Sunday, September 7, 2008

We're Going Episcopal

Back in May, I came to the realization that the Catholic Church just wasn't cutting it for me anymore.

Well, we started attending the local Episcopal church. You know, where Little Miss was supposed to start preschool last Tuesday? Yeah.

It's very different from the Catholic churches around here in some good ways. This is a country church, and I mean that in the best possible way. It's very small, and there's a real feeling of community.

The first Sunday we went, there were twenty one people in attendance, excluding the minister. Granted, it was the 8am service and Memorial Day weekend, but the church we'd come from averaged over 700 each week, including summer. So when the service ended, what do you suppose happened? Of those twenty-one, eight introduced themselves to us. And one woman tried to get me to be on the flower guild. Whoah, I haven't joined the church and I'm not an Episcopal -- too much pressure could turn people off! But they were all really nice and sweet.

Now that summer is over, there are more people there (well over 100 but I forgot to count). And today, the woman in front of me introduced herself because she hadn't seen me before. I always felt like I was sitting alone in a sea of people when attending Mass in the Catholic Church, but definitely not here. And I like that. Religion is community to me.

And the Episcopal church will give the wee ones the exposure to religion that I so desperately want them to have. I could pretend like I do a good job at home, but so far we've gotten into the following conversation one too many times.

Mister Man (or Little Miss): What does God do?
Me: He watches over us.
MM: Why?
Me: Because He loves us.
MM: Why?
Me: Because we're all His children.
MM: Why?
Me: Because He made us.
MM: Why?
Me: Because He loves us.
MM: Why?
Me: That's a really good question, Sweetie. When you go to Sunday School, be sure to ask your teacher.

I can only have that conversation so many times. And we've started talking about Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden and their sons. But without weekly reinforcement by someone who knows how to teach it way better than me, I am just not comfortable with the base of religious education.

Catholics: $600 for my family to attend Generations of Faith six Wednesdays a year from 6:30 to 8:30pm. Oh, and that includes a dinner where we eat with other families, and then the entire family goes off in age appropriate groups to learn. Adults, too. But no kids under kindergarten age. Oh, wait. We can't start for two more years then since Mister Man doesn't go to kindergarten until next year and Little Miss until the year after. And what do I do with her when the rest of us go if she isn't welcome? Six times a year isn't enough for me.

Episcopals: Sunday School is every Sunday at 9:05 am between the two services. It's free. Children start at age 3 and go through high school.

That part of it really sort of made the choice for me. They start Sunday school next week. They're supposed to be in the same class as of now, as Godly Play is for ages 3-5. But if that's a problem, they'll move Mister Man up a level since he can read.

There are several other differences in the two churches, but really Episcopal is as Catholic as you can get without being Catholic, so that's somewhat comforting to me. The service is structured the same. The prayers are essentially the same, with some slight wording differences (and I still have a hard time saying "became incarnate of the Virgin Mary" and "suffered death and was buried" in the Nicene Creed instead of "was born of the Virgin Mary" and "suffered, died, and was buried." I'll get there though.

I love the bulletin that gives the words to everything. This may be this church only, but I can follow along with all the readings - versus looking them up in the missilette - and the prayers that will be said during the service. Definitely more customer friendly, in my mind. Not the most green though.

The Episcopal church also welcomes everyone, in many ways.

All can receive communion, including children who have not yet received their first communion. It's part of the whole welcoming everyone aspect of the church that I really love. Catholics? Technically, not only do you need to have your First Communion, but you must also be Catholic, have all your sins forgiven already, not divorced, etc etc etc. And there are children at the church now who get really into going up to the rail with everyone else. Oh yeah. You receive communion at the rail, old school. A little different, but I'm good with it!

The interim rector when we started going was a divorced woman. Yeah, not gonna see that in the Catholic church, are we? It's different but totally logical, and that was one issue I had with Catholicism. I still remember being in the 5th and 6th grades getting ready for the weekly Mass (yep, I went to Catholic school). It rotated amongst the grades, and starting in 5th grade, you got to do much more of the Mass. Except girls (at the time) couldn't be altar boys. That really turned me off and kept me from participating. Not exactly an issue here, is it?

The new rector is now in place. In the Catholic Church, the bishop would have appointed a new priest, and here's hoping you liked him. Here, there was a search committee who decided what kind of a priest they wanted and then did a job search. They found their new guy in England and offered him the job. He had a choice. And so did the parish. What a concept! And so far, he seems to be fitting in quite nicely. Today was just week 3 though (and my first week not out of town or at a wedding since he's been here). And yeah, he's married and has two kids.

