My wife has started posting a series on her blog about how she ended up “converting” to Catholicism (www.meganwillome.com). I decided it might be good if I posted corresponding posts to describe my own church journey as it corresponds with hers. I think mine will probably be longer and less succinct than hers, so if you’re game you can read along.
It starts when I was eight years old, and my parents were trying to reconcile after a six-month separation. They found themselves at a marriage retreat at Laity Lodge, which is in the Texas Hill Country about an hour from Kerrville. A Catholic priest lead the retreat, and it was through that process and a prayer my father prayed with the priest during one of the breaks that my father became a Christian. When my parents came home and my dad moved back in (the exact order of events is a little fuzzy for me), we all joined the First Baptist Church in our town. Now, many Baptists grow up with anti-Catholic sentiments, but I never did because of my dad’s experience with this priest. My dad, for his part, grew up Methodist, but during the separation had started attending a Baptist church in San Antonio, so joining the Baptist church in our little town seemed a natural fit.
So I grew up Baptist, absorbing more Baptist theology than I realized. I won’t go into the whole story about my own developing relationship with God, but, suffice it to say, by the time I met my wife 23 years ago I was a discipling Christian as was she. Neither of us felt like we had cornered the market on theology and approached our adult lives post college in a very ecumenical way. We usually drifted towards Baptist or non-denominational churches (which are usually theologically similar to being Baptist), but we remained open to different Christian denominations.
After we moved to our current town nearly seven years ago, we looked for a church our children would enjoy. They were both in grade school, and we were trying to replace a church with a vibrant children’s program. After visiting seven different churches, all of differing denominations, the children chose the Methodist church. This suited us fine, and the kids were happy.
Unfortunately, three years later the church went through a terribly divisive time. We tried to stick it out, but it was difficult because nearly all of the families left. The final straw was when we took our son, who was then in the 7th grade, to the youth room on Sunday morning only to find that it was locked and the lights were out because there were no youth to serve. We needed to find something else.
We visited a Lutheran church for a while that my wife, daughter (three years younger than our son) and I liked, but our son didn’t. They were doing confirmation and he had trouble getting into it. Having grown up in a confirmation-free Baptist world I didn’t know how to coach him through it. So we tried giving him the freedom to go to other churches on his own. He tried the Evangelical Free Church youth group for a while, but he didn’t end up liking that.
This is where I’ll end this part of the story since this is about where my wife’s blog post today ends, but, in summary, by the end of 2009 my wife and I were attending a Lutheran church with our ten-year-old daughter, and my son was visiting the Evangelical Free church’s youth group. Something was about to happen, however, that would send my wife on a spiritual journey that God led me to support.