Finding a Community

Finding a Community October 22, 2014
Arreton Church. Credit: Ronald Saunders.
Arreton Church. Credit: Ronald Saunders.

Over the past few months and  years I’ve read a number of stories of Protestants becoming Catholics. Their stories—the similarities, differences, and intricacies—have deeply fascinated me. I see my own journey in a lot of them. I see reasons why I am headed on this slow road to Rome. I see reasons that make sense to me, that have appealed deeply to me, and I see reasons, too, that never even crossed my mind—and all of this I find deeply enriching.

When I get stuck writing my conversion story this is what I think about: that maybe this might be useful for someone else. I started this blog with that in mind. I started this blog to explain why I’m becoming a Catholic, and to explain what the faith means. Both of these things, I think, can be easily misunderstood. My own motivation has been questioned sometimes, misunderstood; I question it myself sometimes. Likewise much of the faith that I’m discovering, the Catholic faith, is equally misunderstood—or understood poorly. When I get stuck writing this narrative this is what I think about, that someone might read this and feel enriched, fascinated, or, at worst, bemused.

I left the emotionally-charged Pentecostal church for the spiritually stable non-denominational church on the outskirts of town. I returned. In large part it was for community. Besides the group of volunteer friends I’d made at the Pentecostal church I knew very few people who went to the service on a Sunday morning and it was lonely. Those that went from my small group weren’t easily related to and I’m not always easily relatable. Like I said, we were a motley crew and I was one of them. So, I rejoined a group of university friends at the non-denominational church. My wonderful wife, then girlfriend, was somewhere in that mix, too, which probably had something to do with it.

Still, it didn’t last. The same mega-church atmosphere that had driven me away in the first place was now steering all of us, our whole group of friends, in another direction too and we all, eventually, found a home in a place that we recognized well.

It was a friend from high school who first tipped me off. She’d come to the University of Waterloo a year ahead of me and found an amazing church right there on campus. A church for students. A hip and relevant church. My nominally Pentecostal church back home, at the time, sounded drab and cliche compared to what she made this church sound like—and she was right. I attended sporadically in my first year of university and was amazed, dumbfounded even, to see  the enormous lines stretching down the campus ring road on a Monday night. People lined up to get into this church.

In my second year of university I began to attend more regularly. I got to know the pastor, who took the time to meet, greet, and genuinely welcome newcomers, and I was convinced this was something I needed to be a part of. Alongside my high school friend and a few others I’d met we ran a small group that met weekly, I helped with setup and teardown, with video and sound production, and jumped in with both feet. On the whole, people were engaged, excited, invigorated. I met some of the best people I’ve ever known; it was an incredible community to belong to.

Out of the campus church sprang a family church, a natural church plant for those that started the student church but had grown up, had kids, and felt awkward and out of place nursing their babies in the back of the campus bar surrounded by a few hundred students. I get that. So when our restless church search led us away from the non-denominational church outside of town my wife, then girlfriend, along with some of our closest friends settled on this family church plant, a natural extension of the community all of us already belonged to.

It’s here we stayed.

It’s in this church plant that my wife and I got married and got involved in various and sundry ministries. It’s here where all  of our closest friends worship, fellowship, and get together. It’s here where I’ve been deeply nourished for coming up on a decade. It’s here where I’ve built deep and meaningful relationships. And it’s at this point where my faith began to take an interesting, although not altogether unexpected, fork in the road—a road that’s leading me to where the early church started to start; a slow road to Rome. To fully explain that turn, however, I’ll have to go back a little bit, and talk about a podcast.

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  • Mark

    In too am a Protestant Charismatic pastor on a journey to the Catholic Church. I have enjoyed reading your articles. Your story of course resonates in me. Look forward to further reading.