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Choosing a church?

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Skittl1321, Aug 27, 2013.

  1. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

    Does anyone have any advice on choosing a church? I haven't attended church regularly for about 13 years. I was raised Catholic, but have major issues with the church so I stopped going. However, there are things about Catholicism that I'm fairly tied to, and so it has been easier to not go to church than to find another one.

    But I miss church. I miss the community and I miss the growth in faith attending church provides (I pray, but that's really it.)

    I just have no idea how to go about finding a church. I'm honestly pretty uncomfortable with the idea of just showing up a few times and seeing what it is like. (Especially because I have no idea how to dress, and I'm scared of people.) I've viewed the websites of various churches and I can tell which ones are traditional and which ones are more modern, but they all outline about the same beliefs.

    Part of the problem is that I'm really liberal....

    So how do you find a church to fit you?
  2. snoopy

    snoopy Team St. Petersburg

    I am not sure there is any other way to really find a church other than going and checking it out in person. Asking through friends would be a good starting place though. And the website should give you a clue as to how conservative it is by how they define their beliefs about the bible – generally, if they make a big deal about the bible be the authoritative and definitive source, it is conservative. If it the bible is more of a guideline, the church is likely more liberal. I find bigger churches are better for shy people since you stand out less.
  3. purple skates

    purple skates Shadow Dancing

    At the (Catholic) church I sometimes attend, the dress code is everything from traditionally dressy to jeans. The services are quite large/well populated, so you can hide in the crowd. There's quite a few people who don't take communion either, and people just slide around them.

    IOW, you should be fine no matter what you wear or where you sit. :)
  4. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

    Every church I'm looking at is very 'bible infallible word of God'. Can some clue be given by which version they use? A few use NIV, which I know is considered to be WRONG!!!!! by many very conservative baptists, and I kind of consider that a good thing.

    A lot of the churches are non-denominational; and when I was growing up the kids I knew from non-denominational churches were the most conservative, as in they left conservative baptist churches to get more conservative; but I'm not sure if all non-denominational churches are like that.

    I am looking to stay with Christian churches, and I have some pre-existing views on various denominations, but I'm not sure what to think about non-denominational. It seems like that would be "easier" to attend as a lapsed Catholic, as I wouldn't be changing to another denomination. I don't know.... maybe I need to check out the Catholic church here. That would be easiest, as I know how mass works, even if they've since changed all the words.
  5. snoopy

    snoopy Team St. Petersburg

    Where in Iowa are you? I would expect Des Moines and Cedar Rapids to have some liberal churches. If you are closer to Nebraska, you may be SOL. Yeah, non-denominational probably = conservative. Maybe check out United Church of Christ or Episcopal churches. Iowa went for Obama so it can’t all be conservative though I think there are pockets of liberals within conservative spheres there. Catholic churches are probably the primo example of that, parishioners are usually more liberal than church doctrine, so it might not be a bad thing to stick with a Catholic church.
  6. Rogue

    Rogue Sexy Superhero

    My recommendation is to consider the cause(s) you are most interested in, whether it be feeding the homeless, job training, helping children, whatever. Then look for the churches that are most actively involved in that cause in your community. That way you will meet people with similar interests to you.
  7. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

    I live near Iowa City (near Cedar Rapids too, but not enough I'd go to CR regularly). It's the most liberal area of Iowa, but most of the people I know don't go to church or are Catholic.

    I agree most of the Catholic parishioners I know are more liberal than the church is; but that is part of the reason I stopped going to the church. I didn't agree with them, and it was painful to listen to. I felt like a hypocrite supporting the church body, even if the people were generally somewhat close to my beliefs.
  8. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

    That's good advice.
  9. heckles

    heckles Well-Known Member

    Yes, it's hard to tell from a church's website whether they're conservative or liberal, because they're almost always going to cite Nicene Creed-related beliefs, which doesn't tell you much. You said you had problems with the Catholic doctrine, so depending upon what you didn't like, you can find other denominations that don't have those same beliefs. Just Google what you are looking for. For example, if you're gay-friendly, Google "gay-friendly churches," which will take you to www.gaychurch.org, which has a list of gay-friendly churches in your area. You'll find that a fair number of gay-friendly churches are also contraceptive-friendly and allow women to be ordained, so if those are other issues you had with the Catholics, there are some good fits for you there.
  10. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

    I'm wondering what this website considers to be gay friendly. It appears to just be a list of churches in my area (pretty much has all the main denomination ones listed and two or three of the non-denoms), both the Catholic and Baptist churches near me show up. Now, these churches may welcome gay people to come to their mass/service, but the doctrine they preach isn't gay friendly...

    I guess I'm just going to have to get over the fear of people and go sit in churches for the next few months till I find one I like. Then hope when I learn more about it I didn't make a huge mistake... (And yes, gay-friendly, contraceptive-friendly, women-friendly are all things I'm looking for.)
  11. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

    Many 'searchers" I know with a Catholic background find the Episcopal Church a good fit.
    There are variations among individual churches.
    However, you will find much that you are familiar with; and ways to engage with causes that matter to you, in most of them.
  12. heckles

    heckles Well-Known Member

    That's where it gets tricky. While some individual congregations within denominations are somewhat gay-friendly, you may prefer not to be contributing and adding membership numbers to a larger organization that is not gay-friendly. Regarding Baptists, there are several flavors of them. The Southern Baptist Church is not gay-friendly, whereas the Alliance of Baptists is.

