Sharing Your Faith Comfortably With Strangers
By Nick P.
Joining a new church is never easy, and especially more so when you go from one faith denomination to another.
In my case, going from being immersed in the Catholic tradition, where Mass is the center point of all activity in the church, to a Methodist tradition where worship service is great, but it’s not the only thing that you are doing. You are also involved in Sunday School, not something just reserved for children.
This is my story right now.
Even more so is the difference from being highly active in the Catholic Church, not just at the parish level, which is where most people are when they are active, but at the Diocesan level, which means the body that oversees all the Catholic Churches within the area.
For example, in the Catholic Church, we have Diocese and Archdiocese, which are basically the same thing, only one has a fancier title than the other.
In either case, the head of the Diocese (or Archdiocese for those who insist that it be called that) is the Bishop (or Archbishop for those who oversee those Archdiocese).
I was very blessed to be part of the Second Synod of the Diocese of Reno, and represent my parish, but more so represent the parishioners and people of Reno for the Catholic Church. Even those who were not part of the Catholic Church, I prayed for and thought of ways to help with inclusion to either bring them back to church, or to get them into church in the first place, which is what our mission is as Christians.
This is the background of what I was doing and being when I lived in Reno, and part of the larger picture of what the Catholic Church is. It was good, and I felt very much immersed and involved in the doings of the church. I feel that I was on a track to doing something really big with the church, but I also know that God’s will may not have been that for me.
Enter into me meeting my now wife, and us deciding to get married. We knew that meant that one of us was going to move, and since it was easier for me to move from Reno to San Antonio than the other way around, that’s what we did.
It also meant that I would leave my church home, my family, and so many things that I cannot think of to mention here, but I was still okay with that.
Little did I know that it would cause me some serious struggles with my faith, and also that just because I was a Catholic did not mean that I would be welcomed into the Catholic Church here.
Moving Into New Waters
So I move, and I am introduced to so many people within my wife’s church, who happens to be Methodist, and am felt so welcomed. It’s amazing that when I actually compare the church home I had in Reno to the church I was introduced to here in San Antonio, that the sense of welcoming was about the same.
And yet, as welcoming as it was, for me it was not a Catholic Church. I felt, stubbornly I admit, that I HAD TO GO TO A CATHOLIC CHURCH.
So I did.
And felt lukewarm about it.
So after a few visits at that one church, I went to another.
And felt lukewarm about that one, too.
And so after a few visits to five or six Catholic churches, it became obvious that perhaps that was not where God wanted me to be. I already knew what I was going to get from the Catholic church, and I knew that I could do those things easily within the context of the church.
The challenge I feel that God called me to on this was, can you put aside your pride and just be immersed in the faith community that welcomed me with open arms.
I also feel that my pride got in the way because I was ‘Wendy’s husband’.
You see, when I was in Reno, I was Nick, and I had my own identity. I felt called to do many things, so because of the visibility, I was recognized. I didn’t do it for the notoriety or the recognition, but would use that to my advantage when it came to recruiting others to help do things within the church.
So coming here, I had no identity. Not saying that I can’t or won’t be able to create my own identity. In fact, I believe that because I stopped resisting what God intended for me, that I am now making friends and enjoying the fellowship even more with those who were strangers just weeks before.
Which leads me to the point.
We are not called to be comfortable. God doesn’t want us to be comfortable. God wants us to be right on the edge of uncomfort, to expand our abilities and also our willingness to accept those things He puts in our path.
Including sharing things about your life that you may not be comfortable sharing with friends, but are called to share with strangers.
So, sharing with strangers needs to be something you get comfortable with. It’s not something that you WILL be comfortable with, but know that as you share your story, your struggles, your joys and your concerns, that you will find that there is a strength that comes from sharing all of those with those ‘strangers’. For as you share, and show how vulnerable you are willing to be, there is an acceptance that happens on the part of the collective group you are sharing with.
So today, as I shared my story of my struggles from moving from Reno to San Antonio with what were only two to three weeks ago a room full of strangers, I felt something I had not felt since May of this past year.
A sense of belonging to a group that meant something. And within that group, we found that digging deep into our souls and finding answers is where we need to be. Allowing our eyes to truly be open, to have ears that hear all that we are meant to hear, and allow our mouths to speak what needs to be said, that’s where we are and exactly where we should be.
Nothing like coming home again, for the first time.
Only this time, I feel even deeper because these are like minded people. They get me, they didn’t question my past (not that it was questioned before), but instead accepted, welcomed, and made me feel included.
What struggles are you going through in your life that have you faith challenged? Are you challenged because you are resisting what God is truly calling you to do, or are you challenged because you feel that you are not where you need to be?
For me, it was holding on to that Catholic card like it was some sort of talisman that would ward off Protestantism. In the end, holding onto that card was preventing me from growing, and from finding a faith community that allowed me to really be me. Not saying that I am a Methodist, or any other ‘ist’ for that matter.
Which is all we are called to be. Anything more than that complicates what really is a simple thing.
Being a Child of God.