Non-believers/members asking for blessings/sacraments - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 41 Old 12-26-2009, 03:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'll post more later, but for now I'll put this out there:

If you are a non-Christian, have you ever called a congregation to ask for a blessing (say, a house blessing) or a sacrament (baptism or wedding) because you felt it was "the thing to do." By this I mean, you're getting married and even though you're not a Christian (although maybe your family is or you were raised as one), you want to get married in a church because "that's how it's done" or all the kids in your family get baptized even if few practice.

Or related: if you're a believer, but not attached to any particular congregation, do you contact a priest/minister for a sacrament, even when there are clear requirements on congregation's website that you have no intention of meeting, but still demand the priest/minister do it?

I don't mean to be combative, but I'm trying to understand the mindset. I recently had a very frustrating exchange. I'm president and webmaster of a local organization for my faith (I'm an Orthodox Christian), and received an email through our website from someone not of our tradition and most likely not even a Christian (from her word choices in emails) demanding a house blessing (I was told there were restless spirits and the like in their house), who couldn't seem to understand that such blessings are not done unquestioningly, without any discussion with a priest. She demanded I find a priest who would do it and kept asking when it would happen. As I didn't know where she lived, I pointed out the parish locator tool on our website (you enter your zip code and it gives you the nearby parishes), but she wouldn't use it. She wanted *me* to make the arrangements. That was the last email. I spoke with my own priest, who would not do a house blessing under such circumstances. I don't know of anyone locally who *would* do it. I've had discussions with local priests about non-members demanding sacraments (these people ascribe magical properties to baptism, for example), but under no circumstances will they do them. I know a few priests who would do a house blessing for a non-Orthodox, but they would have to ascertain the person's motives are good, respectful, they're a Christian. These priests are out-of-state, however.

It seems that some folks have a mindset from the media (movies, books, and such) that if you have paranormal activity, you need to have a priest in to fling some holy water about. Most seem to think about a Catholic priest for this one, though. Not sure how she hit upon the Orthodox. But if you're not Christian and don't hold to Christian beliefs, what good will it do you? Wouldn't smudging with sage (which I've read about here on MDC) or something similar be more appropriate in such a situation?

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#2 of 41 Old 12-26-2009, 04:06 PM
 
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actually smudging with sage wouldn't be any different. that is a religous thing and if you do it just because it is the hip thing to do its no different than having your house blessed. actually it would be like you blessing your own house and skipping the priest I guess. why don't you suggest that to her. direct her to the prayers for a house blessing and tell her to have at it?


i can't say that it has ever occured to me to head to another faith to ask for sacrements or blessings. I wouldn't even ask for a baptism or marriage outside of my church....

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#3 of 41 Old 12-26-2009, 04:12 PM
 
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She sounds pushy and obnoxious and I'm sorry.

DH is a pastor and he gets phone calls all the time from people who want to have weddings in our church because it's pretty or have their babies baptized because it's the thing to do. It's really not uncommon. But her attitude towards you making arrangements for her was really weird.

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#4 of 41 Old 12-26-2009, 04:37 PM
 
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Well, no, that just seems like a strange thing to do. But on the other hand, I was always under the impression that people of the Christian faith don't feel this world is any place for "bad spirits" and I guess I'd think that a priest would feel obliged to help eradicate them no matter what the motivation of the person asking. I was raised DOC Christian, so we never discussed things like bad spirits, these are just my impressions.
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#5 of 41 Old 12-26-2009, 05:09 PM
 
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My guess is that she thinks there is some kind of generalized power in the priest's action, for some reason. So in that way, she likely does "believe" something. But, I also wonder from your description if there could have been some other issue - maybe mental illness. Priests do occasionally get such people reaching out to them for one reason or another, even if they are not part of that particular faith.

As far as people looking for other sacraments without being believers. I have been noticing in non-Christians in my own age group, more and more simply forgo these things. But those that get them are very often doing so under pressure from family - I know my two little cousins were probably really baptized because it made the grandparents happy (I don't think they were pushy, but it was made known they thought it was important.) I have a few people I know who married in the Catholic Church at the strong demand of parents.

I actually have some sympathy for them - it's really very unfair of the family to ask this, and I think the priest should probably be the one to talk to the parents in such cases and lay down the law.

