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    February 10, 2013

    Soliciting opinions on a Church Dilemma

    All right, Internet. I'm very interested to know what you think about this Church Dilemma. 

    Okay, so when we moved to the Absolute Outer Reaches of Far North Seattle we didn't necessarily ASSUME, but we kind of sort of teeny tiny bit did, that we would switch churches, if only because of the distance. It's not that it's a long drive or anything (15 minutes), but there are something like ninety bajillion churches in between our house and our parish. Including one we can WALK TO. And when we moved here, as you may recall, I was all: OH! This is where we'll go to church and this is where our kids'll go to school! EASY PEASY!

    You know it didn't work out that way. And despite some sincere effort on my part, the church next door has yet to grow on me (Phillip has never liked it.) We go there when we need to go at a different time or we're feeling lazy or something, but so far (two years in) it doesn't feel like Our New Church. 

    So it sort of delayed the whole Switch Churches thing. For me it wasn't so much as WANTING to go to a new church but feeling like we were starting a new life? And that included a new church? There wasn't anything compelling me to LEAVE my church, but many of the things that made us stay for so long (namely people) had left/were leaving/were no longer happening. We had kids now, our lives were different, the connections we made at church didn't really NEED attending-the-same-church to keep them going. Does that make sense? I felt like I COULD leave it and it would be fine. (I mean, *we* would be fine. I'm sure the church would get along juuuuust fine without the noisy Cheungs.)

    I also wondered if this was part of moving a few times when I was a kid, and living on military bases where a priest only stays for 18 months, then a new one cycles in. I started to feel itchy for a change? I kind of wanted to see what else was out there? I wrote about this a few times on the churchy blog. ANYWAY. 

    Phillip, I should note, has never been inclined to find a new church. This is partly because he abhors Change and partly because he really really reeeeeally didn't like the church next to our house. 

    Also, I'm on a Committee and I had a three-year commitment and finally I was like FINE. Maybe when that commitment is up, we'll think about going somewhere closer to home. 

    Well, Internet. My commitment is up this summer. And I now have a Reason I don't want to go to my church anymore: it doesn't have Sunday School. 

    When I was growing up it was called CCD. Do they still have CCD? It seems like the churches I've looked at all call it Sunday School. I mean, it's the same thing, so whatever. But it was an hour OUTSIDE of Mass where we had a little churchy lesson and did churchy projects and got roped into the Christmas pageant and I don't know MUCH about Catholicism, but what little I do know comes from CCD. I have naturally assumed my kids would go when they were school-age. And now they are school-age. And there is no CCD. 

    They do have Children's Liturgy of the Word, which is when first graders on up leave in the middle of Mass for a kid-level gospel and homily and usually a project or something, and then they come back in time for communion. Does this fulfill the Sunday School need? I DON'T KNOW. I am inclined to say NO. For one thing, I want my kids to be in CHURCH. I mean, I'm totally fine for them to go to CLOW, but I don't want that to be The Only Thing? I have the fingernail marks on my wrist from learning how to behave in church and goshdarnit my kids are going to have those too! You know what I mean, right? I don't expect them to APPRECIATE IT or GET ANYTHING out of it right now, but it IS what we do on Sunday mornings and we do it together and one day we'll stop bringing crayons and it will be CHURCH. I look forward to arguing with my teenagers over their attendance! (I will give in. I think. That's another post.)

    My church also has special programs for First Communion kids (Wednesday afternoons or something horrible like that), but no regular ongoing religious education program. I suppose we do have the school. But my kids aren't going to go to that school. 

    And SOOOOOO... I've been looking around. There is a church with (what I hear is) a great Sunday School program. It's basically the same distance from my house as my current parish, which I feel silly about, but we like going there, even Phillip. There may be others, but that's my first choice right now. 

    But today we went to Mass and I was just thinking about how I recognize all the faces there. I don't know everyone, by far, but I'm comfortable there, I know what's going on, I know all the people who sit near us totally don't mind my MONSTER CHILD OMG SHE WAS HORRIBLE TODAY. I chatted with another parent in the vestibule while we monitored our monster children. We have a new priest and there are things we're struggling with, but honestly, this transition is CAKE compared to the last. We almost left the church BECAUSE of the new priest during the last transition (we were fresh out of college and engaged) but then we grew to ADORE him. I don't feel like we're bailing because the church is no longer... I don't know. Sigh.

    I think I, personally, no longer feel (and haven't felt for a while) a strong call to be THERE as opposed to SOMEWHERE ELSE. I am very very curious about Somewhere Else. I've never been able to articulate this well and I don't think Phillip feels it's a good or important reason to do something different. But this Sunday School thing? It bugs. I want my kids to do that extra hour. It feels like a good reason, even if I didn't have all the other stuff going on in my head.

