GOING TO CHURCH…MY EARLY YEARS (By Patrick Burk)
Sometimes it makes me wonder if an opportunity can be put it in the blessing category. My most recent situation is the inclusion on this blog. One really does not know what the effect and outcome will be after all. It is sure to anger some and enlighten others and of course they are sure to let me know. My reasons for inclusion are quite clear. I just happen to think a lot of Paul Peterson… he is a learned individual that I have the privilege to call my friend. Now, we do not always think alike, but one thing that we have agreed on is a simple basic question, “Why do some people go to church and others won’t?”
Well that is a loaded question. I am NOT a church person. I attend for special events, weddings, baptisms and the like, but I do not belong nor do I practice any one prescribed faith. I consider myself quite spiritual, but for some reason, there is not a church or faith that does it all for me. I have “shopped” for faith. I have looked at different religious philosophies and have tried to see if I can swear to it all. I have even made sure that I have read up on the faith of friends. In the era that I was raised, we were Catholic. Catholic schools for my siblings, Catholic Mass at least once a week and Catholic “Holy Days of Obligation”….the last did not really excite me. I thought it was obligatory to be holy every day. I did not quite get the message. I also did not believe in the magic of Sunday. I thought it would be cool if we rotated days that we went to church, I even went to different churches. During my High School Years I could sing at the Second Baptist Church at 8:30AM, sing at St. Columba’s Catholic Church at 10AM and go up the street to the 1st Presbyterian Church at 11:30AM. Three churches, three choirs, three robes and all on ONE Sunday.
During that period, many questions popped up in my head. I was trying to find out where I was the most connected. Did I like the inclusion of the old spirituals at the Baptist Church or the majesty of the Catholic Mass or the simple structure of the Presbyterians? The Free Methodists were involved in the freedom of slaves and abolition in their early days, I was a devout civil rights believer so that was of special interest to me. Did I believe that I may be closer to obtaining heaven, you know paving more points of access to heaven just in case one religion was more important than the other in the eyes of God? I also remember family members telling me that I was in violation of the Catholic Church for going into another faith’s church building. The premise here was that only Catholic Churches housed God? For all those other faiths it must have been such a waste of bricks, mortar and lumber, did they realize their waste? But I digress. I realized that the buildings and the “houses of worship” did not matter.
It soon became apparent with the help of a kindly neighbor what my beliefs truly reflected. He was an elderly man that lived down the street and I asked him if he went to church. For a kid at the time it seemed like the wrong question….he had a very long answer. He told me that the trees outside his house were his church. He found it tedious to be in one faith, one belief system and one building. He liked praying outside. He liked seeing the creations of God not the buildings that were created to impress or inspire. He also felt that God was closer somehow in the “temple of trees” he created.
This was a wonderful realization. I found that I could not find the answer in one church building that represented one faith, or in one doctrine. I did know that what God created was at once more important than any Cathedral or white washed country church ever could be. I also knew that the universe would not nor could not dictate to me what to believe. I had to find my own temple of trees.
NEXT TIME – Why are some people not included????
5 thoughts on “A different perspective on church (Part 1)”
It’s Rocky. You’ve dropped off the face of the earth. Let me hear from.
Patrick—Thanks for a great perspective.
Thanks for sharing about your journey. I too happen to think a lot about Paul. We have a different perspective than you, but are totally willing to dialogue with you.
I am confused about one thing though. How do you balance taking the advice of a kindly elderly neighbor on church going (when he doesn’t attend) over the advice of a kindly younger friend who knows quite a little bit about church going (he is planning to start one)?
I appreciate your search for truth and your acceptance of such an opportunity as sharing your personal thoughts on religion. I trust that God has brought you to this point and this sphere of influence to draw you to Himself. I hope that the continued dialogue will in fact bring you satisfaction of the craving in your heart — connection in a personal, intimate way to the Almighty God. I think Paul and this online community can help.
I had a similar upbringing of taking bits and pieces from different “religions”. I grew up inconsistently attending a United Methodist church, did all the rituals, performed in all the Christmas plays, and was part of the “perfect family”—in reality it was all for show. I was surrounded by Masonic symbols, rituals, traditions, etc, and in college while taking a World Religions class, I actually wrote a paper titled, “Would you become a Buddhist: Why or why not?”—and although I never made the choice outside of the writing, my answer leaned toward ‘yes’ because there were some very positive aspects/concepts.
I am now a Christian, Christ-follower, believer in who Jesus was/is and that the Bible is God’s word and the truth. There are too many reasons in this space, but my personal encounters of feeling His presence, sensing His guidance, hearing His voice and direction—all when I was not even seeking—then following and experiencing it all even more can not even begin to be put into words. He has taken a broken, abused, suicidal, addicted, depressed, and whatever else individual and brought healing and life change that I know cannot be anything less than the work of His hands.
THAT does not come from “religion”…