    Your search may benefit from directly contacting groups with those interests and asking them for church recommendations. For example, Google your city name with "Gay Christians" and see if there is an organization for them, then shoot them an email asking what local churches they recommend.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2013
  13. snoopy

    snoopy Team St. Petersburg

    Here is a church in Iowa City that might be worth checking out. It is liberal given away by the following:

    1) Cites itself as open and inclusive
    2) Has a female pastor
    3) Has a belief statement in Jesus but not the Bible.

  14. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

    Thanks. I'll look into it.

    I found one church that looked very promising, and was nearer to me, but then as I read further, I realized they meet in a field near a bike trail and then run after all their services as a form of meditation. I don't run!
  15. Prancer

    Prancer Strong and stable Staff Member

    In terms of doctrine, then, I would second snoopy's suggestion to look into United Church of Christ or Episcopal churches.

    United Church of Christ: http://christianity.about.com/od/unitedchurchofchrist/a/uccprofile.htm

    There are a couple in Iowa City: http://faithchurchiowacity.blogspot.com/ and http://www.uccic.org/

    Episcopalian churches tend to vary more, but as someone else said, Catholics tend to feel more comfortable there than in Protestant churches. In terms of doctrine, though, I think you might find UCC a good fit--open to all, progressive, and focused on faith as a journey.
  16. millyskate

    millyskate Well-Known Member

    Hello Skittl,
    I was also going to suggest Episcopalian churches, based on what you mentioned. Methodist churches could also be a good fit.
  17. RoseAugust

    RoseAugust Active Member

    You might want to check if there is a "Reconciling in Christ" church near you. That may just be a Lutheran thing, but other denominations would have something similar. These are churches are who are publicly LGBT inclusive and are generally liberal. I belong to a RIC church in Sacramento. It's fun to attend a church where ALL are welcomed.
  18. Holley Calmes

    Holley Calmes Well-Known Member

    I joined an Episcopalian church 5 years ago because I had breast cancer, was terrified, and went to a healing prayer service on a Tuesday night. I was so impressed with the down-to-earth people and the love directed towards me that I came back. The result has been more than wonderful.

    If you are thinking about joining a church, you must be feeling a spiritual need which is a great thing. I wouldn't have any preconceived notions if I were you. I would visit some different places. I love what the above said about looking at how they serve the community, programs for the homeless, the hungry, hospital outreach, children's outreach....To me, that's what Christianity/religion is. Not joining a church or attending on Sundays but living it every day and loving others.

    I will tell you that the Episcopalian Church is divided right now, but if you're looking for gay/women's rights/green friendly, it's the best church to find as a large denomination IF you find an Episcopalian church that is one of liberal ones. There are conservative ones, but it's probably easy to determine which one is which with a little research. My church is extremely liberal, and I feel very comfortable there.

    I wish you much success on your journey. I will say a little pray for you that you will find a church that wraps its arms around you and loves on you! They are definitely out there.
  19. Holley Calmes

    Holley Calmes Well-Known Member

    Sorry for the double post. Not sure what happened!
  20. heckles

    heckles Well-Known Member

    As with the Baptists, you have to carefully pick the shade of Lutheran. Lutherans of the Missouri Synod are not gay-friendly, whereas the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America is.
  21. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

    Yep, I knew about that- my husband "is" (he hasn't gone to church in like 20 years) ELCA. I actually didn't know about the different types of baptists though.

    I sent an email asking some questions to a few of the churches nearby. A few in Iowa City look good, but I'm actually not that close to most of them, and with traffic, it would be a bit of a pain.
  22. elka_sk8

    elka_sk8 Well-Known Member

    So I could be you- except I'm in the DC area. But I'm pretty much in the same position, a liberal lapsed-Catholic who would like to find a church I'm comfortable with. My DH was raised southern baptist and I said early on that was out. :lol: I've been meaning to scope out some Episcopal (aka Catholic-lite) and Unitarian churches, although DH isn't as keen on the latter (thinks it's too free form). I've been slacking and need to search for a few to visit.

    Good luck!
  23. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member


    Thanks for this suggestion- I think I am going to visit them on Sunday. I've never been somewhere with a female pastor, so that may take some getting used to; but her email response to my questions was fabulous. Even to the point that she answered about abortion with "I think most of our members would view abortion as a tragedy, but understand why some women may choose that option". Which is pretty much how I've always summed up my pro-choice views (even if the church isn't pro-choice, the pastor certainly doesn't seem anti-choice!).
  24. AxelAnnie

    AxelAnnie Well-Known Member

    I was in the same situation. I chose a whole new religion! I became a Jew. It is closer to Catholic than one would think.

