My friend Eleise has been asking me to go to a group at her church now for over a year…. but I kept saying no.
Mostly because she belongs to a Christian church, and I’m Catholic. Often if you visit someone’s church, they aggressively recruit you or want you to convert. This happened to me once when I visited a Pentecostal church in high school because I had a crush on a guy who invited me to his youth group. I went to two of his youth group meetings, but they were WAY too intense for me. Not to mention that I unfortunately gave them my information, and they literally sent me mailings and called me for a year! I got over this guy real fast because suddenly all our conversations were about trying to get me into his church.
I also feel like joining a group at a church of another faith would be a betrayal of Catholicism. Same goes for attending services at another denomination, unless I also go to Mass too that week. But going to a different denomination in lieu of Mass? I’m not okay with that.
I’ve been to services of several other faiths, and I just never feel right– although I appreciate it. I like going to support my friends, and experience something different. But usually other Christian services are too informal, too loud, too overwhelming for me. It’s nice to visit, but not home.
Even when I go to Catholic churches, it doesn’t feel right if the church is too modern or the cross isn’t a crucifix. I like my churches old-school– pews, high walls, stain-glass windows.
But last night when she invited me, I decided to just give in– on the condition that she would stop bugging me if I didn’t like it.
I went with her tonight, and I loved it.
It’s odd, I was talking in the car about how there’s no Catholic singles group in the area. That’s how my parents met, and I’ve always been sad that there was no local equivalent for me to enjoy. In high school, I really loved my youth group. You could start going in eighth grade, and my best friend Christy (back then) told me I should go. Her older sister, Carrie, had loved it and she told me it would be just my thing. I resisted until my sophomore year! It took about 1.5 years for me to go. And I’ll admit– I mainly went to meet guys. Ha!
And tonight, I went because I just wanted to try something new.
And right when I walked in, there was a table with books! And two of them were about being single– whoa. Even weirder, there was a group for singles starting TONIGHT.
I looked at Eleise incredulously.
“Things happen for a reason,” she said with a smile.
I saw two books I recognized– one a friend had loaned me. I took a picture of it and sent it to her– she was so excited! I had really enjoyed it. These two books would be the basis of the small group.
Before the small groups, there was a short worship service with music and a testimony. For the first time, it didn’t feel wrong.
I enjoyed the songs, and seeing the words on a screen helped me– as a hearing-impaired person. I loved that the lead singer was standing there in her bare feet, wearing something casual but stylish. A fun red top, with jeans and great accessories. The more direct lyrics were a refreshing change from the ornate language of hymns.
The testimonial was stellar. He began admittedly nervous, but was triumphant by the end. He told us point-by-point how he had changed his life when he turned it over to God. He’d become a better man, a better father, a better citizen. His family was there to support him– I couldn’t help standing to clap for him at the end. What bravery!
The man who gave a testimonial played a song by DMX, of all people! “Lord, Give Me a Sign,” and I was riveted. I’ve never heard rap like this! It was refreshing to hear something different than the traditional hymns at Mass. I’ve never really gotten into Christian music, although there are a few songs I like. In college, a friend from had told me about Stryper, and I picked up one of their CD’s. I loved it.
Afterward, we broke into our small groups. They were arranged by topic, and I thought there was impressive variety.
The group in this church is not an activities group, like I was looking for. But it’s a small group based around discussing issues of being single in a Christian context– which I can appreciate. I’d like one where I can meet some other Catholic men, but I’m happy to meet a small group of other single women and just discuss what we’re going through together.
The book I’m really excited about is one I’d never read, because it was written for married couples. I was curious, but felt it would be useless to me, since I obviously couldn’t relate.
But now there’s another version, re-written with a focus on singles! It’s called, “The Five Love Languages: Singles Edition,” by Gary Chapman. I’ve heard many people say this is a life-changing book. I can’t wait to dig in!!
The group was three other women– including the leader. I was the youngest. THAT made me feel better! Eleise also came and sat in with me for support, even though she’s married now.
We went around and talked about why we had come, and what we’re looking to get out of it.
The leader is awesome and had a rock n’ roll leather jacket and fun auburn hair!
Just skimming the book, I already knew it would reveal so much to me: about myself, and everyone I have relationships with. I can’t wait to dig into it! I am going to really work through it, and write down answers to the questions essay style. Maybe I’ll put them in a notebook, just for that.
In the car going home, I told her how much I enjoyed it, and that I felt okay about coming to meetings– though not the services. She said there are other Catholics who attend the groups but don’t join the church, and still attend Mass. That made me feel better.
“God doesn’t mind if you visit him in more than one house,” she said, and that made sense. That’s the way inter-faith couples work it out!
But more importantly, she wasn’t pushy about it. She was just happy I shared something with her that is such a vital part of her life. And I was happy that she trusts me enough to invite me. I felt more connected to her.
I realized that going to this group doesn’t take away from my loyalty to my own denomination. I still adore the peace of a Catholic church– I like the traditional hymns, and the conservative nature of Mass. It doesn’t change my identity or my love for my own church. This group is like a supplement to it.
Then I got home, and a book had arrived in the mail for me. It was sent by a nun, Sister Victorine, who had been a close friend of my dearly departed aunt, Sister Mary Jane. She wrote a book about her ministry in Japan, and promised to send it to me awhile back. Inside was a person inscription, and I felt so special.
Her book is called, “Unveiling Japan: True Stories for Armchair Traveler,” by Sister M. Victorine Buser. I can’t wait to read that too!
So tonight, I went to a church group and got a book, to enhance my relationship with myself, God, and aid my dating future. And I came home to find a book mailed to me, by a nun who has found happiness within herself and is a close friend of mine.
I think I got my sign.
I’m on the right path. I just need to open my heart!