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#1 of 35 Old 11-06-2007, 02:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm dealing with a weird family situation. My in-laws are in their mid-80s. They had a son commit suicide 30 years ago, after fighting mental illness. MIL had always taken the family (mostly kicking and screaming) to a local non-denominational Christian church until then, but at his funeral, the minister made it crystal clear that BIL would not be getting into heaven due to the manner of his death. It was ghastly.

The funeral was the last time MIL or FIL ever set foot in a church, and for 30 years, MIL has maintained that she is an atheist, and she has gotten fairly liberal on social issues.

While they are in good health, they are starting to deal with issues of their own mortality and MIL has hinted broadly on several occasions that she would like to start going to church, but not to the old church. She no longer drives, and FIL has no interest in any church at all. She was raised Baptist, but the Baptist churches around her are much more fundamentalist than I think she'd like. I know she'd never buy inerrency of the bible or creationism.

I'm a largely agnostic UU, but I'm willing to take her to church by myself as I don't think my family's UU church would cut it for her. She says she doesn't want me to, but that's because she feels bad about dragging me away from my kids on Sunday morning. From the way she hints, I think she wants me to just show up on Sunday and say let's go.

But where to take her? I don't really know what would consititute liberal Baptist, if such a denomination exists. We once attended a United Methodist congregtion that I think might work, but I don't know if that would be an anathema to someone raised Baptist?

Any thoughts?
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#2 of 35 Old 11-06-2007, 02:44 PM
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i would take her to your church first, to be honest. you don't know how she'll respond until she goes, experiences it and responds. it may be exactly what she wants.

and if it isn't what she wants, you can suggest that she church shop with you a bit, and then typically those churches will have ride shares for elders or you can take her to an earlier or later service, or drive her to the service there, go to your own service, and then pick her up.

but i would start by including her in your church.
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#3 of 35 Old 11-06-2007, 03:21 PM
 
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I'm with zoebird! I think start by sharing your family's place of worship with her, and then offer to try out other ones. BTW, most Christian churches wouldn't be preaching that someone is going to hell because of a suicide caused by mental illness. That is very extreme.
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#4 of 35 Old 11-06-2007, 04:18 PM
 
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I agree with the other posters! And I am sure no one at the UU church would say anything to make her feel bad. That would be the last thing she needs, if you take her randomly to an unknown church, who knows what they will be talking about that day.

That's just me thought. I totally third taking her to your UU church.
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#5 of 35 Old 11-06-2007, 05:26 PM
 
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Even before I read that you attend a UU church, I was thinking "Take her to a UU church." Seriously, give that a go first.

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#6 of 35 Old 11-06-2007, 05:52 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Y'all don't think that a UU church will be just too weird for words for an 85 year old woman who was raised Baptist? I even find it weird, and we've been members there for several years.

Caren, yes, I know that her old church's reaction to a suicide after mental illness was way out of line and wouldn't be the case with 99.9% of Christian churches.

The suicide was really never dealt with at all by the family. They come from stiff-upper-lip WASP stock. The day after he died, it was like the son had never existed. I was only 17 at the time and was dating dh, but even I knew that the reaction was completely unhealthy. I think now that they are older, the parents are feeling it terribly.
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#7 of 35 Old 11-06-2007, 06:03 PM
 
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I'm UU, and I fourth the suggestion about taking her to your UU church. However, I also agree with you that a UU service can seem a little weird to someone raised in a more traditional church.

I'm not sure where you live, but I grew up in an American Baptist church - much different from a Southern Baptist. So, perhaps check to see what types of Baptist churches are in your area.

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#8 of 35 Old 11-06-2007, 07:56 PM
 
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I'm UU and I will chime in with suggesting taking her to your own church.

However, I will also add that there are many, many "branches" of Baptist and some are far more religiously liberal than others. I have heard American Baptist is actually quite liberal (at least compared to Southern Baptist) and there are some members of my UU small group who attended an American Baptist church before and found lots to like about it - liberal, tolerant, socially active, etc.

The names can be really confusing. For example, the American Baptist Association is apparently conservative. Here is the web site of the American Baptists I am thinking of. Note that they are highly congregational, which means you are going to get more differences between individual churches than you would with a less congregationally focused denomination.

