Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Next Installment....

As I mentioned before, after my pentecostal experience, I was perfectly insufferable for about six months (at least, I think it was about that long). I offended friends and family members who had not shared my particular religious experiences; I was willing to divide people into "true belivers" and "everyone else." I also wrote letters to a couple of my high school friends, telling them about my experiences. They never wrote me back.

I read a chapter in the book of John every night; I also read a lot of the Pentecostal literature that was popular at that time: Dennis Bennett's book Nine O'Clock in the Morning; Francis McNutt's book Healing, and Erwin Prange's The Gift is Already Yours. Agnes Sanford's classic book The Healing Light is quite intriguing and is one of the few that I have retained. (Also Larry Christianson's The Christian Family, which sets the women's movement back about 100 years -- led to some interesting discussions with my mom). (Most of these books are now out of print). I attended a "coffee house" worship service once a week which was hosted, I think, by a few people from the Four Square Gospel Church.

In the summer I began attending two evening church services: one at a Catholic church, and one at what was called a "New Testament Church". I continued to worship at my Lutheran Church on Sunday morning. I attended the Catholic charismatic meeting with a Lutheran friend of mine from college. I attended the other worship service with an old friend from my childhood who I had "coincidentally" met on a bus on day. (But I was sure that it was not a coincidence.) I thought that the music at the Catholic charismatic church was especially beautiful, especially when the congregation did something called "singing in the Spirit."

Although I was pretty well converted to a charimatic/pentecostal point of view on most things, I was very stubborn in two areas: baptism, and the book of Revelation. The first semester after my charismatic experience my college friends put a lot of pressure on me to be re-baptized. I read everything I could get my hands on about baptism, and became more and more convinced about the sacramental nature of baptism. I also resisted a full immersion in the dispensationalist, pre-millenial view of the End Times.

When I went back to school my sophomore year, I was still an extremely earnest Christian. I took a Bible class that fall that introduced me to the historical-critical view of the Bible. (Well, that's not exactly true; I knew a little about the historical-critical view of the Bible from my lay theologian uncle.) I don't remember suffering any profound doubts from what I learned; I retained my enthusiastic faith and got an 'A' in the course, as well. I developed the practice of taking Sunday as a sabbath from studying during that year. For that year, at least, it worked out, too. I also spent the entire year taking classes from a professor new to the school. She was a literature professor -- and a Roman Catholic nun.

As the school paper reported, in an interview with her, she was "unlike any nun you ever met." For one thing, she was a T.S. Eliot scholar, steeped in classical literature. For another, she was a mystic. She preached that year on the Feast Day of St. Thomas Aquinas, and claimed that she was going to preach about Jesus, not Thomas, because that's what Thomas told her to do.

That year, I took Interpretation of Fiction, the January term course Poetry and Music, and Interpretation of Poetry from her. I remember her walking into class one day in January, and reciting from memory

I say more: the just man justices
Keep grace, that keeps all his goings graces
Acts in God's eyes who in God's eyes he is: Christ
For Christ plays in ten thousand places
Lovely in eyes and lovely in limbs not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.

from the Sonnet, "When Kingfishers catch fire", by Gerard Manley Hopkins

At that moment I discovered that there were other kinds of religious experiences than speaking in tongues. I was having one.

... to be continued, (maybe)


Gannet Girl said...

This is a great story!

Lindy said...

Don't make us beg. Please continue. Maybe you'll even inspire me to write about my own college experiences.

Jan said...

Come in--keep going! I'll be gone this week, but I hope to get back to blogging to find more of your story.

FranIAm said...

Please keep this coming. Oh Diane, this is first and foremost, such rich writing, beautiful.

However - your personal story is deeply compelling. I ask, I beg and I pray for more.

I have been semi-absent from blog reading for a week or so and was delighted to come here today and find this.

Your book awaits you. It is happening now I think.

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

About being judgmental about other's faith: some Lutherans are attending the Baptist church nearby. A young man who attends both told me that he is hearing things about maybe some of the Lutherans really are believers (!??!) I asked him, "Are they really teaching this? because I've heard this before from B attenders." He said he didn't thinks so, but he hears it only from the former Lutherans. But obviously something there brings it out.

Jennifer said...

I hope you'll continue, too.
I marvel at your memory and attention to all sorts of little, important, details.

Ivy said...

Diane, our stories are similar, although for myself I didn't have the church background you did. Please continue your story. Peace.

Diane Vogel Ferri said...

It is interesting how our faith doesn't change but our take on it sometimes does. I was much more conservative and inflexible in my youth and zealous about the "one way" that was right. As I grew in life experiences and in God's grace I became more tolerant and clear on what faith really is.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Ah, I love your discovery of possible religious experiences in poetry.