What Is Assumed If I Become Catholic?

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

January 1

It is the new year. What do I want in the new year? How was the old year?

January 4

I’m working on my sermon for a week from now on Jesus’ Baptism. Last night, I dreamed that I was asked to preach at a church of Christ and Catholic church on the same Sunday, and I didn’t want to do it on the same day because I like attending one (relaxing) and preaching at another (stress).

January 5

At church today, church of Christ, I felt distant. Awkward. I don’t know why. Probably because it’s been two weeks since I’ve attended. I chatted a little after services, and that made me feel better. I was invited to go out to eat. I said no. I already had plans to go grocery shopping. This is my usual excuse, since I walk two miles to church, then another to the farmer’s market, then two back home. This makes for an exhausting Sunday. But maybe I’ll go out with them next week?

All that to say, I was so hungry that I immediately regretted saying “No” to the social offer. I knew I needed some social time. I just didn’t want to spend money or eat pizza. Lame-o. And even in my awkwardness this morning at church of Christ, I’m also skipping Mass today because I have work to do! In all likelihood, I’ll be at Mass bright and early tomorrow morning anyway.

So here I sit, feeling lame towards the Church of Christ, and absent at Catholic Mass. One day I’m thinking “No” to the Catholic church and considering quitting RCIA, and the next day I’m back again ready to confirm. And I still am not sure why.

The sermon at Brookline today was bold. Also, a little weird, I’m not quite sure what he was going for. It was part Paul defensive, part “God thinks this” [well, Paul says God thinks this], and part anti Christ. Anti Christ meaning that he wanted to emphasize God and what God does through Christ. I can appreciate that, but it was still a little strange to me. I think he was reacting to people’s emphasis on Christ’s humanity and less on being God. He really needed to tow the line though, because at one point it almost sounded like Christ was less than God (which is heresy). I don’t think he meant that, but he never once mentioned the incarnation (Christ is God), or that usually when people talk about Christ it is synonymous with God.

I’m sorry to say, I don’t think people got what he was going for because it was overshadowed by sort of human Jesus bashing. I was just glad someone commented by saying, “As soon as someone says they know what God thinks, they’re wrong.” As in, “Dude, leave a little room for mystery.” Because the boldest thing he went for was saying what God thinks, but we do this all the time in one form or another.

While some of the meat was a little hazy (it is the toughest part of the sermon to write!), his main point was to remember what God is doing/does.

I don’t even know how he got through that sermon without mentioning the incarnation or the Trinity! Chances are, just like me, there were about 1000 things in his head and he couldn’t mention them all.

In the meantime, I’m kind of at a loss about how to structure my sermon. I think I know what I want to say in the beginning, and I think I know what my final point is, but how I get there? I don’t know.

I keep going back and forth about becoming Catholic… If ever in the future, there is an audience for my writing, I imagine they will be thinking, “Poop or get off the pot!” For whichever way their sentiments lie.

I’ve gone years with all my Catholic buddies joking about me becoming Catholic. Then when I’m nearing taking the plunge, everyone is a little nervous. When I ask Steve about it, what he usually tells me is along the lines of, “I’ve always felt like you were a part of it.” And that is that. Whether I’m confirmed or not, that is how he feels, and he is happy with that.

And I know that getting confirmed is hardly the end. I’m not going to have any less existential crises, but then again, maybe I will have less. Because at that point, I don’t have to worry. In a sense, I would be choosing the Catholic church as my “priority church.” Not that they would like win out in an argument every time, but they would be my main community, and main place I would choose to serve.

I searched in Google for “churches that are growing and shrinking” hoping to find something. It didn’t really work. I was looking for basically what churches are growing and which are shrinking, but I don’t think it really matters. I found this instead:http://www.gallup.com/poll/125999/mississippians-go-church-most-vermonters-least.aspx.

It’s the percentage of people by state that attend church. What’s more interesting is that only a little less than half of Americans attend church. This bodes well to a theory that spirituality is like a normal curve, and maybe half of those people are the church attendees and half not, and it fluctuates. I wonder what the other half of people do on Sunday. I hope they do good things. Weekends are precious. Though, it is likely that many of them are working. Looking at the numbers, it looks like the Catholic church has declined since the 1950s and Protestants have just stayed the same.

