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Choosing church to attend

(5 Posts)
puzzledaboutchoiceofchurch Sat 27-Dec-14 09:34:47

I am really struggling with this. Realistically, I know it's really a matter of simply finding the church that is the right "fit" for us (me and 2 dcs), but I am running into a bit of obstacles.

1- I like more traditional religious services - with the older type hymns with books, not the more modern with words on a screen with taped music. Give me a lovely hymn with a pipe organ in the background any day.

2- I've found that smaller churches, while more personal, have been much more ... pushy? uncomfortable? Whereas in a larger church we can blend in a bit and see how things go without being pushed or rushed to commit to that particular church.

3- I have 2 dcs with SNs - some of which is behavioural. They require close supervision. I have found some intolerance out there, which is distressing.

4- I cannot just send my dcs to Sunday School classes while I am in church service - for a couple reasons. First of all (and most important) because they need supervision for their SNs, it means I have to trail along to the class instead of attending the worship service. Secondly I don't want them to be "fitting" into Sunday School classes and getting comfortable only to find I am not comfortable in the worship services once I am actually able to attend them. And thirdly, how are they supposed to eventually learn to sit through the worship service if they are pulled out after 10-15 minutes for Sunday School?

My family and my ex's come from a wide variance of different religions. Ex's father was Catholic (although he was an unhappy with the Catholic religion later in life), his mother is CofE. Ex is decidedly not either - couldn't tell you if he has any religious bent at all - he simply can't be arsed to go to church, I tried to get him to simply go for the sake of allowing the dcs to be exposed to religion and he refused. My father was Lutheran and my mother is Baptist, although she generally goes to a Lutheran church now in the states as she went to them the whole time we were growing up as that was my father's church.

I've not really had any experience of CofE, although I get the impression it's likely similar to the Lutheran churches in the states in many aspects. I did play organ for a Catholic church in the states (5 masses every Sunday, so a fairly good sized church, plus additional masses on church holidays) for a few years, and I felt quite comfortable there.

So... the dcs are 5 and 8. They've never been baptised (again, ex refused). We've been separated over a year and I'd like to look into attending church regularly (I enjoyed being active in church when I was younger, I miss it, and I would like my dcs to experience it as well as getting healthy exposure to religion). I'd like to explore looking at a Catholic church, as that is where I've felt the most comfortable in my adult life (providing of course the entire building doesn't come crashing down around me as I enter or lightning strikes me blush - it has been over 10 years since I have regularly attended church).

I know ex will be annoyed if I take the children to a Catholic church - not from any religious preference, but simply because he will pull out the excuses that his father was unhappy with Catholicism in his old age or that he thinks they're all paedophiles (have I mentioned he can be rather offensive and aggressive?) or that he just doesn't want them to be Catholic. But as he rarely sees them (once in the last 4 months) even though he lives locally, and he is not regularly practising some other religion that he wants them instructed in, I feel that I have the right to take them to a church that I feel comfortable in (that will be comfortable for them as well).

Sorry this is so long. Any thoughts on this? I could use a good sounding board for these thoughts....

puzzledaboutchoiceofchurch Sat 27-Dec-14 09:41:04

Also, I note that different church officials vary in their views. My sister (years ago) married a Catholic man who then beat her badly and landed her in hospital. The father (church official) told her that as his wife she was obligated to stay with him regardless and submit. (she didn't) However, the father at the Catholic church where I played organ for a few years was a lovely person - he was very clear that abuse was not tolerable.

Do I just contact the local church and ask to speak to the appropriate church official to discuss where they are sitting on this? I separated from ex because he was abusive (to me, but mostly to the dcs). I don't want to attend the church and then be told I was wrong to leave him (to protect the dcs).

Tuo Sat 27-Dec-14 13:47:01

Hi Puzzled.

I don't think that there's a simple answer to your question unfortunately. I am Anglican and I think that you and your DC would get on brilliantly at my church, which I've seen be welcoming to children (and adults for that matter) with SN, would not banish you to Sunday School (though it'd be there if you wanted it) and which certainly would not tell you that you were wrong to leave your abusive ex. You'd find my church more like the Catholic churches that you've attended than like the Lutheran church in the US (afaik... my US experiences have mostly been in the Episcopal Church). We have Holy Communion every week, for instance, and go in for candles, bells and incense in quite a big way! At the same time, we're also pretty flexible, tolerant of noise and running around (from kids mostly, but not only!), and not snooty (at least, IME). However, the CofE is a very broad church, and your local church may be more 'worship songs and powerpoint' than 'choir and hymnbooks'. Have you looked at A Church Near You? If you put in your postcode it will direct you to churches in your local area, and, following links from that page will often take you to the churches' own websites, from where you will be able to get a sense of worship style and facilities available. You can also get contact details there for the vicar or relevant person to contact for more information. It's definitely not a problem that your children haven't been baptised... mine weren't either, when I started attending church about 4 years ago (one has been now; the other has opted out - both their own decisions).

In general, non-conformist churches are more likely to be stricter about the role of women , divorce, and so on, but again this may vary greatly, and really no-one should be telling you that you should stick with someone who is abusive come what may... If you ever venture onto the prayer thread you will find several posters from a whole range of denominations who've left abusive relationships and have found support, not condemnation.

Umm... sorry - just re-read your OP and saw that you were asking more about Catholic churches. I don't have any experience of Catholicism in the UK, sorry. However, I won't delete what I've just written, in case it's of any use. Good luck!

The Church of England is has a broad range of worship styles from very catholic through to worship bands. The broad middle is where I suspect you would be comfortable with hymn books, organ and a wide range of ages in the congregation. I've generally worshipped in churches like this with congregations of 100-150 where you can be anonymous until you choose not to be. Cathedrals can be a good place but some congregations can be a bit stuffy. Others are wonderfully welcoming but you won't know till you try it out. Some Methodist and URC churches are large and traditional in their worship styles and that might be a good fit.

The website Ship of Fools has a mystery worshipper section so maybe google your town with 'Ship of Fools Mystery Worshipper' and see what you get.

I'm horrified that any church would suggest to a woman that she submit to an abusive husband. I know it happens in very conservative churches but how the leadership square that with their domestic abuse and safeguarding policies I don't know.

I don't think the roof will fall in if you go to church after a long break. Our place was full of visitors and returners over Christmas and last time I looked the roof was the same as it was pre Christmas!

Drquin Sat 27-Dec-14 14:06:07

I think it is a matter of finding the right church (big C and small c!) where you all feel at home. You might have to be prepared to try a few.

I'm Church of Scotland, which probably isn't much help in theory ..... But for example, in my church we run a crèche on a Sunday morning on a rota. Not that we discourage children from the service - far from it. But we recognise some adults want to be able to attend the service as an adult without their children, but have no other childcare options. Other C of S churches wouldn't do that. So, it's not even the denomination you need to get right, but the "right" local environment.

Is there anyone locally - perhaps parents at your DC school - who would recommend their church?

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