I grew up in Church so if someone were to ask me when did I first believe in Jesus, the answer would be, " I don't remember a time when I didn't believe in Jesus. I do remember a time when I first said a sinners type prayer. (However I was a Baptized, Born Again Christian before I ever said that prayer, but I am getting ahead of the story). I was invited to Vacation Bible school at my friend's Baptist Church. I was 7 years old. During a little flannel board story, they talked about sin and how Christ died on the cross for my sins. They talked about how to repent of our sins and ask Jesus into our hearts if we loved him. I knew I loved Jesus and of course I wanted to be forgiven of my sins. Come on now, what little child is really going to say no in that situation. They led us in a "sinners prayer" and had us ask Jesus to forgive us our sins, ask Jesus into our hearts and make him Lord of our life. Now with the understanding and trust of a child I said this sinners prayer. But before I ever officially said the sinners prayer in a formal way, I believed in Jesus. I believed as a child what I was told and had learned in Sunday School. I knew he was God's son and that he had to die on the cross in order for our sins to be forgiven. Even if I didn't know how that exactly worked. I knew what sin was. I knew right from wrong (at least a 7 year old's understanding of it.) I already had the concept that God forgives if we repent. Anyway a few days later some members from that Church showed up at our house to talk to my mom about letting them take me to the Baptist Church. I remember my mom being a little upset and short and abrupt with those visitors. She basically told them no thanks we attend Church and are very happy with our Church. And that was that. I was raised in a conservative orthodox Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church is the American Branch of the Anglican Church also known as the Church of England. Growing up in that local Episcopal Church, I was unaware of the liberal leanings of the Church hierarchy outside my own little Episcopal Church.
Skip ahead to when I'm 12 year old. In 6th grade I was caught cheating. We were allowed in math class to grade our own papers. Well one day I was lazy and just wrote down any old answers on my math work. Then I put a good grade on it. How stupid is that. We had access to the teacher's manual for grading our work. I could have easily just copied the correct answers. I guess I figured the teacher was lazy too, and when we turned in our papers I figured she just looked at the grades and recorded it. It was independent study so everyone was on a different page. Well at home that evening, I knew I had sinned and prayed all night long to Jesus to forgive me. I knew I still had to face my parents and the teacher and the humiliation of cheating. I found a book on the book shelf my mom had that was a book basically of faith stories. Stories of people who had great faith in Jesus and how he helped them get through trials. A good comparison would be like the '"Chicken Soup books for the Soul" today, however this was back in the seventies. In this book I read the scripture about peace; John 14:27 "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." Ok I thought I have asked Jesus for forgiveness. I will just go to school and fess up and take the consequences and then everything will be all right. Well before I could confess, the teacher already knew and a conference was scheduled with my parents for that afternoon. Well I confessed and faced the consequences and everything was alright after that. John 14:27 is my go to scripture for all my anxiety even to this day.
On to high school. Not much to say there, but I remember in my Church youth group going to see the Movie "The Great Late Planet Earth", then I read the book by Hal Lindsey. It is like the "Left Behind" books of today. Scared the pants off me. I read Revelations several times after that. I also remember that I had awesome Christian role models in my local Episcopal Church. I remember my confirmation teacher Miss Ruth Ann Rogers. She loved Jesus with all her heart and it showed in everything that she did. It oozed out of every pour of her. I thought it was cool that she had served many years in the Peace Corp. She knew the scriptures exceedingly well. I have kept in touch with her up until the last few Christmases. I didn't receive a Christmas card from her, and mine was returned to sender. I am afraid she probably passed away. She would have been in her 90's now. Father Brown and Father Browning were also great role models. Yes their last names were Brown and Browning respectively.
Side Note: In the Episcopal Church, Priests are addressed as Father just like in the Catholic Church. They also do the sign of the cross and are very Catholic like in many ways. The Episcopal Mass is very much like the Catholic Mass. There are differences however, and at least in America, the Church has become very liberal. Many conservative, orthodox, Bible believing Episcopalians are returning in large numbers to the Catholic church.
Well through high school I became somewhat popular. The whole blossoming thing. I dated several guys. Without exception most were creeps. I remember finally having enough and saying to God I want to meet a good Christian guy. Please just let me find a good Christian guy. I went to two years to a local Junior College and then in my Junior year went away to a State University.
My first week up there my prayers were answered, but I did not know it at the time. I met my future husband. Our first date was to his Fraternity's rush party. Well I hate to say it, our dating relationship was pretty carnal in the beginning, I am not going into detail, but you get the picture. Well after that first semester my new boyfriend got sick and moved back home. I came to find out later he had tremendous guilt about our relationship. I think that actually made him feel physically sick. Anyway I was feeling the same way. So the next semester we were basically apart. Now up at the University there tends to be a lot of religious groups that are trying to evangelize students. I wasn't going to church up at the University, so when another student invited me to their Soul Talk which was code for Bible study I went. It turns out this was a Bible Study that was sponsored by the Church of Christ. However this was not the mainstream Church of Christ, but the Crossroads or Boston Movement Church of Christ. They were very rigid (They were a cult) and they in fact broke off from the mainline Church of Christ and became the International Church of Christ. They later imploded a few years after I left the University. You can find info on them on the web.
I started really reading the Bible. I would call Russ long distance and we would discuss the Bible and what I was reading. He in turn was reading to challenge me. The Church of Christ convinced me that my infant Baptism was unscriptural and that I needed to be baptized again as an adult by immersion. I then was re-baptised by immersion. I have since studied the Bible enough to know I was misled, and my first baptism (which in my case was actually done at age 5 and not an infant) was my true baptism, but back to the story. The next summer I moved in with some girls from the Crossroads Church. Russ and I were still discussing the Bible long distance over the phone. I remember one month I charged over $80 worth of long distance calls to my dad's office. That was a lot back then, and when my dad discovered it, it was not a pretty picture. Anyway the Crossroads Church of Christ didn't like my relationship with this outsider. You know the being unequally yoked thing. They didn't trust him because he wasn't one of them. They tried to break us up. Well that wasn't happening and after that summer I moved back in with my old roommates. Russ also came back to the University. From there we decided we would not have a carnal relationship. We read the Bible daily. I stopped going to the Crossroads Church of Christ.
Moving on, Russ proposed to me January of '86. Down on his knee in front of the brown bean bag I was sitting in. Well I knew I had no real attraction to the churches that I had attended in college so we were going to be married in the church I was raised in. Russ had become a Christian in a Fundamentalist non-denominational church growing up. However when I met him and his family, they really didn't have a home church that they were attending regularly. At least not to my knowledge anyway. So we were going to be married in the church I was raised in. We then started the required church marriage counselling sessions. I really can't remember how we did that being that the church was a good 5 hours away from the University. The marriage counseling was mainly a personality test to see if we were compatible. Actually I think we were opposites on a lot of things. However the test was, I guess, to make us just aware of our differences. Opposites do attract and compliment each other. I do remember there was not much counselling from a Biblical perspective that I could tell. Father Brown had a good Biblical perspective though when we met with him.
We were married in the Episcopal Church July 1986. Then we moved to Russ's home town. We then had the daunting task of finding a Church home.
Story Continued in My Post: My Faith Journey to the Catholic Church from Fundamentalism/Evangelicalism