Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
August 20, 2001
Youth face crisis of 'double belonging'
Interchurch upbringing leads them to develop loyalties to 2 churches
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Have you ever thought how challenging it is to grow up in a family that belongs to two churches?
Double belonging is sometimes difficult to understand but it has become common these days. In the future what will be common are families coming from four churches or more faith traditions.
What Linda Buchanan, 18, Jane Smith, 21, and Dominic Andrews, 28, have come to appreciate is ecumenism at home. They attended the international conference for interchurch families held in North American Baptist College, Aug 1-6.
While their parents were sharing the hopes and concerns of interchurch families, the children were in a separate session discussing their situations.
All three came from families with Roman Catholic mothers and United, Anglican and Methodist fathers.
Growing up, Andrews did not see many problems or differences between his parents. It was only after his father died last year that he started talking to his mom about how things were when they were growing up.
"I did not realize the struggle that they had to go through," Andrews told the WCR.
Almost 30 years ago, Andrews was baptized in the United Church. His parents are Roman Catholic and Methodist. Neither church would take him.
"Looking back, as a child I did not perceive the differences," said Andrews, who was born and raised in London, England. His parents had to juggle two churches, he said.
"It's interesting on Christmas, we get to go to the Catholic Mass first because there's a midnight one." At times, his family would go to another church to be on a neutral ground.
Buchanan, who is from Montreal, said, "It's hard to take Communion. It's difficult to see your father not taking Communion in a Catholic Church or watch your mother not take Communion with you in a Protestant Church."
Buchanan celebrated the sacrament of Confirmation in both the Roman Catholic and United churches.
However, that was not a rosy path for Buchanan. After being confirmed in the Catholic Church she thought it would be easy to celebrate the sacrament in the United Church.
When she was attending an international conference in Geneva about four years ago, others were talking about not being confirmed because it would mean choosing one faith tradition over the other. At that time, Buchanan was already confirmed in the Catholic tradition but not in the United Church.
"It was a scary time not knowing if I could or not," Buchanan said. For her, following the practices and beliefs of the two churches is important.
Smith, whose father is Anglican, said she "was not confirmed with either, because I did not want to side with one or the other."
As far as she is concerned she is in good standing both with the Roman Catholic and the Anglican churches. "I am fully Anglican and fully Catholic," said Smith, who was born and raised in Liverpool, England.
Smith found difficulty when she went to university because people asked why she belongs to two faith traditions.
"I had to phone my mom and asked her how to explain that I am from an interchurch family," Smith said. At some point she was encouraged to choose one Church but she decided against it.
"We are caught in the middle since the day that we were born," Smith said. She learned to understand the concept of being one person but belonging to two faith traditions.
Andrews decided to become a practising Methodist about age 15.
"It's a more free worship and it's easy to experience that you belong because of the size of the congregation," he said.
For him, the Catholic Church is more formal in comparison to a more relaxed atmosphere in the Methodist Church. He observed the differences on how the two celebrate liturgy and how the people in both churches interact.
Buchanan said, "Being part of an interchurch family can be rewarding." You realize the importance of Christian unity and it's easier to accept others of different faith because you come from a diverse background.
Both Buchanan and Smith said they understand the concept of Christian unity first at home and then in the conferences that they have attended nationally and internationally.
"You can have different traditions but we are all Christians," Buchanan added.
For all of them, life would become more interesting when someday they get married to other interchurch children.
"It won't matter whatever denomination he comes from," said Buchanan. "What matters is what we decide to do after that."
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