Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Meeting with the Bishop

Sunday, Feb 6, 2011.  We attend the church meetings.  First meeting is what is called Sacrament Meeting, and I enjoy the ritual of the young men preparing and sharing the communion bread and water.  It falls short of the Eucharist services that I am used to at St John's Episcopal Church, and there are some of the elements of the communion in that it is a somber and sacred ceremony.  I don't know about water instead of wine, but the idea of bread (body of Christ) and wine (blood of Salvation) has enough similarity to be comforting, comfortable.   Although Arthur tells me we cannot partake as we are not yet baptized members of this church.  Hmm, well, that seems a bit harsh, as we are assuredly in communion in the body of Christ already, but it's their church rules, so we will go with the flow.

Off we go now to another meeting they have set up seemingly just for us, as we are the only two in attendance, with two older men who are instructing.  We are reading out of a book, Gospel Principles.  The content structure of the book offers an idea, which includes some verses, followed by some discussion questions.  I liken it to the confirmation lessons we had to take at St John's before becoming confirmed, or a catechism, although I'm fairly sure the LDS people would not appreciate that comparison.

And now off we go in separate directions, he to what is called a priesthood meeting and me to what is called a relief society meeting.  I suppose I should capitalize the first letters in those named meetings.  I'm still struggling a bit though with the gender distinctions, and men being almost automatically in a priesthood while women are what....oh, women, doing what women do best, enduring to the end.  Okay, that was snarky.  I'm a newcomer, I'm permitted to have impressions.  I came from a small local church in our region that had a male and female priest, and across the larger church has a mix of genders who are priests, including women who are Bishops.   Arthur and I had begun the long three year process of training towards becoming priests for the church.  Actually, we hadn't come to that decision, it was a path that we were encouraged to begin to walk, and we were aiming towards becoming licensed preachers, meaning being recognized by the Church to preach, having taken and completed some hermeneutics trainings.   I digress, well not really, as the all male priesthood does seem to me to be a bit of a step backwards, and I'm willing to be patient in learning how this church structures itself, appreciating that while I know some things about this church, I am also in a learning curve with much more yet to learn.

Meetings are concluded and we are off to meet with the Bishop.  He is an engaging and  kindly fellow, with a ready smile, one of our own (by that I mean he has a long history here in the region with it's lumber, fishing industries and his secular career was working in the forests).   We all share some stories about our affections for the area, share some stories about our secular careers, and somewhere in all that friendliness, we shift to the business at hand.  He is in no hurry and pulls out an instruction manual (I assume it is a manual for Bishops and other ranking stewards of the church).  We are amused as it much resembles the RCWs, WACs, and Instruction Manuals we have used in the course of our work with Washington State.

So the bottom line is that when a person such as Arthur, raised in the church, returned missionary, married in the Temple, raised his children in the church, held callings and church offices, and came to point of disenchantment with the church, requesting his name be removed from the church records, is required to go through the same process of return to the church as someone who has been ex-communicated by the church. Go figure.   The night before, with not some degree of anxiety, upon hearing there was to be this interview with the Bishop, while they were reassuring me that I could be baptized, but they were not sure Arthur could be baptized, I had said to the men in the room, that I would not be baptized into this church if my husband was not also going to be baptized.  Once again they tried to reassure me, not fully understanding or appreciating what I was trying to say, which was not that my path to baptism was in jeopardy, but that I had no wish to be part of this church unless it was with my husband, this being a male dominated church structure. They were eager to reassure me that the women had a very active role in this church, and it was at this point that Arthur suggested we all needed some time out from what he described as the train wreck we had just been hit with.

I liked the Bishop, and his approach was inviting, welcoming, but I still took issue with what was seeming to me to be a punitive course laid out for Arthur.  As the Bishop continued to explain, Arthur could indeed be baptized with me, he could not baptize me, and Arthur had already told me he was okay with that, but we had been laboring under the impression that he was not going to be permitted to be baptized until a year had passed.  And I was absolutely sure I had no wish to be baptized into this church if he was not.  As it was explained then, seems it is not nor was it an an issue of baptism.  We both could be baptized.  The issue was the procedure that treated returning people who had their name removal in the same manner as people wanting to return from  an excommunication.  Arthur would have to wait a year for restoration to the priesthood, callings, temple recommend and well, frankly, I don't know what all else.  I was not grasping how this was not punitive, but Arthur was assuring me by that time, that he was okay with it, understood it and wanted us to proceed.

The Bishop explained that he had already sent up his recommendation for our baptism, that it would to to the Stake President, and then up to headquarters (okay that's the word I use, not the word the Bishop used) in SLC.  Or at least that was my impression of the administrative procedure the Bishop was explaining.  He told us the Stake President was going to be at the Ward next Sunday and we could meet with him after the church meetings.

I'm completely happy with the Bishop's handling of the situation inasmuch as it is agreeable to Arthur and he assures me it is.  Next...meeting with the Stake President.

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