I keep saying that I am leaning more towards getting confirmed than not. Today, I thought about what it might look like to apply for a non-Catholic job and actually being Catholic. I guess it’ll be similar to applying to Catholic jobs and not being Catholic.

I thought about what people might assume of me having actually chosen, in adulthood, to become Catholic. They might assume I’m just naive and brainwashed. They might assume I did it just to get married and be with my bae spiritually. They might assume I’m a glutton for punishment, or to stroke my own ego. They might assume I did it to be in line with my parents’ Catholicism. They might assume I hate the gays and want to save all the fetuses. They might assume I was just jumping on the bandwagon with Pope Francis.

Maybe not everyone will assume that. What I want is to jump this stupid 500 year old fence between Catholics and Protestants. Is there a gate somewhere that I can walk through? I think people on both sides want this. The grass is always greener effect. It takes a lot of commitment to jump fences than stay on your own safe side. You might get trapped on the other side! Or who knows what will happen? You only know that you won’t be able to control it. What is “it”? The Spirit.

I’m five days into the new year and there is so much to do. Who needs another spiritual memoir? Those people are such narcissists. Maybe I am. I mean, I’m not writing for anyone else, just myself. Free therapy. And maybe it’ll help someone else, but first and foremost, it is mine. Maybe that’ll change. Preaching is essentially the exact opposite. While I might be preaching to myself, it’s not exactly for me… or it is, it’s just not me? I don’t know.

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Publishing the Sermon

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

November 19

D to Paige

Paige, what a delight it was to receive Bob’s email about the sermon you recently preached at the Brookline church. It would have been wonderful to have been there to hear you preach. Maybe there will come a time that it will be possible. I would love to hear from you to know what you are doing and what your plans are. We have a Women in Ministry Network and I would love to include you. In fact, if you are on Facebook I can add you to our conversation page. That is, if I can figure out how to do it. So if you befriend me I can work on making that connection. However, that may not be your interest.

What I would really like is a copy of your sermon. A few years ago Kathy P., who was the first women to preach at the Brookline church, advised me to save all my sermons. She explained that in all her research about women who were preachers in the early years of the Restoration Movement she had not found any of their sermons preserved. So, I took her advice and asked her to send me a copy of her first sermon, which was preached around 1987. That began a project that is really beginning to take shape. I have been collecting the sermons of women in the Church of Christ for several years now and have about 22 women who sent me sermons or promises of sermons… I would love to include your sermon in the collection. Many of the sermons are the first and/or the only sermon a particular woman has preached. Some were preached in university settings or in hospital chapels. But that is part of our story. And I am hoping to not only create a historical document but record the story of women in ministry in this generation.

Here is what I would like from you: 1. give your sermon a title and put your name on it. (You would be surprised how many did not do this and it is hard keeping track of them once I save them to my file.) 2. provide the date and the place where you preached it. 3. Write a preface to the sermon. I would like a paragraph that tells something of your story. How you came to preach this sermon. Was it your first? If not, where else have you preached and is this the first you preached in a Church of Christ worship service? What was the experience like for you. Share anything you would like to about your journey to this moment. 4. The sermon ­­ 5. A bio: in your bio include your education and where you are at the present time. Include something of your family background, etc. Anything you want to add. It should be a short paragraph.

If you do all of the above, you will be way ahead of the game. In the beginning I didn’t give any guidelines or requirements and I have had a lot of editing to do. Keep your format simple and I will do the rest.

I hope you will accept this assignment. Let me know as soon as possible if you intend to submit your sermon. I am busy editing right now so I can wait until February 1 for your sermon. If you would like a sample I can send you someone’s sermon to give you an idea of the preface as well as the sermon. However, I want it to be expressive of you so whatever you send me will be great.

I look forward to hearing from you soon. Blessings, D

November 23

Paige to D

Hello D,

It’s wonderful to hear from you! This whole semester has been unexpectedly wild for me. While I’ve been in Boston a while (5 years), I haven’t been that amazing of a church of Christ goer. But as soon as I committed to attending this year (in addition to Catholic Mass), and let someone know I have a Master’s in Pastoral Ministry from Boston College, I was invited to preach. Like I said, it is wild. When Bob said you’d be emailing me, I was pretty taken aback. It’s been a long time since my days at Pepperdine, but my experience there, seeing women in the church of Christ in ministry, is really what planted my desire to minister (formally or informally and pretty much anywhere).

