Interested in Christianity - advice please(11 Posts)
When I was very young (I think about 6 years old), I decided that I didn't believe in God and an afterlife. The thought actually terrified me and, whilst I have been sure I was correct ever since, this has caused me a great deal of unhappiness over the years.
Recently, however, I have started to become more open to Christian beliefs and the idea of God etc. Last Christmas a friend from work took me to the church she attends for a craft evening, where I met other people from the church. I felt very welcome and peaceful and really enjoyed it, even though it didn't involve drinking which for me, at the time, was a big deal! They were giving out leaflets about the meaning of Christmas which touched upon how to open your heart to God if you didn't believe and I felt that parts of it made a lot of sense (which very much surprised me).
The other day I was having a conversation about this with someone who challenged me. I mentioned my experience as a child and she said something like "So you decided at 6 years old that there was no God, and no afterlife and, even though you were very young, that was the absolute truth and no other person's point of view or faith could possibly be right? If you are that uncomfortable about the idea then why don't you educate yourself about other possibilites and other people's faiths?"
I think she is right so I would really like to find out more about Christianity and start going to church etc. The problem is, and what I would like advice on, is that I feel very ignorant about these things. For example, how do you know which church is right for you? Can you just turn up at a church service? Can you meet with the vicar/priest and discuss stuff? I'm really sorry if these are stupid questions, but I would really like to open my mind to this, but don't want to make a fool out of myself or be judged (or look like I am judging anyone else if I ask questions about the religion).
Have a look to see if any of your local churches do an Alpha course. It's run by the church but totally open to questions etc. My mum asked some really tough ones! It's an intro and overview of Christianity and I've been to two courses at separate churches and the questions are always wide ranging and encouraged.
Churches vary so much so just turn up at a few to get a few. It's fine and I'm sure you'd be welcome from my own experiences.
Alpha courses can be good but they're not for everyone.
I would try going to a few different churches and see how it feels. In the end Christianity is more about what you do than a set of ideas. You can get more of that by simply turning up at a church. And anybody can go to a church service - just go in.
If you're in a city a cathedral is a really good place to start - you certainly won't get any 'so you're new around here' looks - and you could start with something like Evensong (usually on Sunday evening) which doesn't have much for the congregation to do. Sunday morning services are the main ones and there's a huge variety - why not do a bit of church tourism, go and sit at the back, and see what you think?
Vicars/priests/pastors should be happy to talk - that's one of the things we're here for! - but there might also be groups for people who want to explore the faith or who are new to church.
If you'd like something to read I would suggest what is Christianity? by Rowan Williams which is a really short and accessible introduction. You might also like to look at
Re: Jesus which has loads of resources about Christianity and the Christian life.
What would you say is not for everyone about Alpha courses, Niminy? I thought that was what was good about them-they were really open to all people. Of course they're only one option of many but I think saying they're not for everyone suggests something negative (sorry if that's not at all what you meant!).
The Alpha Course looks like a pretty manipulative experience, but then I guess indoctrination is what the church is best at.
I am training as a vicar. I would love to have someone turn up church and ask questions after a service - or arrange a time to come around and chat over a coffee. Just in the same way I am happy when people who have been going to church for years want to talk about their faith.
I would try going to different churches and seeing where feels right for you. Different churches have completely different styles of worship, even within say the Anglican church it can vary between churches.
Another thing I thought of is that lots of churches have very informal refreshments after which are a good way to get a feel and meet the vicar.
It's a shame others have found Alpha to be a negative experience as I never felt manipulated and I'd have hated to have done!
just turning up is a good idea. Firstly, you'll get a feeling for how welcoming the church is and if the clergyperson is someone you feel you can talk to. I've never met a priest who didn't like to talk about their faith, so don't worry about that! Most churches seem to have websites now where you can look up times for services.
Denomination is in many ways the last detail you need to worry about. I was baptised in the Methodist Church, confirmed in the CofE and received into the Catholic Church as an adult. The first two were chosen for me, the last was my own choice. You will probably feel drawn to one or another and there is no harm in trying a few to find the best fit.
Do you have any friends who are Christian? I am sure most people would be delighted if you wanted to go along with them and answer some informal questions. There is such a variety of Christian churches you could certainly shop around and may find yourself drawn to one or another.
You could always ask questions on here too as there are Christians from all denominations who are happy to give you their perspective (just be aware that you may get some difficult comments from people who find it difficult to understand why and how some people have faith but you don't have to engage with that debate if you are just exploring things).
I hope you find what you are seeking.
You can absolutely turn up to any Anglican Church and receive a warm welcome. Summer services can be non-representative of what goes on throughout the year though, so don't judge if you come across one of these.
An Alpha Course and Christianity Explored are great ways to learn the basics of the Christian Faith where you are allowed to question without fear of being judged.
I would say the best way to find a church is simply to go to your parish church and see how you get on there. If you don't click with it, then go to the next one. There are lots of flavours of church - evangelical, liberal and catholic - so the nearest one may not be the one that you engage with but all churches should teach you and help you grow in your faith.
The "a church near you" website gives details of CofE churches.
Some churches have misused Alpha but that is more a reflection of them than the course. All the courses I have been a part of have been very low key, open to questions and a huge emphasis on not telling people what to think. But there are plenty of other courses out there like Emmaus, Start and Christianity explored which suit different people. Might be worth having a look what is available locally and what feels right to you.
Or if a course doesn't seem like something you want to do most churches would welcome you and most vicars be more than happy to talk with you and listen to you. Maybe have a Google of what's around and think about where you might feel more comfortable - a more traditional service or something more contemporary? There are plenty around of all shades.
So pleased you're exploring faith. For me it's the most incredible and fulfilling adventure. Happy journeying!
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