I left off having found a church in Cleveland that felt familiar and homelike. I met a lot of Case Western students at the church or recent alums still in the area that first Sunday that I visited. Though I know it wasn't, it almost felt too easy to be welcomed into a group of thinking individuals that also valued God. After all, I was no longer in the Bible belt but was back in yankee territory where people tend to be a bit less open to strangers. Nonetheless, I was welcomed and I was so very thankful.
Amongst the group of new acquaintances was a boy, who actually happened to be the drummer in the praise band at the church. (Musicians always cause problems, is what I'm saying. :)) Maybe because I wasn't really looking, or maybe he was just that different, but somehow I let my guard down and we started dating a little over a month of knowing each other. He apparently liked me from the beginning, and I, well, I was won over by his heart in playing tennis together. Because I was an athlete, but I was an athlete who loved people who maybe weren't born with all this natural talent but tried their absolute hardest in every situation. He was this guy, and he still is, but also he absolutely respected me in every sort of way. A gentleman that didn't live in the south but in the north. Anyway, I am probably digressing here, but he was and is an important figure in this conversion story of mine.
At this church I got involved almost right away. I was put into a small group, which I would define as a bible study group that was also supposed to keep you accountable on your faith walk. This idea can work to an extent, except that for me, I usually have my guard up in situations like this, and let the extroverts run the show and just say what is minimally required of me. It isn't until I talk to someone one on one that I really open up. Maybe this is why confession works for me now in a positive way besides the graces of it and everything. Nonetheless, I kept going to the small group and I did learn from the others. I think at this point I got a glimpse that Assemblies of God was a bit charismatic (not a bad thing, just not me) but at this point there was no doctrine presented to me and I wasn't held accountable to following a set of rules or even joining the church I believe.
I got involved even further in the church, I signed up to help teach their version of Sunday school, which I don't think was on Sunday but on a weekday night. It wasn't until I did this that I started to see a little more of the charismatic flavor of this denomination, something I was not familiar with in my mainline Protestant upbringing. It made me a bit uncomfortable, not because it was wrong, but it challenged me to examine what I thought about about this type of theology, and really what this church I was going to was really about, I just didn't know.
All the while, I'm dating this guy, this guy that seemed to actually like me and my quirks. About seven months into our relationship, we had a talk about discerning marriage, and both of us were a little restless about the theology of our current church home. Some of the material for the men's group wasn't sitting well with him and as I said my teaching material wasn't sitting well with me. We decided to examine other churches and see if any of these seemed to fit us more. And on an important note, K's grandfather died in January of 2006. This gave him a glimpse of his old Catholic life as he attended the funeral mass and burial and it stuck with him, though he didn't say much about it at the time. The man takes a while to process things and it just wasn't factoring in at the time.
We tried all of one other church, a Presbyterian Church of America variety, which, get this, met in the basement the annex of a Catholic church. Where I grew up, I was mostly of the Presbyterian Church-USA variety but I was struggling already with women pastors because I felt like while women have amazing gifts, it always felt off to have them being in that particular role. I didn't have any other reason to why this was important, just that it didn't feel right. And yes, I know I am sounding 100% anti-feminist but truly I am not. I was simply observing what was. So a PCA church was somewhat familiar, but didn't have women as pastors. It wouldn't be for a while that I would actually be able to understand this as more than just a feeling. It was a little bit odd attending there, because it was so small and we didn't know anyone, but it was more liturgically based than what were currently attending something we both apparently were being drawn to more so. K commented that they said the Nicene Creed there, and that he remembered that from being a Catholic. I thought that it was weird because in my Presbyterian upbringing we always said the Apostle's Creed, but it didn't go any further than that at the time. We didn't go back there again.
One day in perhaps March of 2006, K mentioned that he wanted to understand what Martin Luther really did in the reformation? It started a hunt for a book to explain this, not because I was thinking that much about this, but maybe I could learn something and also be a good girlfriend by finding an awesome book for him too. I think in K's mind his Catholic roots were plaguing him at this point and he wanted to read something that would dismiss Catholicism, obviously it didn't work.
Part 2 can be found here.
Part 1 can be found here.