My sweet mama.
All my life, she’s been my spiritual mentor. A spiritual giant really. She’s been my Sunday School teacher and my Bible drills instructor. We’ve read a yearly Bible reading plan together. She served as the women’s ministry director at her church the same time I held the same role at mine. Often, when we talk on the phone, we dive into deep theological waters. We love Jesus and his church.
She knows all the ways I’ve been exploring the Christian faith. I’ve been learning new-to-me spiritual practices and visiting churches who worship differently than I do. While I think an individual’s local church should remain a priority, my faith has also grown by visiting other churches occasionally. I’ve even discovered new things I can bring back to my church to enhance our worship experiences.
Last summer, while on vacation, I talked Mom into attending Catholic Mass. We’ve never been Catholic; my mom still attends a Southern Baptist Church, and I am now a member of the Reformed Church of America. I took her and my daughter to Mass because I find it meaningful to worship with my Catholic brothers and sisters from time to time.
Toward the end of Mass, the Priest prepared for Communion. My daughter has gone to Mass with me before, but this was Mom’s first time. We stood up when everyone else did, but rather than head out the back door, as my daughter and I know to do, Mom got in line to receive Communion. Mortified, I grabbed her arm and ushered her out of the church.
Mom didn’t know other believers can’t take Communion with Catholics. They believe in transubstantiation, (the conversion of the substance of the Eucharistic elements into the body and blood of Christ at consecration, only the appearances of bread and wine remaining). As Protestants, we don’t believe this is quite what’s happening at the Lord’s Table, so we may go forward to receive a blessing from the Priest , but can’t take part in the Eucharist.
What would my mom have done when she got to the front? She didn’t know about crossing one’s hands in front of her chest to signify she’s there for a blessing. Would the priest have refused her? Do we look Protestant? Awkward.
Maybe just reading this story makes you nervous, and you weren’t even there! It’s uncomfortable to stretch our faith wings. We sit in the little nests of our own denominations, not flying around much to learn from other faith traditions.
I believe there’s more of Jesus to be found when we leave our nests and soar.I believe there’s more of Jesus to be found when we leave our nests and soar. Click To Tweet
Believe me, I was uncomfortable the first few times I visited a Mass too. Also when I attended a Lutheran church and discovered I could drink actual wine for Communion. At my first Sixth Hour prayer service with the Orthodox, I wondered why others knelt and kissed a framed picture of Jesus set on a stand at the entrance to the room. My friend and I went to hear Christian author, Lisa Bevere, speak at a local church last fall. When the worship leader told the large crowd to spread out across the sanctuary, making room for worship, and as they swayed and raised their hands, we looked at one another with hesitation.
When it comes to all the ways other Christians worship Jesus, what are we afraid of?
Doing it wrong?
Going against what the Bible teaches?
I’ve discovered the benefits outweigh any discomfort that’s holding us back. Without a doubt, we should heed the words we read regarding the Berean believers in Acts:
We have a responsibility to familiarize ourselves with Scripture to know if a church we’re visiting is doing something counter to what the Bible teaches. I’ve also learned to trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance in these situations, but there’s a difference in his conviction and our discomfort. Practice discernment. Finally, in all the churches I’ve visited, I have never felt unwelcome. Most of the time, I am left alone to experience things on my own. Occasionally, though, church leadership and members alike have introduced themselves and answered questions I may have.
In the Catholic church, I know the satisfaction of dipping my hands in holy water.
The musical chanting at the Orthodox church is amazing.
With a full heart, I remember the toddler in her mom’s arms at the non-denominational church, and how they received Communion together.
The time of silent prayer, when God spoke so loudly to my spirit, among an ecumenical gathering of writers.
The opportunity to witness a dad baptizing his elementary-aged son.
Don’t miss out on these Christian experiences because you’re fearful. There’s more, much more, of Jesus to be found among our church traditions.
About the Author
Traci Rhoades, Guest Writer
Traci has a faith-based blog, Traces of Faith. In addition to writing articles, she manages the social media accounts affiliated with her blog. Her work has been published in Patheos, CBE International, Her View From Home and The Mudroom Blog. She is passionate about church unity and helping believers develop a better understanding of Christ’s church across cultural and denominational lines.
She’s blessed with a husband and one daughter – and if you include their dogs, cats, pigs, guinea hens, and chickens – then there are a lot more blessings to count!
Want to Read More Stories of People Reaching Beyond Their Fears?
Redefining Fear by Jennifer Cotney
Flying Through the Air with Faith by Amy Merritt
Faith, Fear, and Fire Hydrants by Chip Mattis
The Dreaded F Word by Norma Poore
His Hope in the Darkness by Alynda Long