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#6 of 41 Old 12-26-2009, 06:06 PM
 
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I don't know about the lady who you've had contact with, but for a lot of people it is NOT an all or nothing thing. Many folks are more than happy to take what they like/want/need from religion and leave the rest and many institutions are happy to oblige, especially for a fee.
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#7 of 41 Old 12-27-2009, 01:28 AM
 
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I don't know about the lady who you've had contact with, but for a lot of people it is NOT an all or nothing thing. Many folks are more than happy to take what they like/want/need from religion and leave the rest and many institutions are happy to oblige, especially for a fee.
That is true, and those people and institutions usually find each other eventually. However, it sometimes happens in my church that people ask for sacraments or other blessings offered exclusively to church members, and are very offended when they are refused. It is seen as rude and discriminatory, like refusing to serve somebody in a restaurant because of their religion.

I think Tradd is right about some people basing their ideas on movies. They think "ritualistic" Christian churches have some kind of random power they can throw around when needed, like Jedi with the Force. They need to understand they are dealing with a real church, not a celluloid one. Any "power" the church has is God's, and that is not something you can or should casually hire by the day.
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#8 of 41 Old 12-28-2009, 04:05 AM
 
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I don't know about the lady who you've had contact with, but for a lot of people it is NOT an all or nothing thing. Many folks are more than happy to take what they like/want/need from religion and leave the rest and many institutions are happy to oblige, especially for a fee.
I'd have to agree with this one, myself.

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#9 of 41 Old 12-28-2009, 07:05 PM
 
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My dad's a Reformed Baptist pastor; we're very low church, non-liturgical and generally unshowy, so don't do any of the more "theatrical" elements of Christianity that appeal to a lot of people for aesthetic reasons. We don't have vestments, choirs, stained-glass windows or a beautiful chapel. So Dad probably gets fewer requests by people wanting a Christian high-church "flavour" to a celebration than someone from, say, high Anglicanism.

Nevertheless, he did get one couple who wanted him to marry them (not believers, but the children of church members) and specifically asked if he'd "wear his robes". Dad kind of spluttered and kindly told them he didn't wear vestments (which they REALLY should have known, our denomination being what it is!). The bride persisted and wanted him to get some for the occasion! He found it funny, but it's kind of offensive really - what exactly did she want him to symbolise by wearing clothes he never wears for religious purposes? Basically she was happy to put her desire for a particular "look" over my father's religious principles (he doesn't wear vestments out of principle, not because he'd never thought of it until the bride brought it up!). Plus, my father would look extremely odd in vestments...

That kind of thing is why Dad prefers just to do Christian weddings. Secular celebrants often seem to like dressing up to play a part (whether it be in a kilt for a Scottish wedding or faux vestments for a non-specific Christianish spiritual "vibe"), but Dad prefers to just be himself - a non-robe-wearing, low-church Christian pastor - and do the ceremony without any fanfare.

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#10 of 41 Old 12-28-2009, 10:38 PM
 
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Our church has very specific requirements prior to performing baptisms, joining the church, dedications, weddings, etc. These are things like pre-marital counseling, religious classes, etc). They are the same for members and non-members, and are in writing, so whomever answers the phone or emails gives the same answers. That being said, I do not believe any member of our pastoral staff would agree to the above for a non-christian.

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#11 of 41 Old 12-28-2009, 10:45 PM
 
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Our church has very specific requirements prior to performing baptisms, joining the church, dedications, weddings, etc. These are things like pre-marital counseling, religious classes, etc). They are the same for members and non-members, and are in writing, so whomever answers the phone or emails gives the same answers. That being said, I do not believe any member of our pastoral staff would agree to the above for a non-christian.
My husband always says "That's why we have a policy." That way, it's not his arbitrary whim, but the guidelines speaking.

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#12 of 41 Old 12-31-2009, 01:46 AM
 
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I think Tradd is right about some people basing their ideas on movies. They think "ritualistic" Christian churches have some kind of random power they can throw around when needed, like Jedi with the Force. .
Ya know, my priest does kinda look like a Jedi, what with the robe and beard and pony tail...but he is old school. instead of a light saber he just has a really big candle......

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OMGosh, that made my night.

