Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I'm Still Percolating

Still percolating. Updates though, while percolating.

 Baptism for the dead. I am coming to appreciate that this is indeed one of the rituals that LDS members do hold sacred, for reasons having to do with ensuring all have opportunity, living and dead. Also their belief that it among the commandments to make upon earth conditions as described in the scriptures. Although I'm not yet inclined to embrace all the scriptures they are using, preferring still bible as scriptural basis by which to begin to build foundations, and baptisms for the dead is but one verse in the New Testament referencing a practice done at that time in history, I am inclined to think about adopting the ritual in support of the fact that it is considered a sacred rite to LDS membership. Having now learned that the performance characteristics of this ritual are safe and do not include touching of the body beyond a laying on of hands on the head, that element is out of the way. Still a barrier and in the way - the issue of tithing equates to whether one can or cannot enter temple. Right now it is my thought that this church is putting up barriers that will impede my progression, something the leadership and membership desire for me, yet it seems I will need to pay my way to that progression.

 ....................... Sidebar, and in observing one bit of information, leads me to relating more of my (our) faith journey. Skip this part if you aren't interested in reading through 4-5 paragraphs, and I may well have related some part of our journey in previous blog postings.

 Interestingly, side note, there is an Occupy London (OWS) gathering at the St Paul Cathedral in London, Anglican (Episcopal) Church of England, which has been sourced as reason for two high ranking clergy stepping down from their positions in support of not banning the Occupiers from camping out at St Pauls. What has this to do with my blog subject? Just my observant following of the Occupy movement and my affiliation with the Episcopal church. I'm a bit of a dual citizenship Christian in that regard, actually more than dual citizenship but for now I'll reference just the two faith citizenships, Episcopal and LDS.

 I was baptized in Methodist church when I was a baby. In my young teen years I attended a neighborhood church when we lived in the South - probably a Baptist church and the minister called people to come down, and in the feeling of the moment, I went down which led the minister to herd me immediately into baptism - something I wasn't fully ready for, more was in touch with the feeling than knowledgeable about the practices or beliefs. Once again, as a young adult, via home lessons from the Jehovah's Witnesses, I began attending that church, was once again herded into baptism. By then I had our firstborn child and was looking for a spiritual home in which to raise her. That lasted two years, and I credit myself for a bit of perseverance in wanting good for my child, yet finding something not quite in line with what I was looking for, I left that church within two years. late into our adult years, after my divorce and marriage to my current husband, we were confirmed in the Episcopal church (church of my mother's formative years) where we found a church home where we felt welcome, wanted and needed. In time we came to see that the members were older and looking for younger energy to continue the offices of the church, which put us in the path of studies towards being licensed lay preachers, and further down the road unpaid Priests.

 The invasion into Iraq put us on a different footing, with a stronger discernment of ministry in activism to end the Iraq war, a call to Peace. With a military background and both of us having experienced some aspect of the earlier Vietnam war, we spoke as a military family and veteran calling for the troops to be brought home, the Iraq war brought to a close. This necessitated conflicting schedules with our functions at the church on Sundays and our public activism engagements. We advised the membership, spent years between 2004 and 2008 in intense activism efforts. Returning to our home church no longer quite felt like home to us. Years had passed with our country in turmoil, and we found it difficult to settle back into a quiet Sunday worship service routine as the expression of our spirituality, beliefs and recent activism energies.

 We had opportunity to visit a Lutheran worship service, as the Episcopals and Lutherans are in communion. It was not a lot different than Episcopal service and I loved the church building, a quaint building of Norwegian styled architecture. Lutherans have a quite extensive and somewhat impressive social services outreach. Thought it might be a bit too much though, husband still doing social work in his profession, and adding more social work outreach in his leisure hours after the years of intense activism might be a bit of overload. I chose instead to spend some time on the Boards of local non-profits, one that was being smeared badly and unfortunately given their history of good work in the community, and the other a church start-up food bank for local town. As it turns out on the Board of the food bank start up was the same individual who participated in badly smearing the other organization. I remained on both Boards until the inevitable demise of one organization had reached completion, in the hopes I might bring something to the table that would aid in turning it around. Not to be. In the diminished need of the existence of one board, I no longer felt comfortable being on the other board, taking my leave and still wanting for their endeavor to be a successful one.

 A few more years passed, we visited a church in our immediate community, good people, and perhaps a bit of the Evangelical coloring making it somewhat uncomfortable for us. By the time of the year 2010, we felt calmed enough to visit other of the local churches, still seeking a church home for our later years. We agreed we would visit the local denomination churches one by one, and some of the further distance churches based on what was attractive to us in their belief sets and practices, ie Quakers, Unity Church which we had enjoyed in our visit to congregation in Vancouver, WA. We started with a visit to my husband's church, local Mormon church in the area. I was impressed enough with the talks to believe I could make my personal spirituality work within context of this church, his church and I yearned for him to find some place of inner peace with his cultural heritage and identity vs the doctrines the church impressed upon him. I rather knew giving a thumbs up and announcing desire to proceed to baptism would generate the baptism preparedness activity which I by then knew every church denomination seems intent on insisting, thinking we could get it done and out of the way rather than the cat and mouse dance of being convinced to agree to baptism. I had years of life with my husband, exposure to his perception of Mormon beliefs and practices, and felt ready to make this dive for where it might take us. end sidebar............................

