Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Why I UCC

As much as I like to joke about the churches in my area labeling me a “sinner” and refusing to marry me because The Man and I have been living, well, in sin – It’s mostly a cover-up.

“Ooh, those Baptists!” I say as we drive by. “Too good to let sinners like us in their church!”

I stick my tongue out at the beautiful Swedish Lutheran church on the lake between my mom’s and my house. Because they never even bothered to answer me when I inquired about their “strongly request” statement.

And I do it all with a smile on my face. “Haha, just kidding!” I say.

But really – I’m not kidding. I’m angry with them. I’m angry that they took it upon themselves to judge me – not knowing a damn thing about me, except that I live with my fiancé. I’m angry that they made me feel like I was less of a person because of the life I’ve chosen.

I want to ask them, “What would make a better Christian? Someone who took on two children to raise as her own – with no legal binds, no monetary supplement, no promise of any future. Or someone who passed up that opportunity because doing so would require that I live with them and that just doesn’t fit what you call ‘God’s Plan.’”

I have fought the urge to call them up and ask just why they still felt that be so necessary. Why they feel the need to make ME feel like I am just trash.

I had the opportunity to say something Wednesday. See, someone from the office of the Swedish Lutheran church responded to my membership inquiry asking if someone had gotten back to me yet.

Some of you know that my tongue can be awfully sharp. I don’t always think about things before I say – or type (and send) – them.

I wrote what I felt and then edited it to make it a little more appropriate. I was polite and expressed my thanks for getting back to me.

But I left in one line that was not friendly, but also not spiteful like I tend to be – It was just honest.

I have started driving to my old church in _____ and plan to have the wedding there now. Location means nothing when acceptance is the real issue.

That was immediately returned with a rush of apologies.

I'm so sorry that you didn't receive a response to that inquiry. I have not heard that this church has a policy regarding living together before marriage, and doubt that would be an issue regarding your upcoming marriage. We (the church) are in the midst of a search for a pastor (Pastor M is our interim pastor) and expected to call a new pastor in October. Pastor M may have assumed he would not be the pastor who would be here when you plan to marry. I sincerely hope you will attend a service here. The members of this church are friendly and caring. Pastor M is a wonderful minister. Please let me know if I can help you in any way. And thanks for the quick response! Since I have your address, I will send you our October newsletter.

That was nice. It was nice that she reached out to me. It doesn’t give me back the night I spent crying in bed feeling like trash because yet another church deemed me ‘inappropriate.’ And it’s too late to change my plans now. But still, it helped me feel better.

Then, shortly after, I got an email from Pastor M. titled, “sorry for the misscommunication![sic]” Among his apologies for the “lost” email and an explanation of his interim duties was something that angered me again:

The only policies Spring Lake have concerning marriages are in the info I sent you. There is no policy concerning couples living together.

Because I am neurotic and save EVERYTHING, allow me to pull the fourth paragraph out of the file he is talking about…the one called “Wedding Policies:”

Our congregation prays that you will be happily married "as long as you both shall live." We hope that you treat each other as gifts from God. We also hope that you will hold off in some things until your marriage date. Our congregation strongly requests that couples refrain from living together and from fully expressing their God‑given gift of sexuality until that time. It is worth the wait!

Since he IS the interim Pastor, there is a good possibility that he didn’t write the policies. There is a good chance he’s never even really read them. And there is an even better chance that he never saw the email in the first place. I appreciate and accept the apologies. I will let it go and might even stop in for a service.

But I learned something through this misunderstanding. See, when the Baptists wouldn’t marry us, I wasn’t that upset (not until it became a pattern, anyway). The Man had told me they were a pretty strict bunch. But I was raised Lutheran and had never in my life been harshly judged by one. They not only left me feeling like trash for the decisions I’ve made – they left me questioning where I even belong as a Christian.

I once again found myself in the embrace of the United Church of Christ. The church that was there for my single mom when she needed them. Who provided an apartment for our family while they had people working on our house. The church that provided - with no fees - the pastor who baptized my daughter and then the sanctuary in which we held her funeral.

Even though the Lutherans weren’t being as judgemental as I had thought, I never even had to question it with the UCC church. It never even crossed my mind that I wouldn’t be welcome there.

It was kind of like home to me.

12 comments:

Worker Mommy said...

UCC seems to embody all that you need/are looking for
Sure the response from the Lutheran Church was nice but really they should have responded that way initially. Rather than responding that way after a complaint.
I'm glad you found a place that will welcome you and not judge you.

Melissavina said...

You know, this is something I've been struggling with for a very long time. It seems that The Church is dying to bring in new people, to reach out and care for those who aren't typically in the pews each Sunday morning. What better way to "love" your community than to be instrumental in setting up a couples marriage? It seems so backward that pastors require a specific lifestyle before they will bless a couples future together. Having come from a lifetime of churchgoing, christian college graduating, presbyterian membership, and church employment... to bartending full time I have seen both sides. I have to say, sadly, that this side of things feels better sometimes.