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#14 of 41 Old 12-31-2009, 01:52 AM
 
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Nevertheless, he did get one couple who wanted him to marry them (not believers, but the children of church members) and specifically asked if he'd "wear his robes". Dad kind of spluttered and kindly told them he didn't wear vestments (which they REALLY should have known, our denomination being what it is!). The bride persisted and wanted him to get some for the occasion! He found it funny, but it's kind of offensive really - what exactly did she want him to symbolise by wearing clothes he never wears for religious purposes? Basically she was happy to put her desire for a particular "look" over my father's religious principles (he doesn't wear vestments out of principle, not because he'd never thought of it until the bride brought it up!). Plus, my father would look extremely odd in vestments...

That kind of thing is why Dad prefers just to do Christian weddings. Secular celebrants often seem to like dressing up to play a part (whether it be in a kilt for a Scottish wedding or faux vestments for a non-specific Christianish spiritual "vibe"), but Dad prefers to just be himself - a non-robe-wearing, low-church Christian pastor - and do the ceremony without any fanfare.
If you think about it though weddings do have all kinds of weird dress up rules. Why is that the bride and groom and often the wedding party wear formal attire when everyone else is in casual clothes? and now it is becoming oddly customary for the bride to wear silly shoes or something odd such as that. Not so long agp the only brides wearing formal attire were the ones who were throwing black tie events, or at least one where people really dressed nicely. girls who were throwing sunday best events wore dresses that qualified as Sunday best. fancy but not over the top designer formal wear. but every wedding I have ever been to has had the bride in groom in extreme formal attire along with the wedding party and everyone else in something along the lines of business casual down to jeans and tshirts. Suddly the wedding parties attire has become a costume they are expected to wear for the event. In light of that it doesn't really seem odd that they would ask the pastor to put on his costume to play his part in this weird social drama.

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#15 of 41 Old 12-31-2009, 02:06 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Ya know, my priest does kinda look like a Jedi, what with the robe and beard and pony tail...but he is old school. instead of a light saber he just has a really big candle......

use the force Fr. Sava....use the force.
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#16 of 41 Old 12-31-2009, 09:51 AM
 
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If you think about it though weddings do have all kinds of weird dress up rules. Why is that the bride and groom and often the wedding party wear formal attire when everyone else is in casual clothes? and now it is becoming oddly customary for the bride to wear silly shoes or something odd such as that. Not so long agp the only brides wearing formal attire were the ones who were throwing black tie events, or at least one where people really dressed nicely. girls who were throwing sunday best events wore dresses that qualified as Sunday best. fancy but not over the top designer formal wear. but every wedding I have ever been to has had the bride in groom in extreme formal attire along with the wedding party and everyone else in something along the lines of business casual down to jeans and tshirts. Suddly the wedding parties attire has become a costume they are expected to wear for the event. In light of that it doesn't really seem odd that they would ask the pastor to put on his costume to play his part in this weird social drama.
Strictly speaking, this is an etiquette issue. I think it has been caused by wedding magazines, and dressmakers who want to sell expensive formal gowns.

The wedding party and the guests are actually supposed to be at the same level of formality. If it is a black-tie evening thing, the men, including guests, should be in tuxes. If the wedding party is wearing a suit, that is also about right for the guests. The brides dress, while the most grand, should be similar in formality to what the guests wear.

They have, I think, become different because people want a very fancy wedding that is really outside what their friends and family can manage. Think of all the men in morning dress in 4 Weddings and a Funeral? How many people own such a thing, or would be willing to rent it for a friend's wedding?

It's a bit like serving expensive champagne to the head table and plonk to the guests.

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#17 of 41 Old 12-31-2009, 07:15 PM
 
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Well exactly. What was once appropriate dress has become costume. And in many weddings it is a costume (such as themed weddings) which it only makes sense that since everything else is so orchestrated for the dramatic why wouldn't guy at the front of the church be part of the setting the bride is looking for as well. As the pp mentioned these people were not looking for a man of God to participate in a sacrament or holy rite. They were looking for an actor to fulfil his part in this play. and they were dressed up why shouldn't he be? When you take the wedding gown and tuxes out of their proper formality they become costumes. props in a play. mah, anyway....the whole wedding drama is so weird to me.....

