Faith, Hope, & Love

I’ve been curious about faith all my life. What is faith? Is it the same as religion? How about spirituality? Belief? How does it develop? What events shape it?

I hope you’ll join me in the discussion with your own stories and insights. I’ll publish excerpts with your permission (first names only, or no name if you wish), sharing the pieces that together that make us One.

I open this blog with some initial responses to three questions. And I invite you to join in the dialogue with the original three and with new questions. Does our Faith Journey matter? How does it help others? How does it help us? What about Islam? 9/11? Remembered religious wars? Forgotten ones?

You might find this pie chart at right illuminating. I did.

World Religions by percentage

The song Imagine by John Lennon became a text for me during 9/11, a song my undergraduate students tired of hearing, the message not searing into their young souls as it did mine…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

The beginning story of my own faith journey is told in my forthcoming book, Saving Faith. It continues as I listen to the stories others tell, to see the puzzled look on their faces when I ask about their faith journey, the peaceful smile as they recall moments that brought them to their knees or stood them up and moved them forward. These are the fodder of life, of my life. These are the things so many of us remember as we lay breathing our last. Moments to contemplate and learn from.

Join me as the stories come to light from the light.

The Three Questions:
1. What is a highlight for you of your faith journey?
2. Do you currently attend church?
3. Why?
As you read the some initial responses and stories, consider adding your own.

With faith, hope and love,

26 thoughts on “Faith, Hope, & Love”

  1. A highlight …of my faith journey is …reconnecting with some of the early Catholic teachings that I was exposed to. When I was young, they felt rote … Now, it’s easier to have a deeper understanding and love of them. I …most often go to a black Baptist Church. … I like the critical mass effect …of people who are expressive about their love of God.

    1. At some level, this is so “me”. I, too, was raised Catholic but it was a positive experience for me. I think living, going to school, and worshipping with my friends (all from the same neighborhood) helped it feel integral to my life. I was a definite “Catholic” and spent time in a religious congregation. When I moved from that life (a good experience, by the way) and settled in New England, it was hard to connect to the Catholicism of the Boston archdiocese but I found refuge at the Paulist Center, a Church with a vibrant liturgy and a socially conscious bent.
      I remained there until my children (both Afro-American) were about 8. Then I realized the need for them to worship in a more racially diverse community. Fortunately, I found a church that, like the Paulist Center, had a vibrant liturgy, a sense of community, and a social justice stance but had the added advantage of being racially diverse. We loved that place but life changes and the demands of “childhood” (baseball, soccer etc.) made it impractical to spend the three and a half hours that traveling to and participating in the Mass required each Sunday. Then there was a “don’t like the local church” but went anyway stage followed by a don’t go to church stage as well.
      When my daughter was in college, I began taking her to a wonderful, historically significant Baptist Church near her school. Fortunately, I had friends there and it’s become my “Sunday place of worship” for nearly 10 years. (It reminds me so much of my time in Rochester at Immaculate Conception, an inner city Church which had great liturgy, music, and community.) LIkewise. I love the community, the socially conscious agenda, the music, and the commitment of Myrtle Baptist to its youth.
      But…yep, I am still Catholic and sometimes attend the daily Mass at the local church. My thought is that both (Myrtle Baptist and St. Raphael’s) are part of me; they each nourish a different sense of who I am. Another part of me…the Nouen part. I continue to read Henri Nouen’s books, receive the daily meditations, and occasionally participate in online book discussions. I would like to think I read and meditate but that’s not a regular routine…on the bucket list I guess.
      Hi, Betty….

      1. What a joy to share these faith journeys with women who I’ve admired for so long. Your journey, Barbara, is so rich and real. And how great that you can transition from church to church. I remember a bumper sticker that said: My God is too big for only one church. And you bring in the faith experience that accommodates children, a heritage they can carry. The best is that we gain support from those who are on the same path…a faith journey indeed. Thanks Barb. Someday soon I hope.

  2. Standing inside an ancient stone circle in Ireland and feeling a connection to Earth, Sky and Water with Heart, Body and Soul that I had never experienced so profoundly…Unitarian Universalism is my home but Celtic spirituality and the meditation …are most central to my living faith.

  3. I have not started my faith journey. I was raised Catholic and have made all my sacraments but my father had a affair and left my mother the people at the church we attended looked down on my Mom and made it uncomfortable for her so we did not go to church except holidays but Mom made sure we made our sacraments.

    I have felt a yearning or pull to go back to church but I don’t know where I belong. I believe in most of the Catholic Church teachings but not all. Whenever I go to church I cry. I need to find my place.

    I do not currently attend church for the above reasons.

    1. Kim,
      I found my way to the Unitarian-Universalist Church. The affirmation of faith is this. Love is the doctrine of this church and the quest for truth is its sacrament and service is its prayer. Nothing to argue with.

