Monday, June 23, 2008

At church

Tobi had a sports competition this weekend in Vancouver, BC, so I decided to tag along as a tourist. We stayed with a friend of ours who lives in one of those big glass buildings in downtown Vancouver.

On Sunday Tobi was off being sportif (eventually winning a bronze trophy) and my friend wanted to go his Anglican church, as he always does on Sundays. So I decided to go to church.

It's been many years since I have been to church, Anglican, Mormon or otherwise. In fact, I had never been to an Anglican (Episcopalian) service before. I was interested but slightly guarded in my feeling.

The service was held in a beautiful chapel with stained glass windows. It was 'tasteful' and somewhat traditional. The music was great. (The Anglicans have better hymns than the Mormons. Sorry, guys.)

Completely out of the blue I found tears rolling down my cheeks. This lasted through most of the service. At the moment of communion (sacrament), they made a point of inviting all to participate "no matter where you are in your journey." In other words, there were no conditions placed on my participation-- they didn't demand that I believe in their church or that I cast away the man I love in order to be 'worthy' of the sacrament. They just said "Come and worship with us, as you are." This little act of kindness made me just lose it. I felt 'the spirit' strongly as the priest blessed the host and wine and distributed it. Tears streamed down my face.

I don't mean to criticize the church of my youth, but this Anglican service provided quite a contrast. The nagging undercurrent of fear and disapproval that I always felt in my own church just wasn't there. In its place was a feeling of respectful worship that was open to all.

After the service I shook hands with the priest. I'm sure he had seen my efforts to wipe away the tears without anyone noticing. I told him that I was a refugee of conservative religion and that I felt a sense of brokenness. We talked briefly about my religious background. He offered to meet with me sometime. I didn't have time to take him up on his offer, but I am tempted next time I am in Vancouver to give him a call.


J G-W said...

This is so moving... Thank you for sharing this.

I've had this experience too... After making the decision to leave the Mormon Church in 1986, for me it was at a Lutheran Church. The Spirit is at work everywhere. This shouldn't surprise us...

MoHoHawaii said...

Hi John,

As beautiful and touching as this experience was, I'm still left with the mystery of why some people believe and others don't. I'm afraid it's ultimately a banquet I can't attend.

Juditude said...

This was a very interesting post to me. And yes, this attitude of the Mormon church about being "worthy" of taking the sacrament has always felt wrong to me... I do believe it's possible to be moved or touched in multiple ways, no matter what your beliefs.

Not having read all of your posts, I am a little uncertain of what you meant by your response here. I guess I took your post to be one of "gee, maybe I can find a real place in some other church." But my feeling is you are saying you do not believe in god at this point? Just wondering.

My husband and I have been traveling a path around religion and he is an athiest. I consider myself agnostic. There's still a part of me that sometimes wishes there was a god, but my brain tells me there probably isn't, considering all the reading and studying we have done. It sometimes amazes me the numbers of people who end up questioning and coming to completely different conclusions from where they were raised spiritually, etc. Life is so wonderful that way! I am so glad we have the freedom and the information at our fingertips to study and make these decisions on our own!

I really enjoy reading your blog and am glad I stumbled upon it!

MoHoHawaii said...

Hi Juditude,

To answer your question, I'm an atheist who hasn't lost his sense of wonder and transcendence. :-)

To me 'mechanism' is all there is. We do not understand our brains entirely, but we have a very good idea of the kind of machinery that animals like us have for cognition. Modern physics explains natural phenomena with scope and precision that blows away any existing religious explanation. (We have detailed knowledge from the micro to macro to incomprehensable cosmic scale.) If all this isn't enough to satisfy our curiosity, then we're just being greedy. Darwin, once understood, eliminates any role for a creator. (Natural selection relies on chance-- there is no predicting its outcome at the macro scale.)

On the other hand, I'm human and I respond to ritual and poetry with deep feeling. I think that's why my church experience last Sunday spoke to me the way it did. Also, the sheer kindness of that type of inclusive service meant a lot to me after having endured a much, much condemning form of religion.

I appreciate the allure of religion. Religion is about people, and I like people. I just don't think I will be able to make the jump into belief.

Thanks for your comments and good wishes. Best of luck to you.