I’m delighted that you want my sermon and may include it in your book! I can definitely get you my sermon before Feb 1st, and I may even have preached again by the time it comes around. Clint, who puts the preaching circuit together at Brookline, is including me in the new year. It should be fun. Brookline is a fantastic church, and I like to call it “The Best Church of Christ in the World.”

A little about what’s going on with me before sending the sermon. Presently, I’m in a little bit of a transitional time of life. I work in Tech Support at Boston College (the job that got me through my two Master’s there). I’ve done that for about 2 years now, and my boyfriend just moved to Florida. Come summer, I’ll be finishing up in Boston, walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, and moving down to Florida with possibly no money or job. I’m very excited! I’m actually heading down to Florida today to have Thanksgiving with his family this week. It should be very nice. And warm. New England has been wonderful, but it’s time to go.

I’d love to be included in the Facebook group! Say hello and send my love to Zach and the fam. I certainly miss Malibu. I will send you my sermon all formatted before Christmas. If you need any help editing, just let me know. I’d love to help in whatever way I can.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! Paige

D to Paige

Paige, it is great to hear from you. I loved hearing about what you are and have been doing and to hear about your boyfriend. Is his university a Catholic university? If you do, in fact, move to Florida you may have to increase your attendance at the Catholic church. I don’t know of any Churches of Christ that are gender inclusive. However, I might be surprised, although there is quite a groundswell of churches that are making the transition to gender inclusion. It is very encouraging. I know how you feel about the Brookline church. It was a leader among churches of Christ in becoming inclusive and they have nurtured and encouraged many women and men through the years.

Your summer plans sound wonderful. I have always been intrigued by the Camino de Santiago, especially after watching the movie that was made by Emelio Estivez (sp?) and his father, Martin Sheen. I know it will be a memorable experience for you. Are you going alone?

I will pass your greeting on to Zach and Haley. I remember so well when Zach brought you to his birthday party at Ken and Libby’s house and we played cards. I was so impressed by your beautiful, thick red hair. And with you, of course.

I look forward to receiving and reading your sermon. Thank you for responding so quickly. I will keep in touch.

D

December 1

Paige to D

Hello D!

I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving. I spent mine eating (of course) and fishing in Florida. It is indeed a Catholic University, Benedictine by tradition. Steve, my boyfriend, is Catholic, studies and writes mostly on systematic theology, but was hired to teach ethics. I visited there this past week, and the campus was pretty nice (it’s tough always comparing to Pepperdine). It’s in a nice hilly area (for Florida) overlooking a big lake. I also do not know any gender inclusive Churches of Christ in Florida, there are A LOT of CoCs there, especially around Tampa. My mom, grandparents, and a couple of my cousins attended Florida College in Tampa which isn’t too far from St. Leo, but is, I believe, quite far from gender inclusion. Church of Christ history in Florida is fascinating.

My best friend and boyfriend are planning on walking the Camino next summer with me! I’ve booked my tickets with Steve for June 12, and she’s going to try and meet us at the starting point at the same time.

Ha. Zach’s birthday party! That is a nice memory. I think we taught Libby how to play poker for the first time in her life.

I will have the sermon to you before Dec 18th! Could you send me a sample so I can match the format exactly? I don’t want to create any unnecessary work for you.

Happy Advent! Paige

Paid to Preach

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

October 5

$200 for preaching?! Yep. That happened. I received a check in the mail from someone I don’t know, but it’s from the “Brookline church of Christ” checkbook.

I had no idea this was a paid gig. Several people asked me if I was getting paid, and I was like, “No. You don’t get paid to preach. You’re just like serving, and the church is poor.” Apparently not. Now, I know why people do this, and I know why one of the regular preacher’s wives was looking at me all sideways asking, “So, you’re preaching on Sunday…”

I received a very nice letter, along with my check:

Hi Paige,

I meant to give this to you at church Sunday, but I didn’t catch you before you left… so here it is. Thanks for preaching, I really enjoyed your sermon.