  4. I was baptized Catholic. My mother was Catholic and father Methodist. My mother passed away at the age of 25. When my father remarried, we, as a family, went to a Dutch Reformed Church in Rochester. When I left home and ventured out on my own, I did not attend church on a regular basis. … when Dick and I started dating … we joined a catholic church … The atmosphere of this church is not “strict Catholic” and I see very little difference from it and the church I was brought up in. We hardly ever miss.

    We love the community and I have been very involved with running the coffee hours and on Parish Council.

  5. “I was a really neat little kid and I loved going to Mass. I liked the pageantry and performance. I even thought of being a priest. But then Sister Horrific got a hold of me. In fifth grade. I’ll never forget it. In front of the whole class she made me stand up and apologize to her for something I didn’t do. I wouldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. She turned all red in the face and with all that blue and white around her, I got seeing how funny this all was. So I began to laugh. That set her off further. She slapped me across the face. In front of the whole class. I stared at her and said, “You shouldn’t have done that, Sister.” And I walked out the door and went to the principal’s office and waited a long while. Some little kid was in there ahead of me who’d wet his pants. Some of these nuns made even the little ones nervous. Any way, I got my turn. The principal was called Mother. I said, “Look Mother, see my cheek? It must be still red cause it’s burning still. The nun did this to me. And it’s not right. I know that much. I’m going home now and I expect something will be done about this. You have my phone number.” I was 10 years old and I walked out. Just like that.

    Well, I eventually became a lawyer. I knew she was young and a little whacky. They tell me she left the convent. Not surprising. But I lost my fervor for them all. They knocked it out of me. I might have made a fine priest. I don’t know. I’ve got my own time with God and I even say a prayer for that poor little nun. Funny isn’t it, me becoming a lawyer. I never thought about that ’til now.”

  6. When I get a visit from Mormon “Elders” or Jehovah’s Witnesses I tell them I am comfortable with my faith and hope they are with theirs. I am Unitarian Univeralist.

  7. My faith journey started before I was able to walk or talk.My grandmother was my babysitter while my parents worked.She was a multi faceted woman if strong faith.She continuously sang spirituals as she held me in her arms and did chores around the house.She was a delicious mixture of Baptist,Presbyterian and Episcopalian.This prayerful woman was the first human reflection of God in my life.
    Our bond was unique.I named her when I was three months old.She was picking me up out of my crib to hand me over to my parents when they arrived home from work.I looked up,legs wiggling with joy upon seeing her face and yelled,”Da.”
    My mother thought it cute that I was making sounds.My grandmother immediately knew that I was naming her and replied to me,”yes,I am your Da.”
    This was my name for her all of my life.When I speak to her in my heart I call my Da and know she hears her name echo in heaven.By the way,this mix of Baptist,Presbyterian,Episcopalian woman died a Catholic.In the last year of her ninety five years on earth she said to me,”darling,I have always attended Protestant Churches for the singing and the preaching,but I think you Catholics might be on to something.I told her that God wouldn’t care.She insisted that when I thought time was getting thin that I baptize her.I did.She did tell me that the funeral would be at Saint Stevens AME Church in the Bronx.She needed real good “sangin” to get her through the Pearly Gates!

  8. Elizabeth, I could go on forever about this topic. I, too, have always been interested in matters of faith. I understand it to be part of my legacy as a Myers-Briggs NF type. I wanted to be a pastor when I was in fourth grade. But, things happen. I fell into a conservative born-again crowd. Women didn’t become pastors. I wasn’t in any shape to become one right out of college anyway.
    I can’t recite a litany of highlights in my spiritual walk. I usually identify the working of Spirit through backward glances. I can say I’m not who I was, one plagued by unremitting depression. I credit Spirit and spiritual influences (such as people) for its current remission. And now, in my 60s, I am going to seminary. I should be ordained in June 2017.
    As for going to church, it has become a spotty thing in recent years. I’m not sure why. I long for a spiritual community in which to share my gifts, but not many seem to want to talk about theology. Connecting with Spirit is my overarching passion. I have spent a lot of time using theology as a pathway toward that. It is now clear how limited words are when the spiritual life is about experiencing the holy, which can be elusive in our culture.
    I told you I could go on about this topic. I continue to place my faith and hope in the center of all things which is Love.

    1. Catherine, this is great news that you are doing what you started thinking about as a child. Hope you’ll find this a place to share some of your theological epiphanies. Thanks for sharing. Would love to have you at the Twisted Tales talk at Writers and Books as part of the Fringe Festival on Saturday, September 17th at noon.

