When I was a little tyke my parents did not practice a religion. My dad is a non-religious Jew and my mother came from a family with many forms of Christianity in their background. I guess that intersection and their personalities didn’t generate any kind of ritual structure or faith community. So, when I was ten to twelve I rode my bike to a local synagogue on my own, Temple Beth Israel, and participated in the kids program.
When I turned thirteen my mother went on a religious quest. She went to a new church every couple of weeks and I tagged along for the ride. We attended about 8 different churches, and I listened to the pastors/priests/ministers preach the “one true way” in a different building every other Sunday. That was an education unto itself. We also converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which ran in my mother’s family as well, and we stayed there for two years. After that we converted to Judaism, my mother and I.
My dad used to joke and tell us we belonged to the religion-of-the-week club. The truth was that we were looking for something important.
Much later in life my mother chose her religion based on the vibrancy of the local community. I admired her for that. The last couple of decades of her life she was a Catholic. She loved the church where she lived in Columbia, Missouri. She was part of their experimental theater community. That brought a twinkle to my eye as I had an experimental theater company for ten years.
My mom studied and did a full conversion to Catholicism. But, it wasn’t driven by religious experience as much as it was by a desire to be included in the community experience. Nonetheless, she was very spiritual and she channeled all that energy into Catholicism, attended Sunday services and their other events as well.
When she died we put on a very low-key service – none of the rest of our family being religious much less Catholic. We held it in the church’s community center. My sisters put together photographs of her life and over a hundred people from that church attended the service. Many of them shared how she had been part of their lives.
In case you’re wondering I don’t have a religion, but I am very spiritual. I have practiced Judaism at various points in my life, but like my father I am not religious. I do however have mystical beliefs. And I love the camaraderie of others who are spiritual regardless of their religion.
Choosing a church based on the vibrancy of the local community was one of the wisest choices my mom made. She was schizophrenic and bipolar from the time I was ten until she died. The last 10 years of her life she made an almost full recovery thanks to advances in medicine. She knew what she needed to put her life together. She sought it out. And she found it. In that she was a great model and seeing her success brought me real joy. I still recall our religious questing with warmth.
What matters most to you and how will you pursue it this week?