Overcoming disappointments with the church—readers' suggestions

Last month's question, How have you been disappointed by the church and how have you dealt with it, has elicited more responses than any other recent Times article. We'll look at the first four this month. The first response was in the form of a lengthy parable about the founding of San Jose's First Baptist Church. I wasn't quite sure how it related to the topic at hand, however.

The second mail response vanished between the office, where I saw it and thought I picked it up, and home, where I planned to read it. My apologies to the writer; if you have a copy or computer file of the original, I'd greatly appreciate another chance.

Church on the Way

The first electronic mail message was: "I like your article in the Times (Jan.). Church on the Way in L.A. is also very famous. I wonder why you prefer Crystal Cathedral to COtW. Any specific reasons?" Briefly, I like Church on the Way's pastor, Jack Hayford, very much, and have visited the church. However, my personal tastes and style are best served by the Presbyterian-Reformed faith; I'm a little uncomfortable in the presence of Pentecostals. On my visit to COtW, for example, I had to hold hands with several strangers and pray—there's nothing wrong with that, but it's not me.

Finally, I received this:

"Having just read your well-written article in the Times, I'd like to give you my thoughts and story. "I was born Jewish, asked at age 10 about Jesus in Hebrew class and was told never to ask again; began searching for `something' in college, became a Christian by faith and Presbyterian by religion in the '70's, and still didn't have the answer.

Holy Spirit Church

"My search continued through all the Protestant religions—for 20 years—and through grace, ended at the Easter vigil last April when I was baptized, confirmed, and received eucharist at Holy Spirit Catholic Church.

"If you want to stop tossing in bed, please `come and see' at Holy Spirit. You will find everything contained in your article, and more."

God bless you for your generosity of spirit. I have attended Catholic services numerous times (most recently a number of times at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco), and have felt real unity with the other worshippers, and that I was participating in real worship (in contrast to my few childhood experiences at Catholic services with relatives, when I felt like an alien).

And I certainly don't question the validity of your experience, but I think that I'm even less likely to find a permanent spiritual home in the Catholic Church than in Pentecostalism (Church on the Way). One of the foundations of my belief system is the priesthood of all believers, for starters, and although I realize there's a way of rationalizing that with Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox priesthoods, I think the reformed interpretation of it is more biblically consistent.

My "tossing in bed" was not because of uncertainty about my faith, but about my failure to "plug in" to a fellowship of believers here in the San Jose area with which I feel real familial connection.

More next time. The forum is still open; if others would like to answer, we'll be glad to consider adding them to the discussion.

Published Feb. 1994.

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© 1994, 1995 Jon Kennedy