Dave

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know, because I don’t know if I would have preached if I knew I got paid, and I don’t know if I would have said I’d do it again if I knew I got paid.

I mean, I know everyone who invited me to preach knows that money is involved, and no one mentioned it?! Why does money make it more intimidating? Maybe I should have done their usual post-holily conversation—at least that way they get their money’s worth.

I don’t know why it feels so weird. But I guess it makes sense. It’s probably more economical to simply pay someone to preach, than to have a full time preacher.

When I decided I would be okay preaching, I guess it was sort of an intrinsic decision (besides that whole power trip thing). Obviously, there is also extrinsic motivation (besides money) like breaking church of Christ rules, getting attention and hopefully praise for whatever I preach, being one of those girls that preach, being able to use my degree… There was still a lot of risk involved, it was very personal. I want to serve, and apparently they need some women to say “Yes” to preaching (and I don’t know why they don’t). Though Brookline does expect a certain caliber, they want people trained in theology, and many are not theologically trained in the churches of Christ. I’m glad I could help, and I said I would help again.

My Hobby is Jesus…

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

October 2

I was hanging out with my friend last night, and I was thinking about how my hobby right now, is basically, Jesus. I go to church about five times a week, RCIA, and then whatever else I can squeeze in. Then I spend time writing and reading about it.

My hobby, is Jesus. Sounds so wrong.

It’s not easy. Great at first, but right now, I’m definitely in that phase of monotony. I seem to have forgotten what the point of me doing all this was. I went to RCIA last night, and so far so good, but I don’t know. Sometimes I just don’t feel it. Actually, that’s the best way to put how I feel. I just don’t feel it anymore. Or it feels different. Not bad, just nagging and annoying, and weird.

My friend asked me if I’m “allowed” to preach at one church and go to RCIA at another. I’ve thought a lot about it, and I think yes? What do you think?

As far as I know, in the Catholic church there is no rule against preaching for whoever. Technically, only priests are supposed to preach in the Mass, but they can also kind do whatever they want during the homily (like let someone else “reflect” on the the readings). And I have certainly witnessed some risqué things during Mass homilies.

As for the Brookline Church of Christ, they love to have more ecumenical/integrative engagement. So, I’m okay there.

However, my difficulties lie in how much I disclose. This whole endeavor is mostly a secret. On some level, I’ve convinced myself that the information is irrelevant to each group. Obviously, I wouldn’t lie if someone asked me if I preached last Sunday, but how is that going to come up in RCIA conversation unless I bring it up?

I’ve thought so far ahead about Easter, if I decide to be confirmed Catholic, what do I tell Brookline? Do I tell them anything? I know I would still be welcome, I could still preach, everything would be the same…

I must have some sort of internalized residual stigma, “Why?! On earth!? Would you be confirmed Catholic if you already consider yourself a ‘saved’ Protestant Christian?!”

Covering my basis, I guess. I joke.

I ask myself the same things…

Is it because I think the Catholics have something secret or more than everybody else? No.

Is it because the Catholics are right and everyone else is wrong? No.

Is it because I agree completely with everything the Catholic church teaches? Definitely no.

Is it because I feel lost and alone in my Protestant faith, and don’t know what to do with it? Maybe a little, but mostly no.

Maybe a little on that last one. It’s like, I dove into theology school with nowhere to go, and really no plans to go anywhere with it. As a Church-of-Christer, women can’t do anything, and they shouldn’t bother learning. I look at what the Catholic church does, and the people that are in it, and I think I fit in, I think I can do something there. I think there is space for me there.

And I want to believe that as I come into that space, in the Catholic church, there will also be openings in other Christian communities… That really doesn’t make any sense. It makes more sense that once you go through the Catholic door that all the Protestant doors close and vise versa… I don’t know why I think this.

Women in Preaching Podcast

I started podcasting this week. Here is my first sermon.
Don’t ever procrastinate making a podcast. It should be up in iTunes next week (fingers crossed!) Until then, and while we are patiently waiting for iThings to do their magic, you can have a listen right here.

That being said, here is Episode 1! Yay! Next week is Katherine Balmforth. Enjoy!

The lectionary readings can be found at that Vanderbilt website here.

Here is the transcript:

Continue reading “Women in Preaching Podcast”