Years ago, sitting at a bonfire with some friends and family, we got into a heated debate about same-sex marriage. I didn’t think God would condemn anyone for loving someone else. Their argument was if God intended same-sex marriage, then they would be able to have children.
What the people sitting around the bonfire didn’t know at that time was that Wade and I were struggling to get pregnant. Try as we might, it wasn’t happening. So what did that mean for us? God didn’t want us to be together?
I grew up Catholic and I love many of the Catholic traditions. When we did finally have children, we’d found Father Joe. Father Joe is the most liberal priest I’ve ever met and I love him dearly. He’s known to wear Birkenstock’s and never the collar. I talked to him about my concerns about my Catholic Faith and he understood.
When we moved to the Grand Rapids area, we attended our local Catholic Church. The Mass was long and the priest was boring. Getting my children out the door to go to church became quite a chore and nobody was getting anything out of the Mass anyway, so we went searching.
A friend of ours invited us to join their family at what I will call, a rock and roll church. I call it a rock and roll church because every service has a live band with Christian Rock type music, even at Christmas. The church building sits in a strip mall. It’s modern, with big screen TV’s, a coffee bar, and a playroom for the kids. Instead of sitting through church, my younger children could play with their friends, have treats, and listen to a quick bible story. They loved that. The pastor at the church is very nice and usually had a great message that I could apply to everyday life.
Then, we got hit with some pretty bad news this fall. I felt like I needed some of the traditions, quiet, and calmness of the Catholic Church. The local Catholic Church got a new priest, Father Lok. He is a friend of Father Joe’s and a great guy.
Father Lok has really turned the local Catholic church around. When we first moved to the area, we were able to walk into church seven minutes before Mass started and all twelve of us were able to sit together on Easter Sunday. This past Christmas Eve, we arrived about twenty minutes before Mass, but the church was already packed full. We credit this to Father Lok.
We sat in the full Parish Hall and tried to watch the Mass on TV. I say, ‘tried’ because the audio and visual were terrible. Wade and I joked that the Catholic church needed the tech department from the Rock and Roll church to come to help them.
We had been away from the Catholic Church for a long time. Keelie is the only one of my children who have had their first communion. Kacy and Averi were now in 4th and 5th grades and the thought of doing their first communion with their little brother…well, let’s just say that went over like a lead balloon.
So, this past week I told my family that we were going to try out another new church. On Sunday morning, we walked into Holy Cross Episcopal and Ascension Lutheran (also known as Two Churches) and were immediately welcomed.
What makes this church unique is that it is BOTH Episcopal AND Lutheran. The service was very similar to a Catholic service, with hymns, a liturgy, communion, and my favorite part, the greeting of peace. (There might be another word for the ‘greeting of peace’, but I don’t know what it is. It’s when you shake hands with the people around you and say, “Peace be with you.”)
During the peace greeting, everyone got out of their pews and greeted everyone else. It reminded me of Father Joe’s Church. I loved it.
After church, announcements were made. That morning they had helped feed the needy breakfast and said they would appreciate more help in June. Wade looked at me and nodded. Wade is not a very religious person, but he’s one of the most moral people I have ever met. I knew this spoke to him, a hands-on way to help people in need.
Afterward, we were invited to join everyone for lunch in the parish hall. As we waited in line, we talked to the pastor, Rev. Mike, who asked us about our home church. We told him we were Catholic but we had been going to other churches as well.
He smiled. “We’re more Catholic Lite, here.”
“We saw on your website that this church is much more…inclusive,” Wade said. “That’s part of what brought us here.”
Rev. Mike nodded. “Well, we are all about inclusiveness here.” Then he introduced us to his husband, Joel.
I was surprised. In my own ignorance, I didn’t know a person could be an ordained Episcopal priest and a Lutheran Minister at the same time, much less a gay man. (Or woman for that matter.) Both men and women can be ordained. Just the thought of was refreshing.
By the end of the lunch, I think every person came over and introduced themselves to us. It was very welcoming and even the kids liked it.
On our way home, I turned to Wade. “I think we’ve found our church.”
”I think so.”
Faith is very personal to me. I want my children to grow up with a strong sense of faith and not fear God, but love Him. When they are in a hard place, I want them to be able to talk to Jesus like a friend. When they make a mistake, I want them to be able to ask for forgiveness and feel His grace. I want them to have an understanding heart and to know that, no matter what, God loves them unconditionally.
Peace and Love,