Friday, June 24, 2011

Put Off By A Pushy Preacher

I was raised attending an Episcopal church up the street from my house. When I told my dad a few years ago that I planned to marry Mike one day he immediately suggested taking Mike to meet Father C. from the church I grew up in. Mike and I had already agreed on an outdoor ceremony. We wanted a Christian ceremony that was very personalized. We both have similar beliefs, but I attend church and Mike chooses not to.

I had never intended to get married inside, but the idea of going back to that church after so many years of living out of state was very appealing. Mike wasn't raised attending church and has the uncomfortable feeling I get in a hospital when he enters one. I told him I just wanted him to meet my old friend, that's all.

This man oversaw baptisms in my family, my first communion and came to the hospital more than once to pray with me before going into surgeries. He was a fixture in my life for a long time. I envisioned being greeted warmly and welcomed back. I thought it would be an important moment for me to have him meet the man I was goint to marry. Beyond that, I had no real plans as far as getting married in the actual physical church, but Father C. as the officiant was a possibility. Mike was hesitant, but came for my sake.

Mike's social anxiety causes him to constantly question everyone's motives on top of which organized religion in general makes him nervous. I reassured him countless times that Father C. was a great guy and there was nothing to fear. However, it did not go well. Father C. greeted us kindly if not in the way I'd imagined, but without a moment's pause he set in on how we had to both be in regular attendance at the church or he wouldn't even consider marrying us. It was very pushy almost threatening.

I was floored. I felt like I was being hassled for my lunch money rather than being welcomed back to my church family. It made me queasy. This was not the caring man I remembered this was an embittered bully. Faith can not be forced upon people and the sacraments are for everyone. This is no way to spread God's love.

The worst part is it confirmed all of Mike's negative feelings about churches. I had hoped we'd have a great visit and it would loosen him up a bit. I also lost a support system I thought would always be there that day.

Not to worry we found an officant that means a great deal to both of us and we're very happy, but that's a whole other post.


  1. Aww...that's to bad! I'm glad you found an alternative. Cindi

  2. I am SO sorry this happened to you...Episcapel (sp??) Church very much like the Catholic Church..which is why I attend a FUMC!! Open Hearts, Open Doors, Open Minds!!-Aunt Aimee

  3. I'm so sorry you had such a tough visit. Daniel and I experienced a similar greeting when he brought me to meet the rabbi at the temple he'd gone to for two decades of his life. Instead of, "Daniel, it's so good to see you again!" it was, "I won't do this or this or this, you need to do this and this and this," guilt guilt guilt. I'd been speaking with Daniel for months about my feelings on converting to Judaism before our marriage. I was very open to the idea considering my non-secular childhood and all the Jewish traditions I was used to from Oma and Opa. I fully intended to convert, be wed, and raise my children Jewish. But when I met this rabbi, a rabbi of a reform temple (which is supposed to be the most modern, most open minded, most welcoming class of Judaism), I was so soured by his greeting of someone who had been faithful to him for twenty years and had only recently stopped attending because he'd moved to Memphis that I was appalled and completely reassessed my interest in the strict and cold embrace he'd sought.

    Part of me still wants to be involved in some kind of religion, not to become part of a herd of fearing followers (can you tell I'm Michael's sister) but just to meet some new people and become part of a community of people who think as I do and adhere to a strict moral code, people who do the right thing because they know it is a good thing to do, not because they are afraid of what will happen if they don't. But until I find a place where I am welcomed without question or threat, I guess I'll just stick to my reading.

  4. Isn't it amazing what a bad first impression will do? These men are supposed to be the ambassaders of their faith ushering people in to experience the followship you're talking about. Not heavy fistedly turning people away. Believe me, God is not keeping score and deciding who to love.

  5. MisguidedAmbition: You might try checking out the Unitarian Universalist Church.... Just thought I'd throw that out there. Every one is different, but they all have a similar "moral code" so to speak. Worth a look.


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