On the other hand, many of my friends are in ministry at churches and after conversations agree that it is a fantastic way to show God's love when you agree to bring a couple into marriage as a pastor, and be an instrument of faith to them.

So, I agree... I'd be pissed too. A long time ago I found a website with pastors in a registry who agree to marry non-christians, and sinners like you... and me. I thought that was cool. It restored a bit of my own faith.

Ghost Dansing said...

i like the ucc too

Kelly said...

When I got married, 4 million years ago, I went to the Lutheran church that I had grown up in and where I knew everyone (the secretary had asked me how school was going and how my parents were when I walked in). I lived in another town as I was still in college, and the pastor responded to my request in using the church for my wedding, "Well we really like to reserve the church for active members only." I was so taken aback.

When I told my Grandpa, a Lutheran pastor, what he had said to me he was livid at the pastor's short sidedness (most young people leave and then come back when their babies arrive). But then he said, sometimes people forget these pastors are only men, and perhaps he wasn't the best of men. Come to find out later...he, the pastor who rejected us, was just a few weeks from a nervous breakdown (mental institution type of breakdown) when he spoke to us.

Anyway, don't know really the point of this comment. I guess it's just an "I feel your pain" type of one. So, ummmm, I feel you pain.

Carla said...

I am so sorry. You are not trash. or trashy.
I hate to admit this now. I lived with my husband before we were married. I knew it was wrong. He knew it was wrong. Our pastor knew it was wrong.(In God's eyes)It was financial blah blah blah. Our pastor hemmed and hawed and suggested it really wasn't the best plan BUT he still married us. Pat and I both feel it was a mistake to live together but we did so that's that.
UCC is pretty liberal right? I mean I grew up Lutheran too actually I am a recovering Lutheran. I just don't feel comfortable in "anything goes" kind of churches. Maybe I don't know enough and it's late and I'm rambling...should email ya instead!!
I am sorry you have been treated so rudely and that you have been made to feel like trash.

MommasWorld said...

It amazes me how un-Christian people can be..even IN church. I am sorry someone from a church made you feel that way. It is just not right. Not right at all!

Every area is different as far as I can tell. I was treated so lovingly by all in the Baptist (Southern)churches we went to over the years. Catholic churches were not so happy to see me so I left. Divorce = you help hand out donuts after Mass but don't you dare come into regular Mass.

My parents picked out a UCC after all of our Military moving was over. In retrospect I think I might have prefered being Donut Lady over the way the other youth acted in church at UCC. They were vicious and consistant in their hate of most everyone who was not in their click. I do have to say the Rev. and the adults were very nice.

Happy to know you do have a church for your wedding and a really nice one at that :-)

exskindiver said...

"Location means nothing when acceptance is the real issue."

This very deep, Amy.
I actually sat and pondered that line.

It does not matter where you are,
what you have or what you appear to be...what matters is the peace in your heart and mind--peace that can only be attained when there is self-acceptance.

now, back to your post:

glad you have a church! go UCC!

Canadian flake said...

I have encountered the same problem..I have faith and believe in GOD but because I was not raised as a church-goer and haven't attended much, I was shunned when trying to find a place to get married. We live in a new town and still feel unwelcome. To make things better, our part of the province no longer offers Justice of the Peace services for marriages. So we will live in sin forever I guess...we are married in our hearts and that is more important to us. God knows what is in our heart.

Shauna Loves Chocolate said...

I'm a UCC member. Love it. It's perfect for me and my family.

Miss Kate said...

The extreme irony is this: I can almost guarantee that particular parish is not brining in new members. Really? There's the big white church down the road to compete with. Why shun?

I become a member of Central Lutheran in Mpls next weekend. You know who I met in my first new member's class? A gay couple. Who head the new member commitee.

Talk about a dichotomy within one demonination.

Spring Lake might want to step back for a moment and reevaluate what it means to be a Christian and leave the judgement for God himself.

Good for you. I am so proud of you for speaking up. NO ONE deserves to determine your value as a Christian.

Brillig said...

I've gone over this post a thousand times in my head. I have a thousand things I'd love to talk about with you sometime, and this doesn't seem like an appropriate forum, nor have you asked my opinion. :-D Haha.

But it boils down to this. Christ would not have made you feel like trash. He would have loved you, held you, wiped your tears, and shown you a better way. That doesn't mean that he would condone sins, or pat you on the back and say that you're doing just fine. No, he wouldn't do that. He was always encouraging us to do better, to find a better way. But he would have made you feel SO. LOVED.

How can someone truly call themselves a Christian without manifesting His love?

Cherann said...

Churches are so hypocritical and judgemental that sometimes you should just take what they say with a grain of salt.

I'm catholic and I lived with the Breadwinner before we got married. We didn't get married in church so in the eyes of the catholic church...I'm not really married. Bizarre, I know.