For the past few months I've been trying to find a church to regularly attend. I want to become part of a faith community, instead of feeling cut off and emotionally/spiritually marooned. I've gone to a few different churches in the past few weeks, sometimes alone and sometimes with my sweet, sweet cousin who doesn't mind stepping out of her Catholic sphere every so often. Here are my feelings about the different churches that I tried out.
Disclaimer: I don't mean to criticize or offend anyone who attends any of these churches, but merely want to explain why these faiths did or did not seem right for me personally. I can see how any of these denominations might be a good fit for someone else.
It all started with a Quaker Meeting. I was initially attracted to the Quakers because they emphasize the experience of the Holy Spirit (they don't always call it that). It's an experiential religion, and if you go to a liberal Quaker meeting it's only slightly Christian. Both of these aspects appealed to me at the time. During a Quaker meeting all of the attenders sit in pews or chairs arranged to face each other. You sit in silence for an hour, each person trying to hear the still small voice of God within. If anyone feels moved by the light to speak they will stand and deliver a message.
I haven't been to a Quaker meeting since February. I liked it at first, but I didn't always feel particularly inspired when I left. I spent a lot of time just trying to quiet my mind and relax. Eventually I got to the point where I felt that my local liberal Quaker meeting just wasn't Christian enough. At least not enough to fit what I was searching for. The stickiest point here for me is that Quakers don't believe that water baptism is necessary, and my interpretation of the Bible says that it is extremely important.
More accurately, Apostolic Pentecostal. I attended a local church a couple of times. Walking in the church was a little intimidating. All of the women had long hair and were wearing dresses. They didn't wear any make-up or jewelry. I partially fit in since I wear mostly skirts, but I do wear jewelry and occasionally make-up. Despite this, the church was so welcoming. Many, many people came up and introduced themselves and welcomed me to church. I really appreciated this kind of attitude.
I enjoyed the worship, too. The first hour is composed of singing religious songs, dancing, clapping hands, some people were speaking in tongues or crying, running around. I felt like I could actually worship god with joy without being ashamed. The second hour is composed of the sermon. Their attitude toward worship is to allow the Holy Spirit free reign to move them any which way. This resonated with my Quaker experience, like maybe this was the Quakerism for extroverts. The preacher was yelling and getting everyone all fired up, including me!
Although I enjoyed the worship and the people, there were some issues I had with their doctrines. The issue of baptism was important to me, but this church was saying that the holy Trinity was a human creation and that if you are baptized under the titles of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit then your baptism is invalid. They were teaching that unless you are baptized in the name of Jesus, that you can't be saved. I don't think that God would condemn people based on a technicality like this. I think that the pastor interprets the Bible very literally, and that some of the interpretations might not be in the spirit of what the original writer of the Bible meant to convey.
I went to the local Baptist church twice, mostly because their service times were at convenient hours. The church is also really pretty. I never really felt moved by the services, although the preacher did have some things to say that were worth thinking about. I will say that at the church I went to the pastor is very attractive, but this is not what you're supposed to be thinking about when you're at church. I also have trouble accepting the "Once Saved Always Saved" belief that crops up in lots of Baptist churches. I guess this is silly, but I also didn't like how this church printed a bulletin every Sunday which included in a prominent location how much money the church still needed to continue operations that month. Like maybe they just wanted my money.
I went to my cousin Jacob's non-denominational churches one Sunday. It was set up similar to the Pentecostal in that the first hour was singing/dancing/band playing, and the second hour was the sermon. The band was very good, and the songs were recognizable. I didn't care for the sermon portion. The speaker would say a few sentences in English, and then backtrack and say the same thing in Spanish. It seemed a little tiresome, and reminded me of a tour I went on during my honeymoon where the tour-guide would switch between about 4 different languages. All. Day. Long. Despite this, I found that people were very friendly and welcoming, but the church was too far away to attend every week. I'm not sure what kinds of doctrines they believed in.