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Can I vent about something? We’re all friends here, right? I’d be lying if I said this hasn’t been weighing on my heart.
I don’t know how much I’ve talked about this, so I’ll preface the post by saying this – we still don’t have a pastor to officiate our wedding.
I was pretty transparent about our hunt for a new church back towards the beginning of the year, but if you missed those posts, here’s the cliff-notes: When C and I met, I was attending a non-denominational church that I loved. But C didn’t love it. He would go to church with me if I asked, but I knew he’d never want to go to church. That was a pretty heavy burden for a while, as I didn’t want to leave my church, but I wanted C to enjoy going as much as I did; and I knew that attending that church, he never would.
When we got engaged and got to the point of asking the pastor about doing our wedding, he already had a wedding booked that day. So I took that as the sign that it was time to move on. Find a church that C and I both liked, and hopefully find a wedding officiant; kill two birds with one stone.
We weren’t really picky. C was raised Lutheran, I was raised Episcopalian, I attended a Baptist church in high school, then went to that non-denominational for about four years or so.
The first church we tried was a Baptist church. C loved it, I hated it. So we started talking about the things we each liked and disliked about it, and the things we liked/disliked about the non-denom. We also rated them on a scale of 1-10. After all of that, we realized that we wanted totally different things. We weren’t complete polar opposites, but close. So I knew we’d have to compromise and each give a little.
When I first moved here, I went through the church hunt. It was too far of a drive for me to continue going to the Baptist church I had been attending. During that hunt, I had gone to a Baptist church that I liked and attended a few times, but never completely had that “this is home” feeling. But thinking back, I knew that was a church that I could compromise with and go to. So C and I gave it a try, and he loved it. We’ve been going since the last week of January.
The first Sunday we went, we went over and talked to the pastor after the service. Who we are, church history, what we do for a living, where we’re from, etc.
A few months later, after attending almost every Sunday, we went over to the pastor again after service and asked him about doing our wedding. He had no recollection whatsoever as to who we were. I know he probably meets a lot of people, and we didn’t expect him to remember our names, but he acted like he had never even seen us. But he said he’d be honored to do it and asked that we send him an email with the location and date of the wedding, and he’d see if he’s available that day. We left feeling really optimistic and I sent the email on the way home.
We didn’t want to rush him, but after a month or two with no response, we went up to him again. Again, no recollection of us at all. He claimed to have never received the email, and ask that I write down our names, numbers, and wedding date, and said he’d call us that week. Nothing.
Gave it a little while longer then called the church office. When I had talked to the non-denom pastor, he directed me to one of the girls in the office, said she handles his event schedule. So thought I’d try that with this church. The woman told me that I’d have to talk to the pastor about it, and said she’d send him an email and ask him to call me.
FINALLY about a week later, I got a call. He had no clue who I was. He was super awkward on the phone, so to get the conversation going, I mentioned something along the lines of, “well I guess first things first, we need to see if you have this day available.” I didn’t want to waste my time if we didn’t even have a shot. But he said he doesn’t like to put the date down until after the first meeting. Fine… So we set up a meeting, and I expected him to be prepared with knowing if he had our date available or not, so he could tell us at the end of the meeting.
Our meeting was last Tuesday, and we did not leave there feeling good.
After jumping through so many hoops just to get the appointment, we were slightly aggravated, but relieved to finally have the meeting. But during the meeting, there was a lot of things said that really turned us off. At one point, he asked if we were saved. That’s not how he worded it, but that’s what he was looking for. C and I each spoke and told our testimony, and when we were finished, he essentially said, “well that’s not good enough.” The topic of life groups came up. We told him that we went to the “Newlyweds and Nearlyweds” group once, but hadn’t been back. He wanted to know all the details as to why, then pretty much got on to us for not giving it another chance. He then proceeded to basically tell us we weren’t Christians. We were told we need to get in front of the church and say that we’ve been saved and be baptized again.
C and I were both baptized as babies, and in the Episcopal church, we have a confirmation service once the person gets older and truly understands the significance and meaning behind the baptism. I was confirmed. And while C and I may or may not agree with infant baptisms, that is the belief of the churches we grew up in. We do not want to be baptized again, and don’t feel that we need to be.
The pastor at the non-denom church one time said, “Our relationship with Christ was always meant to be personal, but it was never meant to be private.” That has stuck with me, and I have always been open about my faith.
“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in Heaven.” -Matthew 10:32
I get that baptism is a public display of your faith, but that is not the only way to do so.
We talked about getting up in front of the church, but something like that, you should do when you feel that it’s right, not just to appease somebody.
