Enter my marriage to a card-carrying Protestant and their wily ways. Some of the prayers were the same, and I learned a new ending to the Lord’s Prayer. But there was also another element that surprised and confused me. They offered up prayers for church members who were ill, had passed on, or were facing any number of difficulties. Then they all gathered in the church basement after the service for a social hour. My husband had to explain to me that this was what church was about—the people. Oh. My Catholic experience had taught me that church was all about God, but I did see his point. I enthusiastically joined the Protestants and became a somewhat regular attendee of their services in military chapels in many different duty stations.
And I tried, I really did. I learned all the hymns, and sang them loudly and joyfully despite my inability to carry a tune. I tsk-tsked sympathetically and prayed for members who were in the hospital, or had lost a grandmother, or were afflicted by any tribulations of the human condition. I baked for bake sales and played in bell choirs. I donated to the missions. It was wonderful, and yet, something felt wrong.
I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was something that still felt a bit foreign to me. I attended Catholic Mass a few times, but realized that there was no going back, as I disagreed with some of their doctrine.
One thing that bothered me was the constant push to raise money in our current church. My husband and I had joined a mid-sized, non military Presbyterian congregation that met in a converted strip mall. It was not much to look at, but it met our needs and I rather liked its humble simplicity. It was not enough for the pastor and rest of the congregation, however, and they decided to build a brand new church on adjacent land they owned. Excited by the prospect of a “real” church, focus groups were formed, lots of meetings and fundraisers were held, and each week, giant poster board thermometers reported their progress.
Suddenly, the church was no longer about celebrating the Word of God; it was about money and restrooms and speaker systems. My husband and I were guilted into joining some of the planning and fundraising groups. Slowly, over time, I started finding excuses to not attend the meetings, then services on Sunday. I eventually stopped going altogether, despite the encouragement of my dear husband.
And I still haven’t gotten to my problem with prayer. Uggh! Next blog, I promise.
© 2013 Tracey Enerson Wood. All rights reserved.