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#18 of 41 Old 12-31-2009, 11:23 PM
 
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Not so much about our specific situation, but my husband is a pagan and has had blessings from priesthood holders of my church (LDS). He is a universalist and basically believes that if someone believes the acting with the power of God and have followed the rules that *their faith* says they have to follow, then they ARE acting with that power. Kinda hard to explain I guess. Priesthood blessings are forms of energy work in his opinion, it's just a different name for it. (And I agree - I have training in energy work myself and the energy that comes from a good priesthood holder during a blessing is amazing). So yeah, you don't have to be a Christian to believe that certain things that ARE Christian work.

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#19 of 41 Old 01-01-2010, 12:33 AM
 
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In light of that it doesn't really seem odd that they would ask the pastor to put on his costume to play his part in this weird social drama.
Well yes, except that in this case it wasn't the pastor's costume, and the pastor had a theological objection to wearing that costume. So it was an etiquette glitch - it demonstrated a lack of understanding about our denomination, and an expectation that the pastor would happily adopt the practices of a VERY different denomination in order to look cool. Which is a bit off, really. Just as hiring a Catholic priest to do the wedding but require he not wear vestments (or worse, wear the garb of an orthodox Jewish rabbi or a Buddhist monk or something) in order to "fit the theme", would be off.

Plus, the larger concept of weddings as showy affairs is a bit antithetical to my dad's way of thinking anyway. I think he was bullied into getting a new shirt for my wedding, but that was about the extent of it.

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#20 of 41 Old 01-01-2010, 01:44 AM
 
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There are A LOT of paranormal shows being made right now so maybe she got scared.
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#21 of 41 Old 01-02-2010, 12:00 AM
 
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Well yes, except that in this case it wasn't the pastor's costume, and the pastor had a theological objection to wearing that costume. So it was an etiquette glitch - it demonstrated a lack of understanding about our denomination, and an expectation that the pastor would happily adopt the practices of a VERY different denomination in order to look cool. Which is a bit off, really. Just as hiring a Catholic priest to do the wedding but require he not wear vestments (or worse, wear the garb of an orthodox Jewish rabbi or a Buddhist monk or something) in order to "fit the theme", would be off.
Exactly. Doctrine and theological debates about the wearing of vestments were not their concern. They didn't have a clue. they weren't looking for religon or a pastor. they just wanted to hire a clergy man to marry them. they wanted to set the stage for their perfect show. which is why they saw a robe as nothing more than what very reverend reverands wear. and they probably didn't even have a hint of offness in their head about asking to him wear whatever. because they know nothing of such things. to them it is just what pastors wear at weddings. After all, all the marryin' clergy are wearing them in the movies....thats how you know they are clergy and not...well, someone else. and its more dramatic than a suit and tie.

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#22 of 41 Old 01-02-2010, 12:36 AM
 
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Yup. And it was particularly clueless given that the groom was the son of one of our church members. Oh well! (Dad did marry them, but not in "robes"...)

On one other occasion he was asked for money by a guy who insisted he was a fervent Reformed Baptist, and then proceeded to say "So will you help me, Father?" Panhandling research fail.

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#23 of 41 Old 01-02-2010, 09:08 AM
 
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haha

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#24 of 41 Old 01-05-2010, 03:42 PM
 
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Interesting question...my experience is at the extreme side of it.

When dh and I were married we ended up using a Chaplin through the phonebook great guy. He was a reverend for his own church years ago, retired and now does this. He did a great job. Dh and I didn't care if the cermony was religious or not. We both grew up Christian (me crazy vesions of born again and dh a Methodist). It just felt 'right' to have a person of God marry us. He offered to wear his....robes? But we opted for a black suit.

Then...

When our daughter was born prematurely and was obviously
not going to live MW offered to call a pastor she knew for us/Amelia. In walks the pastor who married us. He was great, sat with the inlaws and gave them comfort as I was in labor and then returned the next morning to pray with Dh and I. Turns out he's done CBE classes with his wife for MW years ago. Small world. Having him pray for Amelia and us was so powerful. It in part brought back much of the faith Id lost throughout my adulthood.

So, dh and I expected the services of a pastor who's faith we are only loosely a part of and who's spicific church we aren't part of at all. Given, it seemed that he had no problem with it, and perhaps offered himself to MW in the past.

