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The other church visitor, K, and I talked a bit at lunch.  She was “saved” at an Evangelical church and talks like an Evangelist.  She is sweet, if a bit enthusiastic, and passionate about saving others.  She was surprised to hear me say that I don’t consider myself a Christian yet.  I think I am becoming a Christian; I am in process.  She wanted to make sure I understood that all I needed to do to be saved was to accept Jesus Christ into my heart and have faith.  I understand that this is the Evangelical perspective, but I don’t know if it is universal Christian perspective.  I told her that I had accepted him into my heart to be transformed and guided, but that I did not yet have faith or belief in all (or even most) of the main doctrines of Christianity.  I don’t know if that matters.

I think K was primarily concerned with my salvation, which is perhaps another level beyond being considered Christian or not.  And again, my thoughts differed from hers and from an Evangelical point of view.  I think of Salvation as a process.  I think you can have moments of clarity, insight, transformation, even transcendence – I am familiar with this from Buddhism – and these are guideposts on the path to enlightenment and salvation, but should not be confused with Salvation itself.  They may even be promises or guarantees of future Salvation, so in a sense you are saved because you are on the path of salvation, but I think Salvation is a process – of purification, of becoming holy, of becoming more and more God-like.  And it takes time and willingness and the effort of continually being open to God working in your life.  I agree with K and other Evangelists that Salvation comes from God’s grace alone, and not from actions, (although actions are helpful and part of the purification process and are also a result of God’s work in our spirit).

One problem I encountered as a Buddhist was that Salvation/Enlightenment was seen as the result of actions and effort and I never seemed to have enough effort to get any traction.  I was powerless in many capacities.  The blessings and grace of God are necessary and always present where real spiritual process is being made.

Again I think my way of understanding is closer to the Eastern Orthodox traditions.

For now I would say that I am a Christian-becoming and that I am in the process of being saved by God’s grace – a process that may continue through this life and beyond.

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This past Sunday I returned to the Beachy Amish mission church.  I brought my daughter.  It went very well and people were very tolerant of my daughter crawling around the room and getting into things.  I love the singing and the group prayer and sense of community.  I wore a tichel-style covering and my jumper dress.  I felt right and good but rushed out to my car in the morning hoping my neighbors wouldn’t see me and ask questions.  F, who I’ve been exchanging emails with, was supportive and encouraging of my covering, which was nice.

After the service I went with F and N, and another church visitor back to their house for lunch and conversation.  My daughter played with their small kids and we talked about our spiritual paths and how God is working in our lives.   They are a young couple and are conservative Mennonites (and attend the mission church to help since it is so small).  The woman has Jewish roots and we are all in similar professions.

I enjoyed so much spending time with this couple and the other church visitor.  And I’m still struggling with the divorce and remarriage issue – and its very personal.  N said something very wise while I was there, the gist of which was that God will show me what I am supposed to do and make it okay, that I don’t need to join or not join a group based on intellectually what is acceptable to me or repugnant, but to be open to growing in my understanding.  So I don’t need to react like, “how horrible that this group would judge my situation or my marriage,” rather if I’m meant to be there, God will find a way to make it all right.  And if I’m not meant to be there, I’ll know that too.

I feel comfortable with (and inspired by) the people at this church – their faith is so strong and put in practice every day.  I love that.  It feels good to be around people of strong faith who live their faith.

But, I’m also feeling like the Orthodox church has more to offer me – more concrete practices, structure, depth of tradition and literature.  I am feeling more drawn in that direction right now.  Maybe it is another stepping stone, or maybe not.  I am feeling a clear leading that I want to be Baptized and that it should be by immersion.  I don’t think it would be enough to attend a church but not be Baptized.

For now I am going to continue to attend both churches, alternating as I am able.

 

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