Now I’m usually the one to over-think things, and C will have to tell me, “I don’t think they meant that, I didn’t interpret it that way.” So I specifically asked him right when we left the meeting how he felt it. He took it the same way I did. We had to go back to work afterwards, and we didn’t talk about it much on the way back. But I spent the rest of the afternoon thinking about it and just praying over and over, “God, am I doing something wrong? Am I not where I’m supposed to be?” and it just bothered me more and more as the day went on.
After work we talked more about it. Turns out it bothered C more and more throughout the day as well, so we were both pretty upset that night.
I woke up the following morning with a clearer mind, but still lots of questions.
Who is he to say we are or are not Christians? Are or are not saved? Standing in front of the church won’t make us any more Christian or any more saved. What does that prove? Nothing, the only purpose it would serve is to shut him up. That should be a special moment between you and God when he calls you to take action like that. I feel like I’d be abusing that precious moment, just for the sake of making the pastor happy. That’s not okay. Does he feel that he’s more of a Christian because he stands in front of the church? And as far as our testimonies, they were real, they were honest, and they were personal moments where we truly felt God speaking to us. And to act like that doesn’t suffice… When he told us his ‘testimony,’ it felt so fake and scripted. “When I was 15 years old I accepted Jesus into my life and it was the best thing I’ve ever done.” The end. So if I would’ve said the same thing, would he have said it wasn’t good enough then? I can come up with a BS line like that and call it my testimony. But again, I shouldn’t have to craft up a fake testimony just to make somebody happy and accepting of it.
Aside from all of these questions, I felt at peace. I know where I’m at in my faith. And I also know that I’m a work in progress. I’m messed up. I’ve got issues. But God’s working on me. If I’m not where I need to be, He’ll get me there. This is a personal relationship, and nobody has the right to tell me it’s right or wrong or if it’s where it needs to be. Nobody else has any way of knowing that.
Here’s what really bothers me. The pastor is the face of the church. While deep down he may not have meant to come off the way he did, I think we had every right to interpret it that way. Can you imagine when there are lost and broken souls going to the church looking for hope, and if that’s the way they’re welcomed? No wonder people are turned off!
My best friend is agnostic. He claims to be atheist, but after many long conversations, I say agnostic. He’s not opposed to the idea that there’s a greater power out there, but he’s a science junky and doesn’t understand how that fits in with evolution. He’s also told me on multiple occasions that while he is not opposed to some form of God, he hates religion. He hates what people who claim to be religious do, how they make people feel, and the horrible actions people take in the name of religion. I told him multiple times, just because I stand in a garage, doesn’t make me a car. As Christians, we’re supposed to strive to be Christ-like. We were made in His image and we’re supposed to be the salt of the earth. There are people who claim to Christians who are far from Christ-like. Hell, I am. I make mistakes. We can thank Adam and Eve for that. But I’m thankful for a God who still loves me despite my mistakes. Who saved me from my sin. But I’m getting off track now. The point is, I totally see where Greg is coming from! I understood prior to the meeting last week, but that was the icing on the cake.
Saturday night rolled around and C asked me if I was wanting to go to church in the morning. I told him no; that if the person who represents the church as a whole made us feel that way, that’s not a church I want to be a part of. He said he was hoping I would say that, because it left a pretty bad taste in his mouth as well.
So needless to say, we’ll be back on the church hunt.
As for a wedding officiant, C’s mom’s pastor has said that he would love to do it, and he doesn’t require premarital counseling. I’m not opposed to counseling, but they’re a few hours away from us; that would be a lot of driving! We’re just waiting to hear back with the confirmation that he’s available that day. Once we get the ‘okay,’ C’s mom said she’ll invite them over for dinner sometime when we’re there, that way he has a chance to talk to us and get to know us a little. That will be nice, so he can talk personally about us during the ceremony, which is what we want.
I know enough about different religions to know that I believe similarly to a few different ones. While I identify as a Christian, I also agree with some things that Hindus do, Buddhists do, etc. I’m sure it’s the same with the different branches of Christianity, where I agree with some things that Baptists do, some things that Episcopalians do, etc. but I’m not very knowledgeable about the differences within Christianity, so I can’t say that for sure. However, I can say that after going through this experience with Baptists, I wasn’t very receptive to their approach. So I’m taking it as just that… a learning experience.
Please know that I welcome any comments and feedback on this, but I’m not going to debate with you. I’m not one to have an argument when I know that I don’t have the knowledge to back it up.
I hope you’re all having a great week, and if you wouldn’t mind keeping C and I in your thoughts/prayers/sending good vibes about this and our continued hunt for our church home, it would be much appreciated!