  Sunday talks at Sacrament Meeting. Conversion or Convert as a process and not an event. Speaker, a long time member of the church, and also holding an academic and skilled profession as an administrator of school system, spoke of being converted in some areas while still waiting for conversion in other areas. A relief to me to hear. The 'process' of conversion as a process as in over years, maybe decades, maybe a lifetime. Shares the out take from the parable of the wage earners with the late arrivals being paid the same amount as the all day workers. He used just a few sentences, it was a part of his talk, not the subject of his talk. Loved how he gave the parable a green light and ended that part of his talk as the end of his talk with those familiar phrase to 'get over it'. Gives me another sense of relief, that I have a place at this table even if I have arrived late to the party. Bishop talk, and he wrapped his talk up with the phrase to 'suck it up'. Another familiar phrase to me.

  Sunday School - Gospel Doctrine I just can't get into the teacher's teaching style. Asks the open ended questions and seems to me with an expectation of 'correct' responses, not shared thoughts of many. It feels to me like he is wanting people to read his mind as to what the correct response is, or at least based on my feeling/reaction when I do share a response which it feels like he pretty much writes off. I was resolved to provide no response at all, not to let my spontaneity overcome my resolve. I was successful. Bishop fulfilled his promise to sit with me, and again encourages me to share and respond. I'm thinking about this often. Knowing I bring different perspective since I've been exposed to different disciplines, I am coming to understand though, this is not about discussion, dialogue or sharing. It's pretty much rote, routine responses, even if the teacher has worked hard in preparing the lesson. Maybe it's his personal perspective that he brings to the lesson and since he and I would likely not see eye to eye on many of the New Testament readings, because he is in the role of 'teacher' it changes the dynamic as perhaps would not be in a private conversational exchange. Leaving this one as perplexing to me for now, likely will return to it from time to time in this blog. I am not doing well with the Sunday School class, nor the teachers called to teach it. Or at least that is my feeling about it, although I have not had any members call me out on it.

  Joint Priesthood and Relief Society Meeting (men and women meeting together) Four Talks - every one of them about Tithing (capital T intentional). Lay it off to it's that time of year, with tithing settlements sessions with Bishop coming up or can't help but feel like because I did bring the issue up with the Bishop in Bishop interview last week, it brings the topic back to the forefront. One of our newest members (moved here from another Ward) pointed out the distinction of 10% of income or 10% of increase and don't other contributions as strength, time, talents, gifts count as increase. That was not dismissed as not having merit, but given that all the other talks were firm on the 10% of income, I didn't get the impression that the point of increase was considered to be the correct application. Discussions with husband and he assures me that talk is not aimed at me (us) specifically and there are others in the Ward membership who are not paying tithing regularly or fully or at all.

  Community of Christ church meeting We had bumped into website for Community of Christ Church earlier in the week, and read through the website for several hours. It appears that while they are the product of Joseph Smith teachings that did not make the trek to Utah under Brigham Young leadership, remaining instead in East Coast states, the formation of the religions have quite different beliefs. Listening to Mormon Stories podcast; John Hamer, The LDS Succession Crisis of 1844 and the Beginning of RLDS (Community of Christ) we got a feel for the formation and beliefs of the Community of Christ church. Interestingly, when we lived on Samish Island in Skagit County, there was one road in and an RLDS sign was posted showing direction to what we presume was an RLDS campsite. As it turns out, that is correct, it is one of the Community of Christ campsites. I recall at the time, not knowing the difference between Fundamentalist LDS with polygamy, I had mistakenly thought RLDS to be that, and was always put off by seeing that sign, thinking it pointed direction to a polygamous compound. I was wrong about my perceptions, confused about the acronymns. RLDS means Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a name they changed to Community of Christ in 2001 more in keeping with original name of the Joseph Smith church - Church of Christ. Community of Christ church follows the Revised Common Lectionary with the liturgical years A,B, C. Familiar theme via our confirmation and activity with the Episcopal Church. Core message of the Community of Christ church is Peace. From the website, it certainly appeared that the hybrid blend of Mormon/Protestant beliefs might be a better fit for us, we contacted a congregation closest to us and were invited to come.

 We drove the hour drive and met with the people of that particular congregation, very small, newly forming and sharing church building with Methodist church in that particular neighborhood, diaconal Minister (meaning unpaid minister). The people were pleasant, warm, welcoming and inviting enough, sharing their meal with us, followed by their service. We tried to bring to the sharing some of our positive LDS experiences, yet I didn't get the sense there was familiarity to them of LDS community. It was, not as I might have thought, LDS Light, but seemed more of a start up congregation of what could easily have been any Protestant faith, or for that matter, a community non-profit reach out group. Were this what we were looking for, we can find it much closer to home, and we have found it in many of our church and community affiliations. Since they are a quite small group, their focus is on their immediate community needs, ie, holiday baskets, adopt a family, clothing and food drives, helping with holiday community dinner. Bless them and wishing them well in their endeavors, it is not quite what we were thinking it would be and if anything rather validated that I am more pleased than I realize with the LDS church and Ward we attend.
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