Thursday, January 28, 2010

You can shop for anything online!

I often joke with people that I am currently "church shopping." It's a long long story, but it boils down to the fact that I want to find (I think) a church that I feel comfortable and at home in, and who's pastor I can identify with and learn from, and which has programs and a nursery that welcomes and loves my children. Well, sounds simple, right? Ha.

Over the years a person comes to find that there are more to churches than meets the eye. Sometimes I think that the church that I am looking for doesn't exist. Especially not here. But that is when I tell myself that church is, as always, inside of me and that my relationship and beliefs do not need to be perfectly mirrored in my place of worship... which leads me to again question IF and WHY I actually need a PLACE of worship. I am still undecided.

I told myself in the fall that I would start to investigate churches and pick some that I would like to attend (sans children) and then start to get a feel for what I liked and didn't like about each one. Then once I had narrowed it down I might take Ardyn with and see how it went. I started reading Ardyn bible stories meant for toddlers (I have LOTS of books for her with bible stories :) and I taught her Away in a Manger for Christmas, and we got her the Little People Nativity and explained everything to her. We read books all December about Christmas and Jesus Birthday, and we used Nativity Window Clings to remind her about the shepherds and the wise men coming to visit baby Jesus. Being a 2 year old, her understanding is limited. What is important to me is mostly that she be given the tools and education about religion that will allow her to form her own beliefs and make her own decisions, and that she be instilled with morals and compassion and kindness for living things.

So far I have in fact investigated several churches. Through my MOPS Group I have been able to meet moms from several different churches, and have visited a few (during non-worship times.) and I often pick up Sermons on CD's, or church directories, or even bible reading schedules and bulletins. I like to check out their nurseries and see what they have to offer for Children's Ministries.

One thing that, until this evening, I never thought to do.... was to visit their websites! Why in the WORLD would I not realize that I could shop for churches online?? Wow. It makes sense. One thing that I immediately noticed was the churches mission statements and beliefs are usually listed online. I was immediately reminded of why I do NOT feel a full sense of comfort with organized religion... most organizations do not allow for an interpretation on the part of the parishioner. Well, if they do, they certainly don't talk about it. I find it annoying that a church as a whole thinks they can make one broad statement (which actually ends up being fairly specific) and that it will (or should) cover the beliefs of such a large body of very different and mostly intelligent people. I find it frustrating that a "Community Church" can state that they

offer Christ’s transforming love and healing to all wounded and broken people, including those who habitually engage in various sexual sins, heterosexual and homosexual alike.

Acknowledging the high calling of the church we oppose the ordination, or recognition of the preexisting license or ordination, of any person practicing, affirming, endorsing and/or celebrating adultery, fornication, gay/lesbian/bisexual behavior, or any other practices that are contrary to God’s creation intent as defined above.

This is telling me that they believe that homosexuals are broken and wounded and need to be fixed.... which I don't believe and I find incredibly demeaning, and I don't ever want to make anyone think that I am guilty of those thoughts be association, and most importantly this includes the values and compassion that I want to instill in my children.

So then I was lucky enough to stumble across a church whose statement of faith says

.....proud tradition of spiritual and social activism, including a number of historic firsts: the first African American ordained by a Protestant denomination (1785), the first woman since New Testament times ordained as a Christian minister (1853), and the first openly gay person ordained as a Christian minister (1972).

The Church today remains diverse. Historic statements of Christian faith, such as the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed, are honored in the United Church of Christ. However, the Church respects freedom and diversity of individual conscience, and we do not use a creed or catechism as a test of faith for our members.

..... is an Open and Affirming church. That means that we make a public statement welcoming persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities into the full life and ministry of the church.
Now THOSE are the types of values that I want to instill in my children. Of course this in itself has not made my decision, but I think that it certainly makes me feel better about the possibility of finding a church that I can enjoy, be proud of, and that will allow me to have my own thoughts and interpretations of what religion should be.

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