Sunday, February 26, 2006

They Take You In

It has been a quiet day, as most Sundays are in our abode. Cups of tea being made and finished. Cats making their way (despite all attempts at indicating to them that I am trying to ignore them that I am currently off duty as cat nanny, as I am writing and can't have them biting the end of my pen) onto laps and refusing to leave. Classes being prepared for. Student writings being read. When dusk comes, candles being lit. This is my Sabbath. My holy time.

R. and the girls went with me to my church this morning, and there is a wholeness I have when we can worship together as a family. For multiple reasons, R. and I worship in different communities, that decision being made for reasons of choice, but also for reasons of circumstance.

I need to worship with a CoB congregation to maintain my ordination (although I would chose to worship there regardless of that technicality). R. worships at a downtown UCC, a UCC that I actually have some history with, as I was confirmed there in the 1980s, it was the church my parents decided we should attend after my father left the United Methodist pastorate. We attended because it was progressive, and because my parents wanted me to experience an open community which let me question and grow and change, and affirmed my wanderings, rather than demanding that I tow the party line. It was a large church, and mostly I felt...well, lost in the community there. Lost with good theology being pumped into me, but lost nonetheless.

Now, I choose not to worship at aforementioned UCC on alternate Sundays currently not because I feel lost in the community anymore, in fact they have dwindled in membership due to their (wonderful) prophetic stances. However, I choose not to worship there on a regular basis for another simple reason, which is that I don't want to put all my effort into a church that I am not allowed to join. "The contemplative chaplain not allowed to join a church," the gentle reader may ask..."Pray tell, what convenience store did you rob? Or how much money did you steal out of the offering plate to make a membership offer off-limits?"

Actually, gentle reader, I am not allowed to join the downtown UCC not because of restrictions from the CoB, mind you, not because it would be frowned upon to have associate membership elsewhere, no. Instead I am not allowed to join as an associate member because I will not make a profession of faith which affirms that it is at baptism that we renounce evil. I have a hard time believing that those who are unbaptized should be affiliated with evil, and that we renounce evil only with a largely symbolic act (especially symbolic when it is a church, like the UCC, which espouses infant baptism). And further, how exactly does one define evil? R. is in a similiar quandry, but that's his story to tell.

I don't know too many people who can say that even the UCC, which is reputed by so many fundamentalists as having "loose morals," will keep them from joining (although I am welcome to affirm the church motto and "come see where the journey takes me"). My journey, however, seems to have a roadblock temporarily stopping it in regard to this church. I'm only a little bitter about this, however. And have been trying to be patient with my theologically unlikeminded "brother in Christ" who pastors said UCC church.

Ah well...I have found a home in the Anabaptist margins with my folk-singin,' yurt-livin,' mustacheless-beard-sportin,' buddies. We do just fine, thanks. I've learned through the Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren what home is, the place where when you have to go, they have to take you in. With love, with grace, with acceptance. I have such an incredibly shoddy attendance record, and I am still met with hugs and support. I'd like to think this is what Jesus wanted to have happen in these communities created in his image.

However, I have digressed from what I wanted to say about family, and sharing a pew with my family. But perhaps what I must remember is that I share a pew with my larger family whenever I attend my sweet little CoB, for they have invited me in, regardless of who I am and that's what sisters and brothers are supposed to do.


Pink Shoes said...

Huh.... This is interesting indeed -- I wasn't aware of the UCC stance on evil/baptism, not that I've looked into it all that closely; I'm far more familiar with their 'loose morals' ... something to ask about at our next ecumenical clergy group -- Now I'm curious!!

Contemplative Chaplain said...

Yeah, actually, the vows start with asking, "Do you affirm your baptism into the faith of the family of Jesus?" And then launch into "Do you renounce the powers of evil and desire the freedom of new life in Christ?"

I offered to make a confession of faith, about my belief in God, the interweaving of the Holy Spirit, and the prophesy of Christ, but because I wouldn't immediately assent to the UCC creedal statement, I was nixed.

I have a hunch it has a hell of a lot more to do with this particular pastor (who you will note I have refrained from naming as I am a nice person) than it does with the UCC.

However, in a nasty sense I will add that he's a bad spokesman for his allegedly open and affirming denomination

Geez, pink shoes, now I'm all riled up again...but thank you so much for reading and commenting all the same!

Pink Shoes said...

Didn't mean to rile you up! Thanks for the further explanation ... I'm also curious to re-examine my own tradition's language with baptism, etc., ... I'll get back to you on that... reminds me of a CPE conversation about baptism!

Anonymous said...

Hiya. Just popping by, and saw this post. As a UCC pastor myself, I was pretty surprised to hear that these questions were being used as a litmus test for membership. Each UCC church is just a little different, and it's hard to make any difinitive statement about "UCC stances," because you'll find a host of exceptions to everything. Our national leadership doesn't speak for the local church, and one can sometimes find big differences among individual congregations.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that the historic Church of the Brethren baptismal vows state, in part,

"Do you willingly renounce Satan, and all his evil ways, and all the sinful pleasures of this world?"

So the UCC vow isn't that different.

Contemplative Chaplain said...

Wow, thanks for letting me know that. I'm so used to the current vows in the ministerial manual.