In the Catholic Church, there were always three Masses (at least at the churches I went to). Saturday afternoon around 5 and two Sunday morning services. At this church, we have no Saturday service except for the three picnic outdoor services they held -- which alone were way cool. The morning services also have a very different feel to them.

The 8am service has no singing. No opening hymn or communion or closing hymn at all. Some of the sung/chanted bits in Catholicism (Holy, holy, Holy! or Christ has died, Christ is risen..." for example) were simply said. Needless to say, couple no singing with twenty-one people, and we were out of there in thirty-eight minutes.

Now, I'm not saying that church should be a specific length, but I sort of have an agreed-upon contract. I'm going for somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour, give or take. Holidays are longer. It may be a bad attitude, but it's my expectation. The Catholic church has started singing everything which drove me nuts. And drove the average Mass to over an hour twenty. Since Mass was 11am, that meant missing almost the first half by the time you walked to your parked car forever away since there was no parking by the church because it's too big and then drove home. Sad, I know. But Sunday and football are sort of a tradition, too.

The 10:15 service at the new church is much more familiar, with even some of the same songs that I sang growing up (no comments on the musical director at the Catholic church who I swear chooses only the songs that he wrong and published and the ones that are the most difficult and unintuitive to sing -- and I like to sing and can read music well). It has a lot of families with children who frequently sit up in the front pew to play in the extra wide pew with the paper and markers and stuffed animals and cushions for children.

Yes, you heard me. Something to keep the children occupied while their parents worship. Granted, there's also a nursery (where I put the wee ones), but if you want your children with you or if they don't do well separated or if you're working on getting them to learn to pay attention in church, it's set up to help you. What a brilliant idea to get kids to not feel like church is punishment. Oh, and the nursery is free, too. I used to have to pay $2 per child per week. Just saying.

So yeah... we're switching. I don't have to go through all the fancy rites of christian initiation I would were I becoming Catholic. They accept that I'm Christian and baptized and a believer and move forward. I just have to make a date to talk to the new priest to walk through some of the finer points that I want to better understand (like they only have two sacraments versus the seven Catholics celebrate) and then officially register.

Even though we aren't going there for preschool, we'll still go for church. And I'm happy to be going to church again. It's been a long time.


Angie's Spot September 7, 2008 at 4:51 PM  

That's great that you've found a place where all of you can be comfy! Congrats!

Swishy September 7, 2008 at 5:36 PM  

That's great ... I'm glad that it feels like such a good fit. I hope you enjoy it!

Michelle September 7, 2008 at 9:06 PM  

Angie - Thanks. It's such a different feeling. But so much of it is familiar, which is huge.

Swishy - We're enjoying it so far. People are really supportive. It's amazing to me how frequently religion forgets that a big part of it is supposed to be support.

Dawn September 7, 2008 at 9:11 PM  

It's so great that you've found a church home. I agree that community is so important in a church!

Mrs. S September 7, 2008 at 9:48 PM  

You had a pay for Catholic Sunday School (sorry I missed the actual name of it)...and for the nursery? Wow, talk about making the church a business. That's kind of sad to me.

It's so important to find a church that fits you that preaches the gospel straight up. I think too many people stay in the same church their whole lives (or at least denomination) because that's where their parents went or how they were raised. My husband & I were both "raised" Lutheran (I say "raised" because it was a special occassions only for me type of thing and just a duty for him). We're non-denominational now & attend a Berean church. It fits!

Karen September 8, 2008 at 7:41 AM  

I'm so glad that you found a church you're comfortable in. Having a feeling of being part of a family while at church is so very important to us, too. And regular instruction - why else would we attend?

Angela September 9, 2008 at 6:02 PM  

Yay! So happy you have found a place that you feel at home in. We have been looking for a new church home and think we have finally found one, and I am hoping we will get more involved in it this fall.

Angela September 9, 2008 at 6:02 PM  

Yay! So happy you have found a place that you feel at home in. We have been looking for a new church home and think we have finally found one, and I am hoping we will get more involved in it this fall.

Michelle September 18, 2008 at 7:20 PM  

Dawn - Community is definitely the most important part and was a huge factor in this decision.

Mrs S - Yes, Generations of Faith for a family of four I believe was $600 for the six sessions throughout the year. And the point that the education director at the Episcopal church about educating the youth being a main tenet of the church is a good one.

Karen - You hit it right on the head. Thanks for summing it up so nicely!

Angela - Here's hoping that you've found a new home, as well, that works for you. Fingers crossed!

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