Good luck!

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#9 of 35 Old 11-07-2007, 11:51 AM
 
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Oh heck... An actual conversation:

Navy Chaplain to Sailor: Son, do you and your wife go to church?

Sailor: Yes Sir. We found a nice Methodist church right near our house. You know what they say, "Methodists are just Baptists who can read." By the way Sir, what church are you ordained in?

Chaplain: Baptist.




Anyhoooo... Take her to your church with you.
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#10 of 35 Old 11-07-2007, 12:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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And one of FIL's favorite jokes:

Q: What's the difference between Baptists and Methodists?

A: Methodists will say hello when they bump into each other at the liquor store.
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#11 of 35 Old 11-07-2007, 01:39 PM
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the UU services that i've been too seem like regular, normal church services. you have someone leading a process of music, prayer, readings, a speech about the readings, some sort of communal something or other, and then more music, and then punch and cookies afterwards. it's really no different than any other christian church i've been too--the only difference is the theology.

since she's now rather liberal in her beliefs, she might enough that it's very similar and yet theologically different.

besides, she may just want more time with family in a religious context--it may be the connection with you adn the kids in a religious/spiritual setting that is important to her.
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#12 of 35 Old 11-07-2007, 05:42 PM
 
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I went to a UU church a couple of times. It wasn't for me, but they are very accepting and it sounds like MIL could use a little unconditional positive regard.

Q: How do you keep your Baptist friend from drinking all your been when you go fishing?

A: Take your other Baptist friend.
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#13 of 35 Old 11-08-2007, 12:36 PM
 
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If she feels her UU church is not a good fit for MIL, it would likely do more harm than good to take her anyway.

My mom was raised Baptist but felt it was too conservative when she got older, too. She has always attended Presbyterian services since. They don't tend to be horribly liberal or get up and sing energetically (which apparently freaks her out) or speak in tongues. They're your kind of dull gray middle of the road Christians. I know Methodist has also been suggested. When I was looking for a church I called around and talked to the pastors of different churches to get an idea of who fit with me. Maybe you could call around and see which local church would work well for your MIL?

(That's actually how I ended up LDS. lol It was the only church I contacted that didn't try to convince me they were the only church that was right and all the others were mislead fools. They just said they had more truth than others, but that even non-Christian faiths had some of the truth and were of good intent. It was very much what I was looking for, and made all that calling around SO worth it. )

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#14 of 35 Old 11-09-2007, 03:00 PM
 
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I know some pretty wingnutty Presbyterians are out there, so be careful.

Your best bet IMO would be to look for a church with a mainstream, traditional denominational affiliation like Methodist, Presbyterian, or Lutheran, but with a female minister. (Unless a female minister would be too weird for her, in which case, a church that has a male minister but belongs to a denomination that ordains women.) That's the best way I can figure to get a traditional, comforting setting without the fire and brimstone (because if the church is open to women in ministry, you know they're not too conservative).

After doing some research you might want to actually call the minister and explain your concerns. That way you can feel them out.
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#15 of 35 Old 11-09-2007, 03:50 PM
 
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I would find a local non denominational christian based church to take her to. I would also call ahead and talk to the pastor and make sure it's the type of church she would feel comfortable with.

just my 2cents

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#16 of 35 Old 11-10-2007, 04:10 PM
 
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"Non-denominational" is likely to be far more conservative than 98% of churches in major denominations.
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#17 of 35 Old 11-10-2007, 04:11 PM
 
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"Non-denominational" is likely to be far more conservative than 98% of churches in major denominations.
really? I didnt know that. The non denom church we attend is very laid back and pretty liberal.

I know that Calvery Chapels are considered non denom and are pretty conservative though.....I guess it depends on the individual church....which is why I suggested calling ahead of time and kind of getting the general feel of the church from the pastor....

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#18 of 35 Old 11-10-2007, 11:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I thank everyone for their comments.

The non-denominational churches here are also much more conservative than the mainstream Methodist or Lutheran churches. I did look into the American Baptists at the suggestion of Asusan. Unfortunately, there's only one such congregation here and it's tiny, and they seem like they are run by people who were potty trained at gunpoint. I don't think they'd be a good match. The Methodist congregation I referred to in the OP has a male minister, but his bishop is a woman.

