My new parish :-)
I did something BIG today. Something that I've had an itch to do for quite some time actually, but just never had the courage or gumption to go through with it. I left the Catholic Church.
I grew up with the Catholic Church being part of my identity. I loved going to religious formation classes and was so eager to be a teacher myself (I taught third grade RE when I was a junior and senior in high school). I always went to Mass with my mom and it wasn't something I gave much thought about.
When I went to college, I decided to explore a bit and see what other denominations were like. I immediately did not like the Baptist church-- too "in your business" and judgmental for my taste. I didn't like the Methodist church that I attended with a friend, and so I went back to the Catholic Church.
After my divorce, I went through the Annulment process so that if/when I got married again, if the man I was going to marry was Catholic, I didn't want my divorce to be something that stopped us from getting married in the Church-- turns out it was never an issue anyway, Steve and I married on the beach and we were not married by a priest.
When I was in my post-divorce phase of my life (AKA when the most growth and development happened), I found a non-denominational church and I loved it. I loved the people, the music, the atmosphere... but I never felt at home and I felt like something HUGE was missing-- to me, Jesus was missing. I missed seeing him on the cross and there was nothing present that called to me and said I was in the right spot. So back to the Catholic Church I went.
I feel like my spiritual/religious journey is typical of many people in their 20s and 30s. Maybe not, but I think a lot of people go through events that cause them to question their beliefs and they're forced to analyze what they're looking for out of life.
So anyway... Steve and I met and our first date was spent going to Mass. It was a wonderful foundation to an amazing relationship and I always liked that we could worship together. It has always been very important to me to have a partner who is the same religion as I am, and share the same values, morals, and beliefs that I have. This probably stems from being raised with a Catholic mother and an Athiest father.
Before we moved to NC, Steve and I went to Mass each week. It was just part of what we did and it was just something that I had always done (this was all before June of 2007). I never had any "warm fuzzy" feeling when I went to church and never felt like I was in a place that I was meant to be. I just assumed it'd never happen and it wasn't something that did happen for most people. However, I had many friends that were very into their churches and they DID have that love... and I was jealous and wanted it too.
Once we moved, we stopped going to Mass. There was too much going on and we didn't make it a priority. When we adopted Gus, we vowed to start going back to Mass... and we did for a while. Then I started taking him by myself to the various 9am Masses. I was hoping to find one that I really liked... but it never happened.
As many people know, the Catholic Church has been transitioning lately, and the big changes started in November of 2011. The Mass is still the same, but the wording is totally different. Talk about feeling like a fish out of water-- 35 years of the same thing and then it's all different. There are cheat sheets for people to re-learn the wording... that's a really hard task.
So anyway, the last time I went to Mass was in October of 2011. I took Gus and he and I were sitting in the church (not the cry room because the sound system was disconnected and anyone in the cry room could NOT hear anything happening outside the room). Gus was 17 months... and he was very squirmy and chatty. He was discovering his echo and being noisy... and my priest literally shushed us. NOT KIDDING. He put his had to his mouth (the quiet sign) and shushed us. I was so embarrassed. It was that moment that I decided not to go back until Gus was older and was able to sit and not be a pain to deal with and try to keep quiet for the sake of being shushed again.
Then we moved and I found us a Catholic Church here in GA. There were two options and both were HUGE parishes and so I picked based on the name. The one time I attempted to go to Mass, I was running a bit late (not late but not as early as usual... I arrived in the parking lot as Mass was starting) and there were NO parking spots. It turned me off and I turned around and came home and never went back.
I want Gus to have a solid faith foundation and I want him to know the Holy Trinity. I never want him to not know Jesus and I want him to feel at home and welcomed into his church, just as I did as a child. What he chooses to do as an adult is up to him, but I feel that as a parent, it's my job to impart some morals, ethics, and to provide opportunities to develop his faith and character.
The Catholic Church is wonderful for so many reasons. My faith, and what I believe whole-hardheartedly are Catholic tenants.
- I believe that Mary was immaculately conceived
- I believe that Jesus was immaculately conceived
- I believe that the body and blood of Christ is the literal body and blood and not just a representation
- I believe that Mary ascended into Heaven
- I believe in the Holy Trinity and that each are separate yet one
- I believe in ONE Baptism
- I believe in the angels and the saints and pray to them for various things
- I believe in the sacraments
All that being said... there are some fundamental things that I DO NOT believe and the Catholic Church does believe. These are things that go against my personal beliefs:
- Natural Family Planning-- if someone wants to use birth control, I say let them.
