Open up the skies of mercy
And rain down the cleansing flood
Healing waters rise around us
Hear our cries Lord let 'em rise
It's your kindness Lord
That leads us to repentance
Your favor lord, is our desire
It's your beauty Lord
That makes us stand in silence
Is better than life
"Kindness" by Chris Tomlin
This post will also start with something I wrote last year.
Saturday, March 31
Today I joined the Lake Forest Park Presbyterian Church. I am still amazed at the transformation over the past 30 hours. I feel happy. I am the kind of person who sometimes feels passionate or strongly about things at first, but then sometimes it fades. Sometimes things seem exciting to me and like a good idea, but I find that then a few days or weeks later that my opinion has gone back down to normal and I feel like a hypocrite because I spoke words that were strong and sort of have to take them back. Usually I trty to just never mention it again and hope people don't notice. There is a part of me that was scared over the past day that the feelings that I had last night and the things I feel like I've been discovering will leave me. That I will wake up one day and realize that I didn't find anything, that I just got inspired somehow by being at church, or that I was influenced by other people and just went along with what they were saying and it wasn't really my opinion. I have to let go of that. Part of having faith is trusting that the faith is not just going to abandon you.
This morning we went to the second half of our new members class at the church. Today we talked more about what it means to be Presbyterian, what they believe, how the church is structured, the two sacraments that they observe, and what their ideas about the bible are. We got a little history in there, and a little bit of information about the bible, and a tour of the church, which has WAY more staircases than I realized and several rooms I never knew were there! Towards the end of the class the active church Elders came in to meet us and vote on the new membership. At that time, we went around the room again and introduced ourselves, and I was able to share a little bit about the experience and discovery that I had last night. I got teary eyed, even just reading the above that I wrote last night out loud makes me cry a little bit. I even made Mike (the Associate Pastor) cry, but that's not hard because he cries at just about everything if it has to do with God. Then we answered the four questions out loud for the Elders, they motioned to let us join the church, and we all became members. Then we prayed together and I couldn't stop smiling. I could try to describe the feeling of being surrounded by joy and love, but I don't feel all that articulate right now and it really can't fit into words well. I was the only person in the class who has not been baptized, so I will have that done. I see it as the beginning of something new - living a life of faith in goodness and love. I am currently supposed to be baptized by sprinkling at church on the 22nd, but I am actually thinking about changing my mind and being immersion baptized in the lake when it gets warmer out in the summer time. I feel like it might be a powerful experience, and you only get baptized once, so maybe I should really go for it. So, I have a couple of weeks to decide.
After the class several people came up to me and thanked me for sharing and one person even said that I was articulate. I found that particularly funny because as I spoke to the group this morning I actually felt really unarticulate and like I was just blabbing out in a disorganized way. They gave me hugs and made me feel really welcome.
I feel comfortable and confident in my choice of churches. There are several reasons that I am happy with my choice of denominations and of churches. This is the first church where I have felt really, unconditionally welcomed. Where I didn't feel like they were ultimately thinking of having a new member, pulling in someone new, having someone contributing to their church monetarily. In the congregation and also in the small group of the new member class, I feel comfortable in having my own opinions and ideas. I don't feel like I have to conform, that I have to feel the same way as everyone else or have exactly the same ideas that they have. That I feel loved, that people are just happy for me because I have discovered something new, they're just glad I'm there sharing with them in love and faith. This is also a church that is very family oriented. They have a wonderful nursery and a wonderful children's ministry with Sunday School all the way through middle school, then youth groups. They have lots of mission trips for the teens and the adults, they have vacation bible school in the summer and a lot of options for hands on ministry. They believe in worship plus two - growing faith and hands on ministry being the plus two. I don't feel judged. I feel comfortable with Mike, which is important to me because I usually feel somewhat intimidated by that kind of 'authority figure'.
As for the denomination, there are a lot of things I like about Presbyterianism. I like the fact that they believe in family and marriage. I like their views on the Bible, and that they don't necessarily believe that the Bible is the word of God and he just used people to write it like they were puppets, but that it was written by people who were inspired by God and understood what to write because of that inspiration. I like it that they are welcoming of people from other churches, recognize baptisms done at other churches, and welcome all people to take communion and don't exclude people because they aren't church members or were not baptized presbyterian. They gave us a pamphlet about what it means to be a presbyterian and the last page says that the presbyterian church is people. That's what I like. It's all people, and it's a community. Somewhere to belong and feel welcome and to be there for other people and have them be there for you.
So, here I am. Belonging somewhere that I never thought I would belong. Understanding things I never understood and never thought I would. Thanks for 'listening'.
So, there I was. Suddenly a member of a community. What would be next?
to be continued next Thursday...
- Find the next post in the series here: 'Baptism, Washington Style'
- Find links to all posts in the series here.