Well, I did it, I went to church, cowboy boots and all. The only thing that took some courage was going into church and leaving church. Otherwise I sat in the back and stood up at intervals with the rest of the congregation. From what I can recall, each Sunday people receive Communion (though I did not) but this service was longer than usual because several young people were being baptized. I had never seen a baptism (full immersion) so I found the process curious and simple at the same time. The atmosphere was somewhat casual (some people were wearing jeans) and comfortable. The minister began the service with a call for adults to "put away childish things" and go out and help others and she restated that idea several times during the rest of the service. I found this particularly pertinent to me, this idea that really growing up meant changing from self-centered to other-centered. The actual sermon was not very long, something about one of St. Paul's letters but I didn't absorb much of it. The congregation sang three hymns which I must say were dull, but the people all seemed nice, not at all putting on airs.
It shouldn't have surprised me but there was a lot of talk of the Trinity which I don't believe in mainly because I don't think of Jesus as divine. So I felt at a loss and once again felt that I was not a Christian. I realized that I didn't believe in Communion or Baptism or the Trinity, though I could understand why most of the people there did. I saw these sacraments as rites of passage for this particular community, a way of bonding with other people and their own sense of spirituality. What I find odd is that there was more emphasis on Jesus than on God and more emphasis on the sacraments than on the sermon. Though in all fairness the minister probably had to make her sermon short this time due to the baptisms. Still, all in all, while I thought the whole deal was comfortable and kindly done, I was not inspired. Perhaps that will come if I continue to go each Sunday. As I left a woman recognized me and smiled. She was the director of the library that I spoke to a couple of days earlier.
I did find some useful information on the back of the hand-out: the church's web address and the minister's email address. When I got home I went online and checked out their web site. I found a couple of fairly local volunteer groups that I'm considering joining. One is organized by a nationwide group called Faith In Action. Volunteers help people with Alzheimers, mental illness, the frail and elderly, the physically disabled, etc... by helping them to pay their bills, go shopping, do chores, transport them to doctor's appointments, make meals, do housekeeping or just spend some time in a friendly visit. Several years ago, when I was still too ill, I worked as a volunteer driving elderly people to doctor's appointments, so I'm familiar with that service. I'm particularly interested in meeting other people with mental illness as I know noone like that and I could be helpful to them, maybe even make some friendships. But first I'm going to see how I handle the library work in the next couple of weeks. If I can do that successfully, I might be able to take more on.
I hate to say it but going to church depressed me. On the one hand I felt good about doing what so many others do but on the other hand I continued to feel like an outsider. It made me wish that there was a Buddhist temple to go to instead. I guess for now I'm stuck between religions. I will most likely continue to believe in a Higher Power but may never actually commit to one religion or another. I'll have to see. But I did notice that before church service there is a Bible study for adults and that might be worthwhile to go to. It may be easier to join the community if I'm part of a class, but I have the feeling that I'll want to rock the boat through questioning and challenging, that is if I find the courage. I might send the minister an email describing my situation and beliefs and see what she has to say. I have to come to terms with the fact that I live in a small, rural community and that I can't pick and choose, instead I have to work with what's here.
Well, that's it for today. A good online friend sent me a book by Karen Armstrong called The Battle For God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam which I'm just beginning to read. Thank you, it's a perfect gift because even if I'm not a member of any religion I still have a deep interest in understanding religion and how it motivates us. I am especially interested in understanding fundamentalism as it is affecting our world right now so much. So I'm off to read...
A Recovery Blog
This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.