I married a Methodist this time. Not a Muslim or a Baptist or even a Jew. A Methodist.
You would think this would make us fairly equally yoked. (Christian termed for basically sharing the same beliefs.) We are both Christian and both of our church services have an order to activities.
You knew I was Catholic, right?
When I moved down here, I thought for certain I would find a Catholic church to get involved in and all would be well. Tim didn’t seem too concerned, until he actually attended mass with me. Once we exited the sanctuary he said, “What just happened?”
I couldn’t help but laugh.
For a South Georgia Methodist, his little head was blown. He said, “There was a lot of up and down. Why can’t I take communion? What’s the deal with the incense? I’m so confused.” And so it went…
To be a good sport I went with him and his mom to her church in the tiny town of Preston. There were probably 20 people in the congregation, none overly friendly. (I thought small Protestant churches were supposed to be friendly?) It was Easter Sunday and their Pastor (a woman,) gave the sermon. She stumbled, she mumbled, and I felt there was something lacking. No problem – small church, new pastor, a nice training ground.
I didn’t feel a spiritual connection.
Then I decided to try out the local Catholic church in Americus. Smallish congregation, very diverse, so much so that I am pretty sure that day I was one of the few English speaking gathered, and a really interesting priest. Then the music started. It sounded like a folk concert and probably the single, worst choir I have ever experienced. God bless ’em. Probably not my cup of tea.
At this point, I’m starting to get worried. Would I find my way? We visited an Episcopalian church in Americus. Beautiful building, decent service, semi-friendly people… but it was Episcopalian. As a Catholic, I just couldn’t. I kept thinking back to King Henry the VIII and all of the ruckus he caused with the church.. blah, blah, blah. (Yeah.. I can be so petty sometimes.) 😉
We attended yet another Episcopalian church, this time in Albany. Really nice people, decent service, but lord have mercy – They were hard selling us. You could smell the desperation to have a youngish couple join. Yeah, we never went back.
After we got into our new house in Plains, about one week later we got a request for our first visitor. (I didn’t even have my paintings up on the wall yet.) That visitor was a certain Super Power.
A Nobel laureate also.
Former President Jimmy Carter came over. (He lives 3 houses down.)
I thought this was a “welcome to the neighborhood” meet & greet, and it sort of was. But it was a little more than that, he wanted to personally invite us to his church. Sure thing, I’ll give it a go. But I warned him, “Mr President, I want you to know I am Catholic.”
“Nicole, denominations don’t really matter. It is about our love for God.”
His church is a Baptist church. And if you know my past experience with Baptist churches, you will know they were never very positive. Very anti-Catholic. But he assured me his church was different. I thought, “Well, if this guy can make peace in the middle east, then surely it can’t be that bad.”
So we went.
And I really, really liked it. Outside of the several layers of Secret Service security you have to go through (which I have since learned is common around here. Most of us even know the SS by name.) Then we were given assigned seats. Yep. Guess which aisle they put us on? HIS and Rosalyn’s. Very cool, BUT… everyone visiting kept staring at our pew. And of course, us, probably wondering who in the world we were.
Guys… I have a little thing called Panic Disorder. I sometimes get super anxious and begin to have a panic attack. Guess what happened? Yep. Mind you, you would never know, I just coughed a little more than usual (trying to get a deep breath.) Even with all of this attention and my need to feel invisible when I am not in a comfortable space, I persevered and we did return. A few times. I was even considering joining, but in my typical commitment-phobe self and the fact that I felt like I did not want to officially leave the Catholic Church, I bowed out.
It was very public. *sigh*
Imagine this: We are standing in a circle holding hands at the night time service. Maybe 30 people, the Carters being 2 of those people. Suddenly, the preacher asks if anyone would like to join the church, to speak now. I was just smiling and watching and suddenly….
Me: Yes sir?
Me: Um… we really like it here. But.. um.. we are just visiting.
I look at Tim panicking.
JC: We would really like you to join.
Me: That’s really sweet of you guys. Thank you, but not at this time.
Y’ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I freaking told one of the most powerful men in the world NO. I felt like such a putz.
I felt that strongly about it.
Needless to say, I did not return. I felt too humiliated.
So we visited the Methodist Church in Plains.
And we really, really loved it.
I made friends there and there was plenty to get involved with. The pastor is very intelligent (I think he would make an excellent priest,) and his wife, as it turns out, is now one of my friends down here. So when I tell you the rest of this story, you will understand why the decision I made was a hard one.
We went for probably 8 months. Fairly often, even started going to Sunday School.
But something was missing.
I also found myself pleading with Tim to wake up and go to church on Sunday. His kids were totally not in favor of going.
Then I joined a bible study and my hope was I would find fulfillment and bond with the other parishioners. What it did was make me question what I really needed in my life. I started reading the Bible again and remembering all of the things I had sort of forgotten. This was a good thing.
Then we took a hiatus.
But I was missing something. With all of the issues going on with his family and me being away from my own, I needed that spiritual connection. So I bit the bullet and tried one. more. church.
St. Teresa’s in Albany.
I loved it. It is definitely not home (home being St. Joseph’s in Macon or Prince of Peace in Birmingham,) but there was something about the space. I felt God’s presence. I fell into a familiar rhythm.
I had a long talk with Tim about church. As it turns out, I was making all of these compromises for him and the girls and really, it wasn’t as important to them.
But it was for me.
I decided on a church. Finally. Back to the old ways – my way. Back to what fulfills me. With Tim by my side (and sometimes the girls,) I will get what I need.
I think at the end of the day, I need to remember that it is not necessary for me to compromise what I believe and need in life. 3 1/2 years living down here and it took us this long to figure it out.
But we did. And that is what is important.
*for those of you not understanding the title, it is the old saying for how to make the sign of the cross. Forehead, abs, side to side. (Spectacles, Testicles, Wallet & Watch.)