    What do you think? I mean, does that seem like a silly reason to you? My mom doesn't think so, the lady I talked to at coffee hour doesn't think so (I told her after she said, "I'm SO GLAD you guys have stuck around!" and I was all, "wellll...") I wonder if I should feel like *I* should be Religious Educating them or something. Or I should START some sort of group with other parents because it's better to AFFECT CHANGE (effect?) than just GIVE UP. (OMG PLEASE DON'T SAY I SHOULD DO THAT.) 

    I AM OVERTHINKING THIS. 

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    Comments

    Yay for a church post! You know I always have plenty to say about churchy things...

    This will sound terrible, but we church-shopped (bouncing from church to church to church to church) for YEARS before we found a church that felt like home (and now that sounds cheesey.) But its true.
    And then it came time for school and that perfect church doesn't have a school....and now that we found a school, we split time between our home parish and school parish, because with school comes committee responsibilities.
    Anyway, what we've realized is this: We belong to a church that we all enjoy going to because it feels right.

    Which is to say: start shopping.

    I feel your pain. I have been going to my current church since I moved to this town, and it's the same denomination I grew up in (but far more modern). It's a big, growing church, and those are tough to come by. They do great things, but there are times that I feel like it's too easy to blend in, and that's too easy for me...and it probably shouldn't be. But there are so many reasons it's a good one, but maybe not good for ME. But I don't really have any other appealing options at the moment, and I've been there so long (12-1/2 years), but I'm still not a member and have no major ties or anything. Hmmm. As far as the Sunday School thing...I was insistent that my son go to church and learn how to behave in church. Luckily there was a room adjacent to the church where families with kids could sit without fear of disturbing everyone else, which we did for three years. Then we moved back into the regular church...and while my son wasn't always awesome, he was mostly tolerable. However, once he was potty trained, I decided that it was better to send him to Sunday School during church because I figured he'd get more out of it. I figure we'll keep that up for another year or two, at which point I would expect that he could handle two hours of activity/instruction (which, now at 4-1/2, I think is asking a lot on a Sunday morning). Perhaps at that time we'll transition to church with us and Sunday School later (and perhaps that will force me to go to Sunday School, too). Of course, we'll have another kid by then, so maybe there will be an hour of the nursery for the baby at that point, too. I have no idea. But I totally get your insistence on kids being able to sit in church. I think mine got a good foundation, but at this point I'm more worried about him learning something while we're there...so I totally support your desire for Sunday School.

    Really? There are Catholic parishes that don't have Catholic education classes for the kids who don't attend the parish school? We've been members of parishes in Tacoma, Bellevue, and Kirkland and I grew up in a parish in Seattle and this was always a standard practice. Have you called the parish office and asked for an explanation of how they are catechizing their youngest parishioners? My kids attend public school and take Faith Formation classes at church on Monday evenings. That, plus participating in CYO sports and scouting through the parish has helped them to be part of our parish community themselves. They know people when we go to Mass or other parish functions, and that makes a huge difference to how they feel about church. I highly recommend that you find a parish where they can learn about the faith! (And BTW, the Seattle Archdiocese recommends a 2-year program of formation in preparation for First Communion. Not all parishes are doing this, but if you find one that does you need to get registered in time to accomodate that schedule.)

    Oh, also--the Monday evening classes are for grades 1-5. Younger kids attend their classes during Sunday morning Mass though there is talk of changing that so that the kids can actually attend Mass also.
    Do you know about Catechesis of the Good Shepard? That is a great faith formation program for younger kids (I believe they start at age 3 or 4) which is offered in a few parishes in the area. cgsusa.org explains about the program and has a locator function (though our parish isn't on there, so it can't be totally complete).

    I'm shocked they can do sacraments with so little preparation. How do kids learn about the church? I feel like there is so little preparation around here for the sacraments, but yet they still do go to CCD/Sunday School/whatever and my nieces and nephews who have received their sacraments still seem to know nothing. I think I would definitely change churches for the no Sunday school thing.

    Our kids are likely going to Catholic school (still in debate), but if not will go to our parish's religious education program (ours is called PREP).

    The parishes around here all still do Sunday school. I have no idea why it's not called CCD anymore. Weird. But it's called something else here too.

    Maggie, I have been postponing my churchy dilemma for almost five years now by sending Sophie to a Lutheran day school that has a chapel service every Wednesday and a Christmas pageant and all that. That way, she was getting church every week without me having to figure out what to do about our situation.

    Which is, I am technically a Baptist. However, I am a liberal, progressive Baptist and so most Baptist churches are way too conservative for my taste. I have a really hard time finding a Baptist church that doesn't drive me away. My husband is technically a Catholic, meaning he was baptized a Catholic at birth to please his French-Canadian Catholic grandmaman, but never went to church growing up. Church is not super-important to him.

    So we don't go to church. I specifically requested to my husband that we send Sophie to a church school for daycare so that she would at least get some religious education in the formative years to assuage my guilt here. However, next fall she will start public school, so if I don't figure out the church issue, I don' know what I'm going to do!