  9. Elizabeth, I guess I have spiritualality. I am of the Jewish faith and respect their traditions and beliefs. We did not attend temple after my youngest brother was bar- mitzvah so I was 8 when we stopped attending. I have always questioned religion and its meaning and have always looked for answers. Death is for me the scariest thing about living. No one is able to define death and I want answers. Death is to gray for me.
    I cherish my ethnic identity as a Jewish person. Teena. (Even my name is spelled the way it is because my mother could not use Tina as it is short for Christina which has Christ in it ).

    1. Teena, One of the things you do so very well is name the issue. Having lost two of my siblings this year has brought me face to face with my own mortality once again. My brush with breast cancer started the journey and as I read your words, I recall the Jewish faith has no definite ‘afterlife’ belief. I was raised to believe in heaven and somehow I still know that the spirits of those I love are close by. They guide me in dark hours and more than that, they remind me how fleeting these days are and how important it is to cherish each moment. Thanks for bringing this issue to light. You continue to be a beacon.

  10. As you know, Elizabeth, we share a Catholic background with good and some bad experiences. I was raised in a strong faith which has given me a solid religious foundation. As a child in a small town, it was odd to a child that so many of our religious priests and nuns (Sisters of St. Joseph) struggled with their spirituality and left the convent and even the priesthood. Affected those in the church youth groups immensely.
    Practicing Catholic until my late 40’s. Now I do not attend any church, but have come to terms with my spirituality vs. religion side of me and continue to grow in that area.

    1. Pat,
      It’s such a joy to hear a peaceful resolve to what can be torment to so many.
      “come to terms’ with and continuing to grow. Both signals of something deep that keeps you centered. Thanks for being part of the dialogue.

  11. Elizabeth, I think you know my journey as well as I. Many years ago I fell away from my Presbyterian church, but still had my belief, just didn’t attend church. Nine years ago this week my cancer came back in a big way. I had my first appointment to see if I was a candidate for radiation. I wasn’t given a good chance to live. The next day one of my closest friends asked about the appointment. It was a hard conversation and there were many tears for both of us. As we talked, I felt something on my shoulder. I turned but no one was there. I felt the words, “it doesn’t matter if you have 2 years or 20. Make a difference in others”. An amazing peace fell over me and my friend asked, “what just happened to you?” God was at my shoulder that day. In the years since, my cancer continues to come back for a visit and we continue to deal with it. My wife and I have joined a small Presbyterian church near our home and we know this is our spiritual home. And the friends I have found through my faith and cancer have opened a whole new world to me!

  12. Elizabeth,
    My faith journey started in childhood, growing up in a strict Polish-Catholic community. Although I took comfort in the Catholic rituals, I always felt women were disregarded, if not shamed. We were taught to sing a prayer, “Oh, Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us.” When I started questioning these teachings, I was told that the priests studied the Bible and translated for us. In young adulthood, I started reading the Bible, and learned that women actually were early leaders (St. Phoebe) and one may actually have been a disciple of Christ. How long it took for the Church to retract its character assasination of the Magdalene! I also took coursework in college, which led to a better understanding of how various religions interpret a higher power. Some years later, I came to believe in a higher power of my own understanding, after my life had become unmanageable. At the time, after I did a searching and fearless moral inventory, and shared it with another woman, I felt forgiveness. I was able to ask my higher power to remove these short-comings, and make amends to people I had harmed. I still take a daily inventory, and when I am wrong, admit it. I also see my higher power at work in the lives of other people, who have had unimaginable hardship. It is amazing to listen, watch and learn how other people come to believe. And it is amazing grace!

    1. What a great journey you share, Karen. I hadn’t known about Phoebe but will look her up. Also I love the concept of character assassination for the Magdalene. There’s a new church by that name run by a woman. I’m sure she gets that. Shame, such a powerful emotion. Love and forgiveness more powerful. Thanks for sharing on this blog. Amen and alleluia.

  13. I am not sure what faith is, so I googled….

    complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
    “this restores one’s faith in politicians”
    synonyms: trust, belief, confidence, conviction; More
    strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.
    synonyms: religion, church, sect, denomination, (religious) persuasion, (religious) belief, ideology, creed, teaching, doctrine
    “she gave her life for her faith”

    Well, I am not too sure about the polititions or definition #1. I am pretty sure that definition #2 doesn’t help much either. I guess I need to answer the question. “What is the highlight of my faith journey.”
    I like “hope” better. After 16 years of Catholic education; I had to go to p.s. 23 for kindergarten; I have evolved into a fairly staunch Atheist. However, I have great respect for Catholic thought and for many Catholic friends and mentors.
    I can still hear a former professor and now dear friend sing “God IS LOVE, and he who abides in love, abides in God, and God in him.” It has been a profound highlight in my life, but I have to parse it with what I recall from logic class. “IS” is the key word.

    Do I attend church? Yep, I do. A church where Atheists are welcome; where I even rub shoulders with Christians, Jews, an occasional Muslim, and even a former nun.

    Why? Why not?

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