I've asked for blessings when perhaps someone might think I was not quite deserving. Honestly, if ANY religious leader could offer a prayer for lost babies I think I might ask of them to do it. Bit different than a house blessing to me but I can see how someone might compare the two.

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#25 of 41 Old 01-05-2010, 03:49 PM
 
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In the case of marriages and baptisms, I believe a lot of times it is the parents of the couple being wed or the grandparents of the baby who is unbaptized that can push the issue very strongly. However, I do know of some couples who have been very upset to be denied access to a church/priest/pastor for a wedding - they think of it like a hall rental, they like the ambiance and the decor and don't understand why they can't just rent the space out. A lot of times they don't even understand that what they are asking for is a sacrament in the religious faith of the church that they are wishing to use the building/pastoral services of.

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#26 of 41 Old 01-21-2010, 12:13 PM
 
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There's a priest-monk who teaches at a university several hours away (I've heard him speak), who spends summers on Mt. Athos. My choir directors call him "Obi Wan Kenobi." He even wears sandals with socks under his cassock!
I'm fairly certain that the radical Jesuit priest who married us wore Birks with socks under his vestments for our wedding. Then again, I was sort of surprised he wore shoes at all - he's a good friend of both of ours, and we know he's likely enough to dispense with that particular formality altogether.

I'm traveling the world with my kids without ever leaving home and blogging about it -- watch, taste, and share our adventures at TheGlobalStayCation.com!
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#27 of 41 Old 01-21-2010, 04:26 PM
 
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In the case of marriages and baptisms, I believe a lot of times it is the parents of the couple being wed or the grandparents of the baby who is unbaptized that can push the issue very strongly. However, I do know of some couples who have been very upset to be denied access to a church/priest/pastor for a wedding - they think of it like a hall rental, they like the ambiance and the decor and don't understand why they can't just rent the space out. A lot of times they don't even understand that what they are asking for is a sacrament in the religious faith of the church that they are wishing to use the building/pastoral services of.
Some of that is dependent on the faith tradition, though. At my church members who aren't active can't even get a baptism for their children or a wedding, let alone a nonmember.

To my husband I am wife, to my kids I am mother, but for myself I am just me.
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#28 of 41 Old 01-21-2010, 10:56 PM
 
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I grew up Catholic, and DH converted to Catholicism a year or so before our wedding.

Some time after the wedding, we started practicing with the Pagans, eventually quit going to Mass, and in time found the UU church.

Years later, my grandfather died. While I was up with the family, I lost my pregnancy (10 wks).

After Grandpa's funeral mass, we asked the presiding priest for and received a blessing.

In the case of the OP about the house blessing... It does sound a little out-of-line. I'm not sure where I'd go with that. I know I haven't asked our local minister for a house blessing yet, in part because we are new to the area and the congregation.

On the other hand, I think there is a place for Chaplains to provide spiritual support / care for people in crisis, whether they be in the military, at an airport, at a hospital, at the workplace, or whereever they are.

The role of the Chaplain is to be there for people and to meet their needs as these big changes in life occur. The role of the Chaplain is not supposed to be to convert the person they are ministering to toward any particular faith or system of belief. The role of the Chaplain is to minister to the needs of the person in a way that respects the ministee-s faith and spiritual needs.

It's like, in the UU faith, we do not have to believe alike to practice alike. We do not have to follow the same creeds to minister to one another.

I leave tomorrow to go visit my dying mother. If she wants a rosary, I'll pray a rosary with/for her, because her comfort is what matters now. I'll take care of my own spiritual practices and tend to my own needs at the hotel or at home. I won't impose my practices on my mom.

Unitarian Universalist Pagan
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#29 of 41 Old 01-23-2010, 11:33 AM
 
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Originally Posted by suebee79 View Post
I don't know about the lady who you've had contact with, but for a lot of people it is NOT an all or nothing thing. Many folks are more than happy to take what they like/want/need from religion and leave the rest and many institutions are happy to oblige, especially for a fee.
Ah but that is not the point in many churches. By definition, Catholic churches are not this way. It's a give and receive relationship.

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Originally Posted by mamabadger View Post
That is true, and those people and institutions usually find each other eventually. However, it sometimes happens in my church that people ask for sacraments or other blessings offered exclusively to church members, and are very offended when they are refused. It is seen as rude and discriminatory, like refusing to serve somebody in a restaurant because of their religion.

