Monday, April 13, 2009

Community and ritual

Saturday night I danced for the Easter Vigil at the coolest Catholic church in town. It is a very liberal church and they try to practice what they preach. They open their arms to everyone. I have often been encouraged to join their community in a more in depth way (I dance with them, but do not worship with them or even believe in a god). They are not trying to convert me, but want me to be part of their community even if I don't have the same beliefs. It does not escape me that they may be hoping I will convert, but they would never overtly try to change how I feel.

I really enjoy dancing with these wonderful ladies and in participating in this church's holiday rituals. Even though I see it from an outsider, I can understand how sharing a belief system and continuing to practice ancient rites of passage can bring people together. Saturday night, we opened the service by starting the Easter fire (which we danced around) and then lit candles from that fire which were then used to the rest of the congregations candles.

We were sitting behind the alter with the church lit by candle light. In the back of the church was a pool for the night's baptisms. There was a light directed on the water which was reflecting back onto the ceiling following the motion of the water. It was a beautiful, spiritual scene.

Then "we" renewed our baptismal promises. I said "I promise" with the rest of the congregation where appropriate (meaning I tried to be true to my beliefs). And at first it was easy. We promised things like: love each other, recognize and fight racism, avoid pursuing money and property. I wondered, "Could I join this community? Could I become a regular church going atheist? I can promise these things." Of course the promises went on to include to worship the one true God and Jesus and be Catholic and not just catholic.

I suppose if it is hard for "good" Catholics to get to church every Sunday morning, it would be even harder for a person who isn't religious. It is a nice thought, but likely will never come to fruition. It is a remarkable community and outside of the whole God thing, I would probably fit right in. It does not escape me that God is rather central to this community.

I want to share one other scene from Easter Vigil. They were baptizing three babies that night and not one was Caucasian - pretty remarkable for a very white town. I think it speaks to how this church really does welcome everyone.

I watched one baby in particular. She obviously had some African ancestry, but the Grandmother (I assumed) feeding her a bottle was very much white. I saw no non-whites in the immediate vicinity. I felt a bit of a kinship with this little girl's family because I started to understand she was adopted. Then the parents were called to stand around the baptismal font and as the pastor addressed each set of parents it became clear that this little girls parents were both women.

There is even a little icing on this cake. I realized that I was awwwww'ing along with everyone else watching these babies get baptized. Had I been given the chance, I would have gladly snatched one up and cuddled her. I don't remember the last time I was able to look at a newborn and not feel great sadness for my losses. I am sure it was before Ernest was born nearly five years ago. I honestly never thought I would see the day.

I guess this is a long way of saying that I have three perfect moments to report this Monday - all from dancing at Easter Vigil: the candlit church, the lesbian couple baptizing their baby in a Catholic Church, and my delight in seeing these small babies.


Mrs. Spit said...

I'm delighted in your delight!

Lori said...

I love the way you describe this church. It sounds like it embodies some very loving values.

I've always knows I would love to hang out with you. Now I know I would also love to dance with you.

Kristin said...

Wow...those are some remarkable moments. Thank you so much for sharing them.

Parenthood For Me said...

Sounds like a wonderful church. We have a church like that here. I seem to have the same beliefs as you about God and faith. That is really great that you felt a small release of your sadness watching those little babies.

Leah and Maya said...

Sounds very cool, its much easier to accept babies that come to people in a more difficult way. I don't think you would show up to church all summer when it was nice out, I don't even want to go to storytime in the summer because its nice out. Being in a building isn't for me but I know some people feel its important. I've never heard of dancing around a fire, sounds very interesting!

Sky said...

Hello there fellow atheist. I don't meet many like me. I thought you had some non-traditional religious beliefs but (now don't laugh here) I thought you were Wiccan or something - NOT that there's anything wrong with that. :)

The church sounds pretty cool. I actually often wish I could muster the faith to simply believe, despite evidence or reason. Alas, I can't. But it would be awesome. I love traditions and rituals and the community a church builds around you. Hey, if you can find some common human ground on a moral level, go for it so long as you're comfortable.

Me said...


Parenthood For Me said...

It's a great feeling to have a child to take care.