Warning: Religious material in this entry is not meant to offend. If you want to correct any information that I may have, please e-mail me and I will make the modifications.
Phew! Now that that’s out of the way…a few months ago, my older brother Paul sent me to a website with a ‘test’ called the “Belief-O-Matic” where you answer 20 questions about religious beliefs. In the end, it basically tells you what religion you are according to your answers. I found this to be quite funny but extremely revealing! Here were my top 5 results:
1. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (100%)
2. Orthodox Quaker (84%)
3. Unitarian Universalism (80%)
4. Liberal Quakers (80%)
5. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (69%)
Note that my actual religion is not listed! My score for Roman Catholicism was a measly 52% (the same percentage as my Eastern Orthodox score!) This is QUITE intriguing but no surprise to me because at this point in my life I feel that I share most of the same beliefs as Protestants or at least liberals and let’s face it, there are very few liberal-minded Catholics.
So. I’ve decided to go on a bit of a Church Tour this fall. My plan is to hit up a lot of religious services and compare! Worthy of note: I am not looking to convert. This is an exploration of faith. I am not bashing Catholicism and I am certainly not looking for a replacement. I’m just extremely interested in other communities that share my beliefs and cater to my views on Christ. (I do not have anything against attending a service that is non-Christian. But I have attended Jewish services many times and feel that at this point in my exploration, I’m going to stick to Protestant and Catholic churches.)
So. Today was Sunday! And the first stop on LAURA’S GOD TOUR ’04 was Williamsville United Methodist Church. It was appealing for many reasons: I had never attended a Methodist celebration before, it is within 5 minutes walking distance from my apartment, services began at 10 am which is, in my humble opinion the BEST time for mass.
WOW. Methodists are such happy folks! A man greeted me in the main lobby (is it called a vestibule in every Church? Or just Catholic? I’ll stick to lobby…) with a HI MY NAME IS DAVE sticker on his sweater. He asked me if I’d ever been before (No Dave!) and where I like to sit in Church (in the middle/back!). He advised me to keep to the middle as the very back pews have very little leg room! (Um. What?) I slipped into a pew that was empty except for a very old man at the opposite end. There were beautiful stained glass windows surrounding me. Gorgeous. Love it.
Today was “RALLY DAY” for the Williamsville United Methodist Church (WUMC) and a sort of celebration to welcome families back for fall worship. (Mom says Methodists take the summer off. This seemed like a judgmental comment until it was confirmed by my very own Methodist/Republican that I’ve come to know and love.) For the “WELCOME BACK” mass, there were red balloons tied to every pew and during the procession, a man waved a white paper dove back and forth on a stick. Not gonna lie, thought that was cool.
It gets better. The Reverend’s name…is GAIL. She is a CHICK!!!!!!!!! Her co-pastor is named Daryl. DARYL IS A FEMALE. This church is run by BABES!!!!!! Babes in robes!!! Sweet. Reverend Gail only won MORE brownie points with me when she used FINDING NEMO as the center of her sermon on finding our way home. Wow. Incredible.
Worthy of note: Methodists (and I’ve heard Protestants in general) actually like to sing. Unlike the bored mumbling of Catholics, Methodists jump RIGHT IN. Everyone participates in responses and as soon as the music starts, they go nuts! Hymnals open up and they sing ALL THE VERSES! Also: the music is not painfully slow but pretty upbeat! I recognized “GATHER US IN” and that was the only song I knew. The others were pretty nice though. The choir sat behind the altar in really loud red robes. They didn’t really sway too much or get into it but they sounded great and they smiled a lot which is different from the choir at my church. Instead of looking pained and sinful, the choir looked pretty proud and excited.
So. I sat through mass and sang and smiled and listened to a summary of FINDING NEMO and a woman on the altar who posed serious questions on community and finding a place to fit in and what exactly constitutes a home? Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, they announced at the end of mass that there is an ICE CREAM SOCIAL after church.
Disney movies, chicks giving the sermon and FREE ICE CREAM?! Holy cow. At this point, I realized that the Methodists have thrown away the idea of “how to get to heaven” and have instead re-created heaven right in front of me. Priceless.
My one “problem” (and I use that word loosely) with mass today was the lack of communion. I listened to the readings, the sermons, the songs and then before I knew it, we stood up to leave and eat ice cream! But I thought–where’s the host!? Where’s the wine!? Isn’t someone going to remember the Last Supper!? I was so confused and thought for a second that maybe since it was WELCOME BACK RALLY DAY that the poor Methodists had gotten so excited that they forgot about it. I got home and called my secret Methodist source and he said that they usually only celebrate the Eucharist once a month, usually the first Sunday.
Hmmm. Well this just made me very confused. I then decided to research how Methodists feel about communion in general. Up until today, I thought that one of the main differences between Catholics and Protestants was in the celebration of the Eucharist. I thought that Catholics believe that the bread and wine actually BECOME Jesus while Protestants take it as a symbol. Wouldn’t you know I was WRONG!???????????? (I know. Weird.)
So I found this info from this website. Catholics do indeed believe in transubstantiation. That is, during the liturgy, the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. There is an actual CHANGE of SUBSTANCE and Catholics believe they are consuming the literal Christ. (Eastern Orthodox churches also believe in transubstantiation.) LUTHERANS believe in consubstantiation. This is the belief that the body and blood of Jesus Christ are mysteriously and supernaturally united with the bread and wine. Christ and the bread and wine co-exist but the substances do not change.
To further confuse things, Methodists and Presbyterians believe that the body and blood of Christ are received in a spiritual manner by faith (it is neither taken substantially, nor as a mere symbol). I’m not sure I understand this one. I think it means that communion is a spiritual experience but not to the extent that Lutherans believe and certainly not to the extent that Catholics believe. The website went on to say that the only branch that really believes that the Eucharist is a “symbol” is the Baptist faith. They use the celebration of the Eucharist as a commemoration of Jesus’ death.
My didn’t I get myself into some insane topics here. Ugh. The point of this whole rambling is that although the Methodist church was a wonderful experience, I felt very unfulfilled when I left due to the lack of Eucharist. (Troy points out that it’s just because I like carbs and wine. Correct!) It was more than that. I just wanted to celebrate that. I wanted to receive it. And although I mused that my mother would have a lot to say when I got home, I was eager for her input. And wouldn’t I know it when I called her later that afternoon and I told her about the lack of Eucharist she said “Didn’t you feel empty?” And I did. Very much.
So while I really enjoy the idea of females giving sermons and FRIENDLY singing atmospheres, I think I will only return to WUMC on the Sundays where they do celebrate the Eucharist. I can definitely see myself going back into such a welcoming ice-cream-eating community. If any of you care to take the Belief-O-Matic test online, here is the link.
Best of luck to any of you out there who are like me, questioning, exploring and trying to find a faith all your own. Peace.