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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Journey

Life is an interesting journey! As a child I was raised without religion. This is not strictly a true statement, as the school system in England in the seventies provided RE (religious education) class along with morning assembly where we sang hymns and started our day with prayer, this was the extent of my exposure to Christianity. 
We lived on the outskirts of a small village in Suffolk, a few miles from our home was the parish church, a beautiful medieval building surrounded by a peaceful graveyard. Although I don't recall ever attending a service at the church I do recall playing there. My sister and I would ride our bikes to the church and play in the graveyard and as the church was always open we often played inside too. I really liked the church and found it peaceful and pleasant and have many fond memories of it. (see pictures at the end of this blog)
Occasionally I would have a sleep over on Saturday night at my friend Susan's house, her family went to Chapel, if I was there on a Sunday morning I would go to Sunday school with Susan and always enjoyed it.

When I was fourteen my family moved to America, religion is a much bigger part of life in this country than in England. There are literally churches on every corner, and denomination after denomination and non-denomination after non-denomination. Our family was invited to church on several occasions, we went, I found it somewhat overwhelming. The youth groups were large and I as a shy person and a foreigner felt unsure about how to fit in. I think my parents felt the same and we did not attend anymore churches. 
During high school I went to Campus Life, I was invited to go with a friend, I liked it very much as I knew many of the other kids from school and the leaders were cool and fun.  I prayed the sinners prayer and was saved at one of the meetings, I remember being upstairs on the landing kneeling in prayer with a Campus Life leader at the home of a girl called Libby, this would have been the fall of 1980. Shortly after I stopped going to Campus Life, but a seed was planted and my life as a Christian had begun.