Except it is disrespectful to compare someone's deeply held beliefs to entrees in a restaurant. For most people, and I'm assuming most religious of all denominations, it IS offensive to compare their faith to fast food. I think anyone would agree with that.


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Originally Posted by Moonprysm View Post
Not so much about our specific situation, but my husband is a pagan and has had blessings from priesthood holders of my church (LDS). He is a universalist and basically believes that if someone believes the acting with the power of God and have followed the rules that *their faith* says they have to follow, then they ARE acting with that power. Kinda hard to explain I guess. Priesthood blessings are forms of energy work in his opinion, it's just a different name for it. (And I agree - I have training in energy work myself and the energy that comes from a good priesthood holder during a blessing is amazing). So yeah, you don't have to be a Christian to believe that certain things that ARE Christian work.
Yes, but if you don't believe, and that's part of the blessing, then what's the point? I'm not sure I understand.

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Originally Posted by Smokering View Post
Well yes, except that in this case it wasn't the pastor's costume, and the pastor had a theological objection to wearing that costume. So it was an etiquette glitch - it demonstrated a lack of understanding about our denomination, and an expectation that the pastor would happily adopt the practices of a VERY different denomination in order to look cool. Which is a bit off, really. Just as hiring a Catholic priest to do the wedding but require he not wear vestments (or worse, wear the garb of an orthodox Jewish rabbi or a Buddhist monk or something) in order to "fit the theme", would be off.
And vestaments aren't just a costume. Depending on denomination, each piece has a meaning, a prayer and is a part of faith. It's also disrespectful to think of them as just clothes. I agree, it's a bit off.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charbeau View Post
In the case of marriages and baptisms, I believe a lot of times it is the parents of the couple being wed or the grandparents of the baby who is unbaptized that can push the issue very strongly. However, I do know of some couples who have been very upset to be denied access to a church/priest/pastor for a wedding - they think of it like a hall rental, they like the ambiance and the decor and don't understand why they can't just rent the space out. A lot of times they don't even understand that what they are asking for is a sacrament in the religious faith of the church that they are wishing to use the building/pastoral services of.
I agree with the bolded parts especially and that's just awful. It's a holy, sacred space. I doubt they'd push their way into a beautiful shrine to another place, but because it's Christian, it's ok.



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Originally Posted by kcstar View Post
It's like, in the UU faith, we do not have to believe alike to practice alike. We do not have to follow the same creeds to minister to one another.
But not all faiths are like UU. In this case, the OP is talking about something that should be a unified faith. I think had the person called someone UU, it wouldn't be an issue. Like PPs have said, I think that the nutter on the phone wanted garments and holy water, not the specifics of faith.
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#30 of 41 Old 01-24-2010, 06:42 PM
 
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I was raised Roman Catholic, and left the church when I was in college. After graduating, I joined the Episcopal church and was married in it. My husband and I were on a week in Taize (a french multi-denominational monastary)... wonderful place. Anyway, at their night prayer, they have Catholic priests available for the sacrament of reconciliation. I had (and still have) no desire to return to the catholic church... but I did have a strong sense of distance from God, and I felt the need for reconciliation. So I approached one of the priests and explained myself. I asked if I could receive reconciliation from him even if I didn't want to rejoin the church. His response was "of course you are welcome." It was such an open and loving response and one that I really needed at the time. Because my parents are very devoutly Catholic, I try to be respectful of the "rules" of their church, but at that point in time, I needed an official Sacrament. And it was very healing for me that there was a priest who was willing to welcome me as I was with no further expectations.

Now, as to the OP's situation... the lady sounds bossy and demanding. Her attitude might be her way of coping with a pretty stressful situation (and for your sake, I'm sorry). I'm wondering what her real and deep motivation is. If she is truly scared in her environment, but also has some discomfort with some of the rituals found in orthodoxy... she might feel like the only place she has to turn is a place that she has typically been kind of leary about. It sounds like she is having a real conflict within herself. Now, I don't think that that means that one of your local priests has to accomodate her wish for a house blessing... but maybe a few questions to dig and find out what she REALLY needs... and then a compassionate point in a direction that might be helpful to her.

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