By FRANCIS REMKIEWICZ
It is not often I go into or write about these things; however, this is January of 2023 and so I will share my journey to Methodism. Christian journeys start somewhere and never end. My goal in this column is to let everyone who reads to know that journeys are not unique and know that you are not alone in your quest to find your relationship with our Savior.
I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church and was nurtured for years by Dominican nuns. I say this because nuns in this order are nuns of outreach. The Dominicans I know and by whom I was taught are teachers. That is what God called them to do. The priests I really know are of the Redemptorist order. The parish these priests established, my original home parish, was built as a “jumping off place” for the Redemptorist missionary work in Central and South America. The priests I interacted with were always missionaries at heart.
Ultimately, I attended the Redemptorist seminary in Oakland (California) because outreach was what I believed I was called to do. In the years to come I left the Roman Catholic Church because I saw what I believe was “lip-service” to outreach. The fact that there were cathedrals built, artwork that was worth millions and the institution failing to live up to its own standard of outreach set by the very persons who refused to contribute vast sums of accumulated dollars.
Frustrated (and out of work) I enlisted in the Marine Corps. Then went to Viet Nam because we (America) were helping to gain and maintain the Vietnamese right to self-government. During my tour in Viet Nam, I began to wonder if there even was a God. No kidding, there were some unbelievably scary times when I prayed not to be killed. Nonetheless, when not in combat I could not understand how an all-merciful and all-powerful God could let something like this war happen.
What I discovered was the only thing that mattered was my loving relationship with God, through Christ with the Holy Spirit. And the two key things to that relationship were worshipping my God and demonstrating that love of God and love of my neighbor was what grew my relationship with my Lord and Savior. So, I finally said goodbye to the Roman Catholic Church.
I became an Episcopalian. I found that outreach was a focal point for the Episcopal Church. I belonged to several parishes, among them Messiah in Santa Ana, California. Outreach for this parish was as real as food banks, legal support, and other programs that truly meet Christ’s calling found in Matthew. Then came turmoil with a re-write of the prayer book. Women priests, and the concept of the big tent/all are welcome. Clearly moral and ethical issues all mainline churches had to contend with. What I witnessed during these days was the exercise of raw political power combined with a ravenous appetite to fund the fights which only laid waste to the Episcopal concept of outreach. It appeared to me as if the Episcopal church’s belief in “loving your neighbor” was conditional. The fight became so intense and consuming that the Episcopal Church literally closed parishes to fund the continuing battles without any consideration for the parishes or the people or the programs being accomplished through the parish. This was devastating to me.
I ended up back in the desert. For a few years I thought that I could still worship my Lord and Savior, but I did not need an institution to help me. During this time, I read C.S. Lewis, Garry Will, and a few other books. In the process of reading I discovered that I could still do outreach as well as before, however doing outreach by myself left a hole that was not being filled. So, with my family, I started attending Oakdale Community Methodist Church. While the family attended with regularity I only attended off and on. I knew some of the congregation regularly travelled to Guatemala and worked with a community in that country. That intrigued me. The Pandemic hit and like most churches, in-person worship was stopped. The Pastor, Jeff Holder stopped by, and we had some very good conversations. Reading the Book of Discipline, I discovered the central theme of the Methodist Church was “worship and outreach”. We worship on Sundays to gain strength through Christ to perform our outreach during the week. This was right in my “wheelhouse”. I was invited to attend the District Conference and I discovered the real “big tent”. The diversity of representatives to the conference was nothing short of amazing. I knew, finally, I found a home with the Methodist Church. As I continue my reading, my belief that I am home is reinforced.
So why do I bring all this up? What is my point? I bring this up because we are coming out of the pandemic and now is a good time to take a moment and look inward to what you may believe. Are you growing in your relationship with the Lord? Is worship, fellowship, and outreach feeding your soul? These are the truly important and valuable issues that make us Lutheran, or Catholic, or Episcopal, or Evangelical, Baptist, or whatever church you attend. Please take some time to strip all the nonsense away. The time you worship, whether you are high church or low church. Who you may like or don’t like in congregation. All the things that on a day-to-day basis may affect you at first.
If you find, as I did, you have a home then make it a priority to come to the table each Sunday. If you are still on a journey, the last I looked there were 32+ parishes, congregations etc. Shake off the last effects of the pandemic. I am 73 years old so age should be no factor. If you are housebound worship services are on-line. There is always a place for home prayer groups, on-line Bible study, and telephone trees for communication. There are so many things everyone can do, just call. As Garth Brooks said in his song The River, “don’t stand along the shoreline and say you’re satisfied; choose to chance the rapids and dare to dance the tide”.
Francis (Frank) Remkiewicz is an area resident and contributes a monthly column focused primarily on faith and religion. He can be reached at email@example.com. Opinions expressed are those of the author.