    I am not good in new situations, or with strangers, either. If you are going to find a Catholic church, I would recommend the earliest mass. When I was in my teens, I used to go to 6:00 mass...........way less fuss then.

    Good luck.

    You could also try services at a local University. They are generally a more liberal less traditional crowd.
  25. heckles

    heckles Well-Known Member

    There's an old Emo Philips comedy skit, "Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or 1912?" Funny stuff. :lol:
  26. sk8pics

    sk8pics Well-Known Member

    Chiming in here.... I know some Catholics who have switched to the Episcopal Church (which is also a Protestant church), as the doctrine is very similar. I was also raised Catholic, and quit going to church when I was in college and then about 10 years later I went back. It was a very conscious decision for me, made after a lot of thought and some prayer. The parish I found, and still attend 25 years later, is a very post-Vatican II church with some liberal views, though we are still, of course Catholic, and we have been blessed with very pastoral priests, some of whom have become good friends of mine. We have a number of ex-priests and ex-nuns who are members, a number of divorced and re-married folks, and I have seen a few folks who I know are gay, as well. This would not necessarily be true of every Catholic parish around here, of course. So my advice is also to look around. You may want to visit some of the churches around and see what the worship and daily life is like. I, too, thought I would just be able to hide in a dark corner the first time I went. But our worship space is very non-traditional and there actually was no place to hide. So, give some of the area churches a try. If they are not welcoming and friendly, well that may give you an answer.

    On the other hand if you want to try a different church, personally I would look at the beliefs professed by any given congregation. Of course it's important to feel at home with the group you join, in terms of being welcomed and so on, but it's not just a social club, so you should be able to agree with the creed that is professed. Some things are critical, others are not so critical, and you have to think about that and maybe talk about it with someone who you respect. Think about the things that are critical to you, and see what the church community defines as most critical.

    Good luck with it....
  27. zaphyre14

    zaphyre14 Well-Known Member

    Even among Catholic churches, attitudes vary, depending upon the focus of the pastor and the parish council. My home parish used to be very liberal under our previous pastor, but he passed away suddenly and his replacement, while still a nice man, is much more rigid in terms of doctrine. I've had a lot of trouble with some of his homilies, the emphasis on politics and the intolerance he advocates toward issues that affect me. (He actually told the congregation that we should not attend gay weddings because it is against the laws of God and supporting a non-traditional marriage makes us and advocate of sin.) So I've been heading over to the other Catholic church in town where the pastor seems more liberal and inclusive. I've also liked what I seen of the Church of England services when I've been across the pond. I don't know how close the American Epsicopal version would be but I think if I were to leave the Catholics, that's where I'd head first.
  28. BigB08822

    BigB08822 Well-Known Member

    I suggest trying an Episcopal Church. I think of it as a more liberal (and accepting) Catholic Church.
  29. victorskid

    victorskid Skating supporter

    Within almost every "mainstream" religion you will find both commonalities and a wide range of attitudes that can be tied to the local leadership (and may change as the leadership changes). Just because you feel welcomed and comfortable at one church or parish, you shouldn't necessarily expect that feeling to extend to another church or parish of the same religion.

    Doing some research before attending a service would be a good idea but may not tell you everything - sometimes it comes down to how you are greeted at the door. I can attest to that from my own experience.

    In addition to the activities and outreach that may mirror your interests, you might also want to consider things like music - are you a "traditionalist" who prefers an organ (and a robed choir) or are you happy with less traditional music (perhaps guitars and drums) accompanying worship? Do you prefer a quiet service without any music at all?

    In the Episcopal Church in the US and in the Anglican Church in Canada we have experienced "break away" congregations and/or priests who claimed to be "bible-based" and used that as an excuse against things such as same-sex marriage/blessing, female priests, etc. They have affiliated themselves internationally (and within countries) but distanced themselves from the national church and from the Anglican Communion (worldwide).

    FYI, generally speaking, within the Anglican tradition (i.e. coming from the Church of England which originally broke away from the Roman Catholic Church after a disagreement between King Henry the 8th and the Pope of the day regarding a desired divorce) we do not consider ourselves protestant (i.e. coming about from the Protestant Reformation) but catholic. We respect leaders of other faiths including the "Bishop of Rome" (the Pope).

    Good luck in your quest - I hope you'll find a place that "feels right".
  30. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

    As someone who has been Roman Catholic, this is something I'm having to get used to. The fact that some churches are incredibly local, and depend nearly entirely on the leadership. I've gone to about 12 different RC churches. Yes, some had priests who gave better homilies, some had better social events, but the doctrine was identical. The mass was the same except some sang things other spokes, but nearly the same. It didn't matter where you went, because what was being taught at the churches was the same.

    Looking at these other churches, it is really weird to find how much the pastors individual views are what is being taught, since there is either no central authority, or it is much looser than what the RC church has.

    I've found a second church that sounds like it is worth looking into. Overall, it sounds more conservative than the first, but it is much closer to my house, and the pastor tells me that their message is very non-political, which I think is good. I mean, I am looking for a Christian church; I can't expect them to be far end liberal.