Sunday, May 5, 2013

Religion - Attending Church

As most of you know, I was raised Catholic.  I went to Catholic school.  My mother wasn't an avid church goer, but she thought it was important that I be raised Catholic.

After my eighth grade graduation from Catholic School, I have maybe stepped into a Catholic church at the most, three times, most likely for either a wedding or a funeral.

My husband was raised Catholic as well.  His father was married previously, and his wife left him.  So, when he married Nick's mother, it wasn't recognized as a marriage in the Catholic church, therefore when Nick came along, they refused to baptize him.  After Nick's grandmother made a nice donation to the church, they changed their mind.

Mr. Bruises is what I refer to as a Chreaster.  It is someone who goes to church on Christmas and Easter.  I, personally feel that if you are going to go on those two holy days, you should go regularly.  I choose to not go at all.

I still believe in God.  I still try to live my life in an honest and giving way.  I still try to do the right thing and still try to find the best in people.  I just never felt the need to go to church.

Recently, BFF Jill invited me to attend Pittsburgh East Community Church with her.   It's in Plum, which is almost an hour drive.  She lured me with driving past the Abby Lee Miller Dance Studio, from the show Dance Moms, which is just down the road from the church.  I was IN!

The first thing I asked her is what should I wear.  She said jeans and a nice top.  Really?  Jeans?  That was frowned upon the last time I was in Catholic church, but hey the times have changed so maybe that's permitted there now too.

When we pulled in, I was astounded at the size of the parking lot.  I felt like I was going to a concert.  Little did I know, I pretty much was.  The parking attendants were all very happy and cheerful.  You could tell that everyone wanted to be there.  Everyone walking in was in a good mood.  The greeters at the door made me feel like I was an old friend.  It was a VERY inviting atmosphere.

Next thing I noticed was people walking around with coffee, soda, danishes, muffins, you know FOOD!  This would never be permitted in a Catholic church.  Then everyone was talking.  Some loudly.  Again a Catholic no no.  I was so out of my element, I didn't know what to do, so I just sat and observed.

They had a live band on stage that played current music and then some Christian songs that you would never guess were church songs.  The lead singer was wearing Chuck Taylors, he had a faux hawk, an earring in his year and boy could he sing and capture your attention.

After about four or five songs, with encouragement and words on a big screen to sing along, we were asked to meet each other.  Perfect strangers met me with a smile and a hand shake.  The pastor and his wife came on stage for the sermon.  This was the beginning of a six part series called True Love.  It was all about making relationships work.

I sat and listened to them.  They never professed to be perfect.  They actually told us of their failures and how they worked to overcome them.  After the sermon, we ended with another popular song and it was time to go.  Time just flew!!

After that I got my reward and got to do a drive by of the dance studio.  On the ride, Jill asked me what I thought.  I was still a little out of my element and really couldn't answer since it was nothing like what I expected.  It was nothing like I had experienced in the past.  It was so different, but in a good way.

After about a week or so, I told her I wanted to go again.  We went this morning.  The same things were apparent.  EVERYONE wanted to be there, even the kids.  If you would see the area that they have for the kids, you would understand why.  Everyone was so happy, welcoming and genuinely friendly.  The sermon was another good one and I found myself applying the suggestions multiple times later today.

Here's another thing that I realized.  This is a church that doesn't judge.  They don't care how you dress, how you wear your hair, if you have piercings or gauges, if you are tattooed, if you are in a relationship with someone of another race or in one with the same sex as you are.  You are welcome and loved no matter what.

I think this is the biggest difference.  Whether the Catholic church wants to admit it or not, they judge.  You never feel worthy to be a Catholic.

I will most definitely be going back.  The energy in that church is just infectious.  It's no wonder people are filling their parking lot.  Church is FUN!  It's entertaining!  It's educational!  Oh and I can sing my heart out, drinking a coffee, wearing jeans with my tattoo sticking out!  I'll take it!!


aussiegoldenlily said...

Rhonda, I felt the same as you when Paul invited me to attend a church that he had previously attended when living in Brisbane, the C3 Church at Bridgeman Downs.
I grew up an Anglican [or Church of England in the old terms], and church was never inviting, sitting on hard pews, singing old hymms and being 'lectured' by a guy in white and black robes.

At this church there was a warm welcome right at the door, people coming up and saying hello, giving you a hug or handshake.
At the start was music, but definitely not hymms. Songs of praise yes, but upbeat that had me tapping my toes and tapping my hands on my knees. Young people on stage singing it, some in jeans and t shirts, some with tattoos and piercings, young women in leggings and heels or skirts.

After 4 songs everyone turned to each other to introduce themselves, make us welcome, invite us for a coffee and snack in the coffee shop afterwards. What? There's a coffee shop here? And they sell cakes and there's even a candy bar? Lead me to it!

The pastor got his message across mixed with humour, with no fire and brimstone. Newcomers to the church were given a bag of goodies which included chocolate which we were invited to nibble on during the service and again, asked to stay back to have a cappuccino and cake afterwards. They actually have trained baristas to make up their coffee. Very different to the instant coffee out of a jar and hot water out of a kettle in the 'old style' church I went to.

Ladies came up to me and invited me to attend the mid week lunches they have.

Since then I have been back, only having a break now as they are refurbishing the church and everyone is sort of squished in a small area with those horrible hard plastic seats which cut the circulation off in my legs. But I will be returning there once the new auditorium is up and well as the new cafe.

This is how churches should be. Doing away with the 'bells and smells' as Paul puts it. Moving forward into the future and embracing the young while still respecting the older members. [while this was a very 'young' church there were still a great many older people there who regularly attended].

Glad you have found 'your' church Rhonda!

Sophie101 said...

My husband was also raised Catholic and he feels the same way you do as he seen the differences when we got married in a Methodist church. A lot of what you said in this blog I was shaking my head "yes" to. Amen!