Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Religions: What's in a denomination anyway?

After about 10 years of secretly loving the Episcopal church, I finally started going to one regularly and officially, and I became an official card-carrying Episcopalian on May 29.  This is a decision that I did not make lightly and I feel strongly that it is something that was brewing in me for some time.

I knew that the biggest "problem" I would encounter through my change of denomination from Roman Catholicism to Episcopalianism (is that a word? Episcopality?...) would be my mother's feelings on the matter.  She is extremely devoutly Catholic, and even went so far as to threaten not to pay for any of my college if I didn't get confirmed in the RC Church. (I got confirmed and still resent it.)  When I wrote to her about my change in denomination, I didn't expect to hear from her for some time.  I heard from her within the day and she was actually very courteous about it.  She has been pretty good about it except for the time my aunt came up from down South and she and Mom had an extensive bitch session about it.  She also had some pretty impatient tone of voice at the end of the liturgy in which I was received when she asked my husband what to call a female priest.  My husband, a devout atheist, was taken aback by her tone and the wording of her question: "Well, what am I supposed to call HER?"

I think that some of the reason my mother is annoyed with me changing denominations is because she has become deeply ensconced in the intricacies of the Roman Catholic liturgy.  She's even officially a "liturgist," who knows literally every in and out of how a mass is supposed to be conducted.  Because she is so entrenched in the details of every. little. thing involved with the Roman Catholic denomination, I'm afraid she doesn't see the larger picture about how the Episcopal Church is actually quite similar, with a few different policies that I find entirely reasonable and desirable (hence my "conversion").  I mentioned this to my husband -- that she was too mired in the details -- and he said, "well, aren't you getting that way?"

 I told him that I hoped not.  I do sincerely hope not.  I believe that religion should be and is something that is more about your relationship with a God, whoever you perceive Him/Her/It to be, and that by following the dictates of said God, you are making a positive impact on the world, for both yourself and for others.  (That "don't hurt anyone" is also in there with the positive impact thing.)  I acknowledge and respect different faiths; in fact, I applaud people who invite me to their services, and I genuinely want to be invited to more, no matter what religion.  It doesn't have to be Christianity.

I chose to be Episcopalian because I grew up with a love for the liturgy, ritual, and reverence of the Roman Catholic Church, but I simply could not reconcile the idea that women and married persons could not become priests.  I worship and pray and meditate in a paradigm that is comfortable for me and makes me feel closest to God.  I know my paradigm is different from others' paradigms.  The point is, I feel that if you are holding reverence for the force of Love that flows between all beings and work toward peace and goodness toward each other, I think you are following the correct kind of religion for yourself -- as long as you are comfortable enough in the environment to really examine your heart and soul and how you are working to make this world better for everyone, even the marginalized and oppressed.

This means: I don't care if you're Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian (in any form!), or any other religion I can think of.  I don't care if you are agnostic or atheist.  I know that if you are working toward good in the world, you are doing the right thing, and your particular form of clearing out your brain-tangles is correct for you.