At nineteen I married Dave and shortly after our son Matt was born, two and half years later our daughter Amber was born. By the time Matt was four I really started to yearn for a church home. I looked up churches in the yellow pages of the phone book and called a few that were close to home. One of the churches I called was the Spring Street Wesleyan Church, the phone was answered by Pastor Kierstead, he asked if he could come to my home to meet me.  A few days later Pastor Kierstead stopped by, he was a little old man, who wore dashiki shirts, he had spent many years in Africa as a missionary, and he was a caring, sincere Christian man. I enjoyed my visit with Pastor K, he invited me to church that Sunday and said that the Hanna family would meet me at the door. I nervously arrived at the church with my children for Sunday service and sure enough Bill and Linda Hanna and their three daughters were waiting for me, introduced themselves to me and made sure we were settled. How nice, this was twenty-five years ago and I still recall the names of everyone.
Well the Wesleyan church became my second home, the kids and I did Sunday school, I took some classes with Pastor K and was baptized, I went to Sunday evening prayer service, I went to Wednesday night bible study and participated in the many carry-ins and activities planned for parishioners. The children went to pre-school at the church.The church family wasn't large, but it was friendly, and I liked it. The only problem, my husband didn't want to go, he was born and raised Catholic and he just didn't want to go to the Wesleyan church. I felt it was important that we go to church as a family so asked my husband if he would go to church with us if we attended the Catholic church, he said yes.  It was a hard thing to leave the Wesleyan church community I belonged to, but I felt that it was important that as a family we worshiped together. 
So began my journey into Catholicism, we joined Most Precious Blood Church, our children attended school there, in June of 1992 we had our younger children, Amber and Ben baptized, and in October of 1992 Dave and I had our marriage blessed by the Catholic church. I took catechism classes to prepare for first communion and confirmation, and so did Matt and at the Easter Vigil in 1993 Matt was baptized, and we both took our first communion and confirmation.
For the past twenty-one years I have been a Catholic. Over the years we have been members at several different parishes, we moved and left Most Precious Blood in 1999, we then attended Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Auburn for about ten years, then we joined an inner city parish, St. Marys, but in the past few years have mainly attended mass at St. Peters. I have been a secular Franciscan, but didn't really see the point of it, the group I belonged to did very little but meet once a month for snacks and to discuss that Sunday's Gospel reading from mass. I then looked into another Franciscan fraternity, the Penitents, but it was so full of rules about what you could and couldn't do that I felt I would become a slave to the rules and did not see that I would learn about Jesus. 
Over the past year I have felt very unsettled, I want to learn about Jesus, I want to study my bible, I want to grow in my Christian faith. I listen to a lot of Christian Talk radio, the protestant preachers really open up the word or God and give good teaching on the word. I realized that this is what I want, I want to get an in depth understanding of the bible and I want to learn so that I can live my life for the Lord. 
I started to do a bible study by mail, it was interesting and I learned so much from the book of John, and memorized most of the first chapter as my homework. Wow, good stuff!
Over the summer, as a family, we attended a local Methodist church and my husband even went, Henry my grandson goes to preschool there, although the service was nice, it seemed a bit watered down, we went three times and decided it wasn't for us. 
I prayed and prayed about this, it is a hard decision to make a change, and it effects the whole family, not just me. I felt I was interested in church in a nearby community, I had listened to the services online, and liked the teaching, I decided to contact the church to find out more. It was nerve wracking, I emailed the pastor. After a week I had heard nothing, perhaps he was on vacation, perhaps my email was stuck in his spam filter, who knows. So two weeks later I emailed again, and again no response. Two weeks after that I called the church and left a message on the answering machine, I never got a call back. Three tries your out I thought, this is obviously not where God wants me.
There is another church a few miles from my home, we have driven past it many times over the years and I have always enjoyed the messages on their sign out front. One Sunday last October I decided to attend a service. What a small congregation, perhaps a dozen families, but what an excellent message it was exactly what I was looking for. I went the following Sunday, and attended one or the Wednesday evening services. But Dave had no interest in going, then I went on vacation with Amber and the grandsons, I felt conflicted and when this happens I find the best course of action is to wait things out. So I didn't attend the church again, we went to mass and things just continued along. Okay I thought I am not sure where God wants me, but I will choose to be happy wherever he places me.  Then out of the blue I got a call from the little church, would I like to come to the ladies bible study they are starting, why yes I would! I read the first five chapters of Genesis and was ready to attend, but it was not to be I ended up in the ER with my daughter thankfully she was okay but I missed the bible sturdy. I called when I knew I wouldn't be able to make it and left a message at the church. Fannie, the evangelists wife, called me on Monday to let me know that they had prayed for my daughter and could she drop off the bible study book at my home.  Fannie dropped the book off and met with me on Saturday morning to cover what I had missed on Sunday evening, she invited me to Sunday service and the carry-in that followed. I went to the service and again enjoyed it, excellent teaching, then afterward a nice fellowship at the carry-in, as I mentioned this is a small community so it was a very family like atmosphere. But I feel conflicted, it is hard to make a change, my husband is not interested in attending church if it is not Catholic.As far as my children go, they are all grown, my son occasionally attends the Lutheran church with is his wife and mother-in-law, my daughter attends the Catholic church and our grandsons are baptized but she would like a church that has a family focus, my youngest two do not attend church. My husband has attended church and has never wanted anything more,  if I don't go to church he doesn't go, and if I don't go to a Catholic church he doesn't go.  I am praying about this, I feel that I have found a church community to belong to and I yearn to be ever closer to our Lord, and I want to know all that is in bible and understand it so that I know how God wants me to live.

Friends please pray for me, please pray for my husband.

Blessings to you,


Pictures of Great Barton parish church for you enjoyment :)

Great Barton Church
Pipe Organ
Colorful Tapestry Kneelers
Awesome Keys to the Church

Stained Glass Windo


Lynda said...

Dear Bean - it was interesting to read your story. So many similarities to my own.

And although I have found a church I feel 'at home' in, I am still feeling unsettled, not because of the church, but because of personal struggles/conflicts that are going on within me at the moment.

Like you say...sometimes the best course of action is to just wait things out.

Blessings and peace to you. xx

Anonymous said...

I will pray for you and your family. Your desire to grow closer to God is honest and sincere.

Bean said...

Thank you Anonymous, I appreciate your kind words and your prayers.