning for me was vastly different than those of my husband who certainly would have been shocked by the “loose” interpretations of how services could be conducted at the church in which I was raised. The songs, prayers, and words are predetermined and unified every Sunday morning in every Catholic church. Catholics celebrate and are fed with what they believe to be the literal body and blood of Christ. A beautiful experience but it always saddened me when my family could not fully participate in mass because they were not members of the Catholic Church.
When I met Doug he was a Catholic who had never worshiped in another church. When he agreed to attend services with me at the local Baptist church, he felt like he should find a way to attend a Catholic church before our Sunday was through. I was honestly offended and puzzled as to why attending church with me didn’t “count”. We were both deeply rooted in our faith and so this began an unending conversation about faith and how we wanted our faith to grow as a couple. We had to a strip away the four walls of our faith and discuss what it was he and I believed. We asked questions, opened our hearts and minds to how we would unify our approach to faith as a couple. It was important to us. When we announced our engagement, we knew a decision had to be made about where we would attend church and where would we be married. It wasn’t going to be an easy choice. I didn’t want to join the Catholic Church. I had spent my life worshiping as a Baptist but my faith also taught me to respect and trust the spiritual decisions of my soon-to-be husband. I also trusted that God would bless me in a new journey of faith. So after much thought, I decided to join his church. I attended meetings for a year, sometimes struggling with the differences with the Catholic faith and the one in which I had been raised. I reminded myself that he and I believed the same thing. We believed in Jesus Christ who was God incarnate and paid the penalty for our sins on calvary’s cross. We both had acknowledged this truth and we both acknowledged the strong faith we held individually. My faith was not changed once I joined the Catholic Church but the way in which I could further appreciate God did. My husband also began to form a different approach to faith through the process I was experiencing while joining his church.
He knew I missed my coffee fueled sermons and the fellowship of the Baptist faith. I missed the intimate relationship I had with God. In many ways, I felt like the Catholic Church didn’t quite fill that void I felt. A few years after we were married, I had discussed attending bible study at the same church I attended before we got married. My husband didn’t think twice. He was very supportive and decided to attend with me. We attended Wednesday night bible study and he began to see God working through his visits there. We felt blessed. We were able to see God in action through our exploration of faith. I had joined with my husband through his faith and he reached out to mine.
It may seem hard to believe that two people who essentially believe in the same things could differ so greatly in their personal worship of the same God. Both of us were so deep rooted and change was hard because we enjoyed and appreciated what we already had. What others viewed as a conflict or confusing, he and I viewed as a blessing.
Our decison to join another church happened after I asked if we could go to Sunday service at our new church as a way for me to meet people and learn more about it so it wouldn’t be so intimidating for me to join a bible study. I hadn’t been to a bible study in years and I really wanted to get involved with one again. What we discovered was a community of believers that cared for us. They sent us cards thanking us for visiting, showed up at our door with meals, and greeted us with warm smiles when we came. We also enjoyed the sermons. The words spoke to our lives, almost as if the preacher had bugged our home and preached about what we needed to hear. My husband felt something there and made the decision to join the church. I was surprised that he had reached that decision but we both felt the same stir in our hearts, the church felt like home. It had nothing to do with our past or what traditions we wanted to hold on to, it was about the overwhelming feeling that we were meant to call that church home.
It has been a couple months since we joined. I have been able to participate by giving my testimony during Sunday services, talk with some of the women about my experience at the faith conference, and plenty more opportunities are on the horizon. The door to these additional opportunities has spurred us to rekindle our faith at home. We have further discussed many issues he and I had set aside. We realized he were focusing on the mounting negative in our lives and we had almost forgot to appreciate the positive things, including the blessing of faith. Faith that is not contained within four walls of one church but a faith that should be practiced when we leave the door of whatever church in which we have worshipped. Our lives should bare testimony to the grace we are given by faith and we should be able to joyfully share it with others.
What if the four walls of your church fell to the ground, what would you have left? What if you were the only example of faith to someone else? Would you be able to be a witness to your beliefs? Would your love be a testimony to His love and grace? Before you can be a reflection of Him by your life, you must have Him within your heart. Where you worship is very important, but what you take home and practice the remainder of the week speaks volumes. I can only hope others will be able to see His work and love through our lives no matter what four walls in which we worship.