Disclaimer: You may not be at all religious. I don’t care. I don’t know that I am religious in predictable ways, but I do believe that there are no atheists in fox holes. When your boat is sinking you pray for help to come.
I have often written about religious subjects. After I decided to be an architect (6th grade), a lawyer (1st year of college), I decided I wanted to be a pastor. Life intervened with other ideas. But as a disclaimer, I did attend seminary, complete fieldwork in a Pennsylvania parish, fulfill the required Clinical Pastoral Education in a Cleveland area Hospital (even though I didn’t manage to watch the autopsy), and serve an internship at the Lutheran Ministry at Penn State University. I graduated from seminary and was approved by my Bishop and synodical committee for ordination.
As I said, then Life intervened. My husband was working on a Doctorate in Theology. I met with the Lutheran Bishop in New England, and he told me that there was not even a remote chance he could place me in a congregation. I don’t recall the numbers, but he had a large number of New England pastors available for every available vacancy. I was an outsider from Ohio. There was no possibility I even made the list. So everything was put on hold until my husband took a teaching job and we moved to SC. By that time it had been three years since seminary graduation. My church synod gave me a few more extensions. I got involved doing many other things locally and finally pulled the plug and said I would not pursue ordained ministry. I have never regretted that.
But. It has sometimes been difficult for me to sit in the pew. My parents were theologically interested people. For 26 or so years I was married to a brilliant theologian and teacher of the church. Unfortunately, that marriage failed, a sorrow that persists through the years. You can read more about that here: When the River Won’t Flow: Love and Marriage and All That. . .
My second husband, 18 years my senior, is also an extraordinary man. I am grateful that he has brought love and laughter back into my life. And although he is a Navy Veteran and worked in Electronics, he once studied to become a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church. When he realized that the Bishop could relocate him anywhere, he decided that he could not risk losing his job and putting his young family, his wife and two young daughters in jeopardy. So he withdrew.
Not long ago I asked for Feedback on Facebook regarding what topics were of interest as potential blog posts. One friend made me a list. The first item on his list was this: “Your search for a church where you could be fed spiritually.”
I started writing this blog years ago, again while hunting a church home. That time we were searching for a church home in Arizona. That search took a long time. But we were happy where we landed. That was back in 2014. You can read about that beginning here: When the River Won’t Flow: The Beginning
Although I have many very close friends and family members who are Roman Catholic – I am still a Reformation Rebel and a Lutheran. I narrowed my search to two distinct Lutheran church bodies: Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and The North American Lutheran Church. I discovered about six congregations that were within reasonable driving distance.
The search itself didn’t take very long. The final decision to attend took a bit longer given our bone-weary state of being following our difficult move.
But this is what we did. I looked at congregational web sites, and we made an initial choice based on those. Then we visited that congregation. I ruled out all the churches which focused their websites on the extracurricular activities: cozy family events, fun times for the kids, spaghetti suppers. There is nothing wrong with any of that, but we were looking for a place to be fed spiritually not looking to find a club to join. Some of the larger churches looked as if they had a group for and jobs for everyone in the congregation. I grew up in a large church – about 3000 members – and smaller churches seem a better choice for us.
I looked at web sites and found a church, called Gethsemane. The picture above is of their chancel one Easter. Their website talked about their beliefs. It was remarkable. They didn’t just talk about their groups, their good works, their choirs, or their outreach; they got to the heart of the matter – what they believed.
Their website had links to the ancient creeds of the church (The Apostles’ Creed, The Nicene Creed, The Athanasian Creed: http://bookofconcord.org/creeds.php), to the Augsburg Confession http://bookofconcord.org/augsburgconfession.php), there were simple lists of “what we believe” with those beliefs explained. It was inviting and substantive, and most assuredly, it was not vacuous fluff.
• has worship which moves through the calendar of the church year
• follows the lectionary of Biblical texts which includes readings from The Old & New Testaments, the Psalms, and the Gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John)
• follows a spoken and sung liturgy (derived from the Old and New Testaments)
• has faithful preaching (food to ponder throughout the week)
We belonged to such a church in Arizona. Now we have found such a church in Ohio.
A delicious benefit to our choice is that we have been warmly welcomed, we have already begun making friends and talking about getting together with different families for meals. Should you think that a church that pays attention to scripture, theology, and liturgy, which is, according to current standards of modernity, somewhat high church, might be stuffy: think again! Because it clings to the words of scripture, to the shape of the liturgy, it can dare to be welcoming, friendly, and take seriously the call to pray for others.
My husband and I still pray for our former pastor and friends at the congregation we left in Arizona. Some of them are still praying for us in our new corner of the world in Ohio. Prayer is central to being people of God. If you want to take a chance at becoming part of such a family — and raising your children to be part of such a family — remember it starts with Baptism.
I have postponed the publishing of this post until now because tomorrow, May 11, is the anniversary of my own baptism. I am so grateful for parents who centered our lives on the Rock of Christ — the Rock on which the church stands.
Thanks be to God!