Seven years ago, I was a devout Catholic. I had been raised Catholic by parents who didn't actually believe in God or Catholicism, and by the time I finished high school I didn't believe either. But then, years later at a difficult time in my life, a friend invited me to attend a local Catholic church with her, and it felt like coming home. I was more comfortable there than I had been anywhere else I had tried to go. I still disagreed with all the things I had always disagreed with, but I loved the liturgy. And this was a special church. They were extremely active for social justice, building clinics and schools in Haiti, for instance, and volunteers baked the bread for communion themselves. They served real wine to everyone. I gradually came to know God's presence in my life there.
But then, as always, things changed. I was married in that church but my husband wouldn't attend. He had never been Catholic and didn't like Catholic worship at all. Once, when I happened to mention how much I admired Quakers he said, "Oh, if you were a Quaker I would do that with you." We had two boys and then the oldest was diagnosed, at 2, with autism. The sex abuse scandals were breaking and the church was responding the way it always has to criticism--badly--and the church nursery was loud and big and seemed unable to care for my son.
I made the decision on the Feast of Corpus Christi. I sang in the choir by then, but the choir gets to sit down and pray during the silence after communion, near the end of the Mass. I felt great sadness and confusion about leaving. Not only did I love the church I attended, I had made promises at my wedding and my children's baptisms to continue to be faithful to it. Would God ask me to break those promises? On the other hand, my husband's promise had weighed on me for more than a year. The pressure within to try out the local Friends Meeting just seemed to grow.
I sat in the silence asking for guidance, and then I waited. Images of the Passover came into my mind. I found myself thinking that God doesn't ask us to find some place to be comfortable in our religious practice. We're asked to live with our sandals on our feet, our staff in our hands, ready to move when the call comes to move. I began to feel a sense of clearness. Then the Pastor stood up and said in his passionate way, "Brothers and Sisters! God does not call us to be pew warmers! God asks us to live like the ancient Israelites in Egypt, with our sandals on our feet, our staff in our hands. We have to move when God says to move!" He was inviting the congregation to participate in a processional, following the body of Christ, which is traditional on this feast day. But I knew that I had received confirmation for myself, as well.
I have been slow to consider myself a convinced Friend. I'm still an attender at my meeting. Somehow those ties to Catholicism have seemed difficult to release. But I've really had no question, ever since that first day I attended my meeting, that I had come to a place where I could bring my family and all of us could be nourished, and that that was what God wanted for all of us. I intend to write to my meeting to apply for membership now. The Feast of Corpus Christi comes around again tomorrow. It's time.