Friday, October 14, 2011

on religion

Growing up Lutheran, I didn't have a whole lot of exposure to other religions.  Maybe a little Judaism here and there as my best friend Kim is Jewish and my entire family was always included in the Passover sedar, bar/bat mitzvas, confirmations, etc.  But other than that it was all Lutheran.  Then I found my dream college which ironically was Catholic.  Four months into college, I met Chris and a little over 7 months in we started dating.  After almost four years of dating, we got the Lutheran church.  So now after 8 ½ years of dating and 4 ½ years of marriage I've had plenty of visits to the Catholic church, and a lot of opportunity to notice the differences between them.  Now, I'm not talking about the "big" differences like purgatory (but didn't the Catholics stop believing in that anyways?) and what communion really is, but more differences in the mindset of the people attending.  (Let's note that I'm going to be comparing to the three Catholic churches in Connecticut I've attended, so maybe it's a New England thing)

The first difference I noticed was how they dress.  At home in my Lutheran church, everyone comes dressed in their Sunday best.  All the men in at least a collared shirt and khakis, some even in suit jackets.  The women in dresses or pants/sweaters.  So of course, on my first trip to Connecticut I packed my dress for church on Sunday.  Then when Sunday rolled around and we were getting ready, I noticed everyone was in jeans and t-shirts!!!  What?!  To be honest, it kind of appalled me, I mean we were going to church, not to the mall.  Over the years, I've come to terms that that's just how they do things there.  I've come off my high horse and I wear jeans and a hoodie just to fit in with everyone else.  But it still feels crazy to me.  My mother-in-law actually commented on this most recent trip that I was wearing the same clothes as the rest of them.  I made sure to let her know that it was just so that I didn't look out of place in my dressy clothes!!

Secondly, and what I find most humorous, is time.  To me, it feels like the Catholic church is GO GO GO!  Let me start with the Lutheran church.  We arrive at church 10-15 minutes early so that we can chat in the narthex and then go find our seats, which are unspokenly assigned.  Then the service starts.  A little while in we get to the sermon which typically lasts around 15 minutes, sometimes less sometimes more.  If it's the 1st, 3rd, or 5th Sunday of the month, we have communion.  (I know communion practices vary by congregation, so I'm going based on my home church)  For communion we file up and about 10 people go up at a time per side (there are two) and then we are welcomed to the table, kneel, given the bread and the wine, rise, and file out.  When all is said and done, it's over an hour from when the service started.  We then all wait in line to shake the pastor's hand and say hello and then we chat in the narthex with our friends for a while longer.  You may as well chisel out two hours of your day to go to church.  Now, we have the Catholics!  When we get to church, Chris's mom is sure to park in the "perfect" spot.  I.E. - the one closest to the exit so we can get out as fast as we can.  We get inside and if the service is anywhere before the first reading, we have arrived too early.  The whole family quickly shuffles to an open seat that can accommodate however many people have come together that day.  (Chris is one of seven, there are 12 adult children if you include all the husbands and wives)  Then they get to the homily, which lasts 5 minutes tops.  Short, quick, and to the point.  Then communion, which they do every week.  Everyone goes up single file gets their bread, and from what I can tell no wine?, and then goes back to their seat.  Again - fast and to the point.  Then church is over.  People quickly exit, trying to walk on the side so that they don't have to shake hands with the priest.  They just want to get to their cars as fast as possible.  By the time we've gotten to our car, in the perfect spot by the exit, there is already a line a mile long to get out of the parking lot!!!  Thankfully someone lets us get into line and by the time we're out on the main road I look to the clock and see it is only 11:22 (church was at 10:30).  So not even a full hour since church started and already it's a race to see who can get out the fastest!  I just don't get it!!

So my question is, what's the big rush?


KUKIMBIA said...

Hilarious! For many years I've said that the two most dangerous places to run are near the driveway into a liquor store and near the driveway out of a Catholic church.

Maggie said...

I think that sort of thing depends on several factors; the priest/pastor, the individual family, and the parish family as a whole. I'm Episcopalian (aka Church of England) and have visited more churches than I can remember, all the while having my home church in at home. My home church is more like yours, though my mom is never on time so we usually were coming in during the 1st reading, unless I was serving. But I've seen it almost every way imaginable, and all at Episcopal churches.

CatKity said...

I'm Episcopalian and Mike's Catholic. When we were church shopping we went to Holy Trinity a few times. The length of the sermon depended on the priest. They did offer a coffee hour after the service though most I saw got their donuts and left. Not sure about the wine but I don't think they serve it there either - it might be because of the size of the congregation for time or hygiene reasons? I've never seen wine at any of the big Catholic churches. At my home parish in Richmond the sermons are really long because the rector likes to tell tangential stories. I get lost litsening to him. In Annapolis my rector gave pretty short sermons - depends entirely on the person. Our congregation there always had coffee hour to socialize as well. One of the reasons I liked it there so much.