I'm supposed to go see her tomorrow, and I think I'm going to tell her that the following week I'm picking her up for church, and we can either go to the UU church with my family, or to the UMC church, and see how she responds.

One other positive for the UMC church is that they have a very active group of senior women. I think that one of the misguided things the ILs have done is to start to isolate themselves from other people. Many of their friends have died off, and many of the others have moved to warmer climates. MIL is naturally a social animal. FIL less so, but it's not so good for either of them to just have each other and family, without seeing anybody else.
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#19 of 35 Old 11-11-2007, 04:31 AM
 
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I thank everyone for their comments.

The non-denominational churches here are also much more conservative than the mainstream Methodist or Lutheran churches. I did look into the American Baptists at the suggestion of Asusan. Unfortunately, there's only one such congregation here and it's tiny, and they seem like they are run by people who were potty trained at gunpoint. I don't think they'd be a good match. The Methodist congregation I referred to in the OP has a male minister, but his bishop is a woman.

I'm supposed to go see her tomorrow, and I think I'm going to tell her that the following week I'm picking her up for church, and we can either go to the UU church with my family, or to the UMC church, and see how she responds.

One other positive for the UMC church is that they have a very active group of senior women. I think that one of the misguided things the ILs have done is to start to isolate themselves from other people. Many of their friends have died off, and many of the others have moved to warmer climates. MIL is naturally a social animal. FIL less so, but it's not so good for either of them to just have each other and family, without seeing anybody else.
Sounds like a good plan to me. My mother was raised Methodist and I have some good impressions of that denomination - based on no first hand experience whatsoever of course! Good luck, and please let us know how it goes!

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#20 of 35 Old 11-11-2007, 05:20 PM
 
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Unfortunately, there's only one such congregation here and it's tiny, and they seem like they are run by people who were potty trained at gunpoint. .
that is both hysterical and horrifying at the same time.....I know what you mean by people like that though It's uber conservative, close minded churches that give Christians a bad name

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#21 of 35 Old 11-11-2007, 10:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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that is both hysterical and horrifying at the same time.....I know what you mean by people like that though It's uber conservative, close minded churches that give Christians a bad name
I don't know that this American Baptist church is particularly conservative, I think they just have some people in charge who are anal rententive. My dd used to have an activity that met at their facilities. The place is plastered with signs. "Don't sit here." "Don't speak aloud." "Don't run." "Don't, don't, don't." The message I got from being a visitor was "Don't come to church here."

My favorite was when they put a huge sign on the front door that says "No public restrooms." I was so sorely tempted to pencil in "Where Would Jesus Pee?"
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i'd love to hear how it goes. . .
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#23 of 35 Old 11-12-2007, 04:18 PM
 
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My favorite was when they put a huge sign on the front door that says "No public restrooms." I was so sorely tempted to pencil in "Where Would Jesus Pee?"
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#24 of 35 Old 11-12-2007, 04:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We went to the ILs yesterday, and I told her I'd be picking her up for church on Sunday and we could either go to the UMC church or the Unitarian church (or a church of her choosing, of course), but that I really wanted her to just go with me.

I also told her about all the research I'd done on the local Baptist churches, and she agreed that they don't sound like her cup of tea. She asked me if I'd done any research on local Congregational churches, which I hadn't. I'm not even sure if we have them nearby, but I will check them out.

She had been to the UMC church with us once for something for our kids, and she said she liked it. But she has some reservations that the UMC might be too "high church" for her. Having been raised RC, I'm not entirely sure what that means, but I think maybe she's not much on rituals. Neither am I, so hopefully we can find something we can both tolerate.

On the bright side, I think she's really glad that I want to help her out with this. She had tears in her eyes when we were talking about it. We haven't always had a perfect relationship, so this is a good thing however it works out.

Off to look up the Congregational churches!
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#25 of 35 Old 11-12-2007, 09:52 PM
 
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We went to the ILs yesterday, and I told her I'd be picking her up for church on Sunday and we could either go to the UMC church or the Unitarian church (or a church of her choosing, of course), but that I really wanted her to just go with me.

I also told her about all the research I'd done on the local Baptist churches, and she agreed that they don't sound like her cup of tea. She asked me if I'd done any research on local Congregational churches, which I hadn't. I'm not even sure if we have them nearby, but I will check them out.