- Not welcoming homosexuals
- Not allowing women to serve as anything more than a nun
- Not allowing priests to marry
Those are just a few... so I've been at a crossroads for a while. I feel like the older I get, the stronger my opinions are getting and the more passionate I am getting about what I feel is right. The problem is that I love the traditions of the Catholic Church, I love the tenants, but I cannot subscribe to the "social" or man-made things. So it's been really hard to feel like I'm "at home" with a religion that I've just found flaw after flaw with.
Now, let me say that these flaws are what I personally believe. It's just my opinion. But... I have had a hard time staying attached to a church that I keep disagreeing with. The more the church changes things and takes (what I think are) GIANT steps BACK... the more I want out.
So I did some research. Part of this was talking to my mom about my feelings and thoughts, and I found the Episcopalian Church. I read a lot and did a lot of soul-searching and praying. I asked God to help me find my direction and to lead me to the path that I am meant to find. The more I read, the more I liked. The more I liked, the happier I got and the more hopeful I became.
I decided last month that I'd see if there are any Episcopalian churches near me. There are two. I then did some reading on the two and found that one is one of two in the Episcopalian Diocese of Atlanta that's considered "Anglo-Catholic." I immediately called my mom to see if she knew what this meant and she had no idea.
So I emailed the parish and asked to speak to someone about some questions I had. I went a week without hearing anything and I was starting to think it was a sign. Then I got an email from Fr. Tripp Norris letting me know that he was having problems with the website and anything submitted... so he wanted to touch base and make sure that I received his other emails (I had not).
He and I exchanged emails and decided that once we returned from our vacation north, we'd meet at the parish. That meeting was today.
I went into the meeting feeling incredibly nervous. He was super nice and very friendly and Gus played in the nursery while we chatted. Gus was very interested in Fr. Tripp and was more comfortable with him than I ever expected. He showed him his trains and kept smiling at him-- it was very interesting.
I got all my questions answered and found out some awesome things.
- The ONLY difference (fundamentally) between Catholics and Episcopalians is the "how" of the transubstantiation. This is when the bread and wine are changed into the body and the blood. Apparently Catholics believe there's a set process (I had no idea what this process is) and Episcopalians consider it a mystery.
- Anglo-Catholic means that they're an Anglican based (Church of England) parish with the same emphasis and traditions as the Catholic Church. They share the same sacramental rite.
- Because I
amwas Catholic and was confirmed, there is no process for me to convert. I'd be welcomed with open arms and no questions asked. :-) The same is true for Steve.
- The Episcopal Church allows women priests, bishops, and archbishops.
- The EC openly accepts homosexuals and allows them to be open about their orientation (there are openly gay priests and bishops). In fact, there are several openly gay members of the parish and they're all welcomed and accepted (can I get an AMEN)!!
- They have all the same sacraments.
- Children in grades 9-12 are welcomed to decide to become confirmed. Unlike the Catholic Church, where you get to 7/8 grade and it's an automatic thing... in the EC, you make that choice for yourself. When you decide to be confirmed, there's a HUGE weekend retreat for all those in the entire Archdiocese of Atlanta (for the EC) to get together and worship, talk about their faith, and really get excited to become confirmed. This event reminded me a lot of Rainbow.
- There's two Masses on Sunday (one at 9am and one at 11am). The first one is the low Mass and it's more casual and the children's choir sings. Then between the two Masses is when they do Sunday School (the same as Religious Formation).
- While the kids are in Sunday School, there are various ministires for the parents/adults. It's very cool.
- The 11am Mass is the High Mass and it's very formal and they use incense. It's the most Catholic-like of their Masses.
- They have some really cool ministires-- Theology on Tap is one where you meet at a bar/pub to talk about various topics while enjoying dinner and drinks (great for singles)... there's one called FEAST and it's for going to dinner together and becoming friends and enjoying fellowship (they have three groups-- one is for singles, one is for families and it's done at homes as a pot-luck and kids are welcomed and the other is at restaurants and no kids).
As a result, I am proud to say that I am no longer Catholic and I am now a proud member of the Episcopal Church! I sent in my official registration and our family is now registered with St. Columba's Episcopal Church! I'm excited to go to Mass this weekend and see what it's like!!