Interested in Christianity - advice please(23 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!
My advice if you're looking into this stuff is to bin all the stuff about Christ - all the good stuff is in the older books anyway.
I would also get in touch with a friendly Pharisee who will be able to talk you through everything.
Apologies for the lateness in this reply. It shows there's enough of you Christians around for me to persecute as it is without you multiplying!
I'd echo the recommendations to consider an Alpha course. But maybe nip into a service first to get a feel as to whether it's got the vibe that suits you.
Just like bars on a street, there are lots of different types. Some livelier, some chilled out, some packed to the rafters with students and some filled with oaps. None are necessarily wrong or right, more like wrong or right for you.
Don't be disheartened if the first church doesn't feel right to you. Just like if you were going out for a drink and didn't like the first bar you went into, don't dismiss Christianity if the first church doesn't "fit".
If you've got a friend who goes to church and you liked the vibe, why not start there?
I suggest a little stroll to Damascus.
How about it?
However. Op, if you're still around, how are you getting on?
@sauloftarsus, you may be a maker of mischief – I doubt you are of serious intent – but I’m intrigued. It's not often that a biblical character visits MN.
Do you have any thoughts on your alter ego Paul the Apostle? I can find passages of merit in the Gospels but the Pauline writings bother me. They seem worryingly ‘Trumpesque’ at times. (I hope you don't mind me being honest on this point.)
Thomas Jefferson, an earlier occupant of the White House, wrote that Paul was the first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus (who he loved very much).
What do you say to this charge?
Seriously, though, I cannot let it go that you compared Paul to Trump <shudder> I luffs Paul and would be happy to talk Pauline stuff . If you're really interested NT Wright has written a very comprehensive study of the theology of Paul. This book is a summing up of that more heavy academic tome:.
The Paul Debate: Critical Questions for Understanding the Apostle www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0281074119/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_ajFJybC10T7JG?tag=mumsnetforum-21
How are you these days, BTW?
I was like you OP - I'm not someone who has faith but I had a desire to go to church and sit, listen, reflect. Churches are (in the main) not an exclusive club.
Initially I went to a cathedral I know well which is very high church but anonymous. It was beautiful but impersonal.
I loitered in churchyards a lot on Sundays until being brave enough to go in one day. It was Anglican. Hated it. Service full of sin and negativity, vicar blanked me and refused to shake my hand. Never went back.
Went to my nearest church - United Reformed. They split with the national church a hundred years or so ago and they appeal to my 'outsider' sensibilities. The pastor is a friendly normal chap and congregation mixed and friendly. Feels cosy.
Lately though I crave more ritual, maybe choral evensong, less of the 'recycling is good' type sermons and more religious content. The Anglican church now has a modern female vicar and I might give it a go.
I'm not the religious type. I enjoy contemplation and peace and ritual. So I'd say just try it and see. You don't have to hear angelic voices and trumpets. It might just be nice, or annoying, or anything really.
No one will wonder who you are or ask awkward questions. Sit at the back and see what you think. Honestly it's no big deal.
I don't understand the references to Damascus or to this 'Paul' person.
For the sake of what I'm up against though I am genuinely intrigued. What is is about the stories of Jesus that are inspiring people?
Are there some you could recommend that are attracting people to follow him?
This is a genuine question and I promise I am not just trying to make mischief.
Try reading the Bible, particularly New Testament. It should give you a feel for the values of the Christian church.
Not all parish churches are welcoming, and many have an ethos which you may not find attractive. If you decide to go to a church be prepared to shop around a bit till you find somewhere which feels right.
I haven't looked at it for a long time, but a website called shipoffools used to have reviewsd of church services (mystery shopper format), which gives an idea of the variety and content of lots of different places.
Apologies in advance for possible detour.
Thank you for the book tip. I am fine and hope all is well with you too.
I didn’t realise Paul was a favourite of yours. I shall try to articulate my objection gently!
I think you have to look beyond the silvery words about love, love is patient, love is kind, and so on, and see what Paul’s attitude is towards those who do not share his beliefs. None of his writings concerning nonbelievers sound loving to me. They do not pass the Good Samaritan test, that is, Paul cannot conceive of goodness in those who do not subscribe to his belief system.
This leads into the Trump-Paul connection - more of which later!
I can't bring myself to tell you about Paul and the whole road to Damascus business - it might be too much for you to bear.
However, if you feel the urge to persecute Christians in the future, what you need to do is get hold of a Graham Norton Show red chair with an ejector button. Instead of torturing those poor people, ask them to sit down on the chair and tell you a Jesus story. If the story doesn't appeal, you can always press the button to get them to topple off the chair - reasonably humane and quite educational.
I particularly recommend you request the Good Samaritan (see above). Not Martha and Mary. I’d be reaching for the ejector button with that one!
(You may have no idea what I’m talking about, I realise. However, as you have apparently managed to get yourself onto the internet, who knows?!)
@outwith at the Graham Norton chair. Room 101 may work too, but not with that creepy chappy host they have now. Bring back Paul Merton.
<really does apologise for thread hijack)
I'm interested in your thoughts on Paul. Obviously Jesus is cooler and has a lot more to say about caring for others etc. But Paul in his own way has a great deal to say which is countercultural to the way things were.
@sauloftarsus . Dude, in the words of the great Marty McFly, if one day in the future you:
Write a letter to a bunch of Corinthians and various others scattered round the Roman empire, please do makeep sure your scribe catches hold of the correct translation for what you mean by 'submit'. Yeah?
Or: thank Priscilla for being generally awesome and leading a church and all that, don't change anything. That's cool.
And: watch out for some misogynist types who think Junia has to be a man cos you went and called her an Apostle. I mean, dude, you want to watch you don't get imprisoned, or something.
As for the stories of Jesus which attract people, try the Sermon on the Mount on for size and see what you reckon to that one. Have a gander at a few OT prophecies too, you're well learned in those things and might be surprised....
Thank you for all your suggestions. I'm now going to have a look and report back!
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