She had been to the UMC church with us once for something for our kids, and she said she liked it. But she has some reservations that the UMC might be too "high church" for her. Having been raised RC, I'm not entirely sure what that means, but I think maybe she's not much on rituals. Neither am I, so hopefully we can find something we can both tolerate.

On the bright side, I think she's really glad that I want to help her out with this. She had tears in her eyes when we were talking about it. We haven't always had a perfect relationship, so this is a good thing however it works out.

Off to look up the Congregational churches!
Sounds like you are off to a great start. You may already know this, but you will want to search for United Church of Christ churches as well as searching for "Congregational". United Church of Christ was formed by a merger of the Congregationalists and another group in 1957. Most, though not all, (something like 90%) Congregational churches became United Church of Christ as part of this merger. I have heard good things about the United Church of Christ congregation in my community (which is actually called Plymouth Congregational). Good luck!

ETA: However, don't confuse Church of Christ with United Church of Christ - not the same thing.

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#26 of 35 Old 11-13-2007, 10:50 AM
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UCC is very liberal. and, each one is different.
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#27 of 35 Old 11-13-2007, 01:49 PM
 
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I went to a UU church a couple of times. It wasn't for me, but they are very accepting and it sounds like MIL could use a little unconditional positive regard.

Q: How do you keep your Baptist friend from drinking all your been when you go fishing?

A: Take your other Baptist friend.
Replace Baptist with Mormon and it's a really popular joke around here too Another variation is something like

Q: Why do you never go fishing with one Mormon?

A: He'll drink all your beer.

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My favorite was when they put a huge sign on the front door that says "No public restrooms." I was so sorely tempted to pencil in "Where Would Jesus Pee?"
: Oh that is funny, you so should have done it!

I'm glad it's working out with your mom.
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#28 of 35 Old 11-19-2007, 04:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Update:

I took MIL to the UMC church yesterday. She was thrilled, to put it mildly, and said that it felt "like coming home." She can't wait to go again, and actually told me how much she loves me, which hasn't exactly been an everyday occurrence in my 26 years of marriage. So, I guess we are going to be church buddies.

I think we'll still try the American Baptist church with all the nasty signs once, but I think she'll want to go to the UMC church afterall. It turns out there are no Congregational or UCC congregations nearby.

It was even good for me, too. One of the reasons we stopped attending this UMC congregation was because the pastor started talking up the Iraq war when it was just starting. We are pacifists, and just couldn't sit in church and listen to that stuff.

When I was walking out with MIL, we stopped to shake hands with him, and after all these years, he remembered my name and my concerns about the war. He apologized, and said that he was completely wrong about the issue, and it was his one huge regret in the 17 years he's been pastor there. He remembered our conversations from over 4 years ago, and he has a very large congregation, so it must have stuck in his head. I was floored.
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#29 of 35 Old 11-19-2007, 05:04 PM
 
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Update:

I took MIL to the UMC church yesterday. She was thrilled, to put it mildly, and said that it felt "like coming home." She can't wait to go again, and actually told me how much she loves me, which hasn't exactly been an everyday occurrence in my 26 years of marriage. So, I guess we are going to be church buddies.

I think we'll still try the American Baptist church with all the nasty signs once, but I think she'll want to go to the UMC church afterall. It turns out there are no Congregational or UCC congregations nearby.

It was even good for me, too. One of the reasons we stopped attending this UMC congregation was because the pastor started talking up the Iraq war when it was just starting. We are pacifists, and just couldn't sit in church and listen to that stuff.

When I was walking out with MIL, we stopped to shake hands with him, and after all these years, he remembered my name and my concerns about the war. He apologized, and said that he was completely wrong about the issue, and it was his one huge regret in the 17 years he's been pastor there. He remembered our conversations from over 4 years ago, and he has a very large congregation, so it must have stuck in his head. I was floored.
Wow, that's pretty impressive!

I'm glad you found a church that your MIL likes and the two of you had such a good experience together. That's great news! Thanks for the update.

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#30 of 35 Old 11-19-2007, 05:32 PM
 
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I just love everything about this thread. I am really happy for you and your MIL.
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