    I hit post before I meant to, but all of the above was to say, I think it sounds like you should church-shop. If CCD/Sunday School is important to you (it was always my favorite part of church as a kid too), then I think you should look around. :)

    We just switched parishes after a 5-year period of discernment...ever since Olivia was born. We wanted her to go to Catholic school, there is only one in our county, and to go to it we REALLY needed to be parishioners in one of the cluster parishes that participate in tuition assistance. There are four parishes (two clusters) who participate. The school is 21 miles away (there is a bus!), the nearest participating parish is 2 miles away. But that parish has a very non-traditional worship space which was not comfortable for us and a pastor who (God love him) is very pastoral but a HORRIBLE liturgist. Given our own education and background, liturgy is important to us.

    So, after MUCH discernment and visiting this parish and that and considering the drive time, etc., we ended up at a TINY (Seats 100, we sit in the choir loft) parish that is 12 miles away. And we have found that we fit there, more because of the welcoming people and CLOW (OMG, that SAVES us right now with Olivia).

    I know our parish has CCD, but I don't know if we'll use it because Olivia will have religion class at school. Everyone has different priorities and issues, and I think if you want CCD, you should find a parish that has it and does it well. That shouldn't be too difficult in a big city like yours. But definitely go where you end up feeling comfortable, even if it is further away. Our former parish was 15 miles away. There are a half-dozen churches closer to us, but if you don't feel at home and comfortable with the church/liturgy/people, you won't feel spiritually nourished. That's worth a few extra minutes in the car.

    I don't think you're overthinking. I want my kids in worship AND I want them to have the christian education component (which they won't be getting in public school). I wouldn't go to a church without sunday school, and I don't feel bad for saying it.

    What harm is there in going to a few other masses around town? Will it help scratch your Something Else itch? Why NOT at least worship other places a few times and see what you think? Even if you land back where you are now, you can feel better about the Something Else. Right?

    Yes, you should church shop. But no, it is not fun. I am going through the protestant version of this myself and it is HARD. We were member of a church for 17 years. My kids were christened there and I thought my funeral would be held there. But then the family/children programming started falling apart for a variety of reason. I'm happy to do my part as a parent but when I, as a volunteer, was driving and holding the program together instead of the paid staff.....I guess I realized my priorities and their priorities were not the same. I still miss it what it used to be.

    We're still confused about this issue as well, but don't feel that it's the right time to leave just yet.

    And if the Pope can switch which parish (church? I do not know Catholic lingo), then I think you should feel no pressure if you want to as well.

    You have to do what you think is best for your kids when it comes to their Christian education. Add in that you aren't particularly attached to your current church/parish (sorry, I'm not super familiar with the Catholic lingo), and it really seems like a no-brainer. Maybe all of these comments are just the push you need to actually start taking the steps.

    Church shopping is not fun and can go on forever and ever if you aren't purposeful, BUT it can get you somewhere that you all really love and that is worth it.

    Have fun!

    I called it Sunday school when I was little but then my family switched to calling it CCD. I have NO idea why! But I also can't imagine a parish that doesn't have a religious ed program. I think it sounds like you need to start shopping. (I'm going to have to do that soon too. And I'm devastated. But we're moving half an hour away and I want to find a closer church. But that will mean leaving the church I was a) batized in b) had my first communion in c) had my confirmation in d) was married in e) baptized both my babies in. Sigh. We can commiserate with each other during the church hunt.

    Growing up Catholic (in the Seattle area), Sunday school was for preschoolers (3-5 yo) during mass on Sunday. CCD, was on a week night for the public school kids in grade school. In junior high, it becsme youth group. I find it crazy a parish would neglect all the grade school kids in public school and their faith formation.

    Have you tried Christ the King in north Seattle?

    The Church you go to believes in CCD and wants to have it. However, it does not have any volunteers willing to run the program and can't afford to pay for teachers. That's one disadvantage of living in a city with so many Catholic Churches in a small vicinity.

    When I moved here, I was used to my Catholic Church back home in the South. It was the only one for miles. Because of that, it was huge: a parish school with multiple classes per grade, multiple simultaneous Masses on Sunday and a plethora of volunteers to run the place.

    Anyways, I used to go to your Church but my wife and I are moving to OLL. You should join us sometime!

    Sunday school is pretty important to us. The kids LOVE it and we have adult Sunday school classes as well which allows us to socialize and get to know people better (in addition to learning a few things). For me, Sunday school is a way better hour right now than church, since I spent all of the service wrestling kids and not really hearing anything. Of course, once a month I have to miss MY Sunday school to volunteer in a kids' room, but it's worth it, I suppose.

    My Catholic church calls it "Religious Ed." I feel like I always call it the wrong word because I went to CCD as a kid.

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