Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My religious background, part two

First, an editorial comment about my wife. She is smarter than me, much nicer than me, and much, much beter looking than me. To this day (almost 14 years later) I can't understand why she married me. Thank God for miracles.

My wife is a life long Presbyterian. Other than her time in college and a couple of years right after college when she worked in another town, she has attended the same church her entire life. It is a member of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) which is the largest and most liberal of several denominations of Presbyterians in the United States. We were married in her church. For the first couple of years of our marriage, we sort of alternated between my her church and mine. But then we had our first child.

Having children changes your perspective on many things. (One day maybe I'll write a post on all the things it changes.) But one thing it made me do was to think seriously about my faith and how we were going to raise our children. To begin with, we decided we should both belong to the same church. It seemed logical to me that I should join my wife's church. It didn't make sense to me to ask her to leave a church she grew up in to join one that I had only been a member of a few years, so about 11 or 12 years ago, I became a Presbyterian.

There were a lot of things I liked about this church. The people were very nice to me. They were also (and, in fact, still are) very good to our kids. The first two ministers we had after I joined (we're on our 3rd now) gave good, thought provoking sermons. But there were things that bothered me.

I hated the way we celebrated communion. I grew up in the Methodist church going up to the communion rail to receive the elements. In this church, we kept our seats and the bread and juice were passed out like the collection plates. I hated it. My wife tried to explain the theology behind us serving each other, but I still didn't like it. It's hard to articulate a logical reason behind my dislike, but it just didn't feel right. And I didn't think it evoked a proper sense of decorum about the whole process. I'd be receiving the bread and I would hear the couple on the pew behind us discussing where they were going to eat lunch. Ugh.

I also thought we needed more "worship" during the worship service. The sermon was clearly the focal point of the service. Sometimes this made the whole thing feel like a glorified bible study. I know that this characterization is probably unfair, but I'm trying to give a feel for some of the reasons I felt dissatisfied.

More later.


Lutheran Seeker said...


The way communion is done also had an affect on my transition to the Lutheran Church and, perhaps, a future move to the Catholic or Orthodox Church. At my former church we took communion in the same way, but there was something about the lack of historical connection that bothered me. I very often reacted that "this isn't the way t has always been done."

I also think that as my Eucharistic understanding changed, my respect for the sacrament compelled me to recognize that this isn't just grape juice and a wafer we're passing around. It's our Lord's body and blood. As such, sending it up and down a pew felt 1). like an increased opportunity for spilling the Eucharist and 2). it just didn't feel as though we were going to receive God's gift. It felt more like we were giving ourselves the gift.


Anonymous said...

Oh, yes, the Eucharist! As a lifelong RC, I have gone from taking the Real Presence for granted -- in my early years -- to beginning to begin to begin to understand what the Eucharist is, during the last several years. Interestingly, this greater appreciation of the Eucharist came when I realized that our faith is not just a philosophy of life or a test to pass in this life -- an attitude that I think a lot of RCs have -- but that our Lord wants us to fall maddeningly and totally in love with Him and to trust Him as we would anyone we truly love. What love for the Creator of the universe -- and beyond -- to become so small as to put Himself in our hands and take residence in our beings through the Eucharist. Just unbelievable -- yet believable because He said so! Sorry for the ramble.

Very interesting and helpful blog. I wish you well -- you and your family are in my prayers. God bless! (Oh, yeah, and the worship at mass is so wonderful, whether or not the priest is "having a good day." Check out "The Lamb's Supper" by Scott Hahn.)

Dan in Chicago (where it's a lot colder than where you are!)