A Visit to St. John Neumann Catholic Church

I was born and raised in Northern Kentucky.  Being born in 1965, that gave me pretty good odds to also have been raised in the Catholic faith.  So I went through all the rites of passage – baptism, first communion, confirmation.  By the time I was a teenager, I wasn’t interested in going to church anymore.  The fact that my parents divorced made that easy.  No arm-twisting after that.

I remember going to a Vacation Bible School one year in my teens.  I think it was the Church that my Step-mom attended.  I don’t remember if I was interested in going because there would be girls there or if the girls were a happy coincidence once I was convinced to go.  I also remember attending a service or two at whatever Church of Christ it was that my Step-mom was attending.  At one of the services, I remember clearly the pastor or preacher being very fire and brimstone-y and saying something along the lines of “if you’re not saved – if you don’t accept Jesus into your heart, you’re going to hell.”  I guess that part isn’t surprising, but the thing I remember about that sermon was how he was very specific in naming the people who were going to hell.  He specifically called out people in other cultures – I think he named Hindus or Indians – and said they’re going to hell.  This struck me as off and still does.  So I haven’t attended an actual religious service of any kind (outside of weddings, funerals, etc.) since I was a teenager.  Until today.

You see, I’m in what you would call a blended family.  My wife and I are both divorced and have kids from other marriages.  My step-daughter (let’s call her MadBee) lives with us and my son lived with his mom in Virginia (he’s in college here now).  The situation with the exes is dysfunctional to say the least.  Neither of us left our previous marriages on good terms (does anybody, though?).  So, we’ve finally gotten to the point with MadBee that we feel like she needs a little balance in her religious upbringing.  She’s only ever gone to church with her dad’s side of the family.  Baptist.  On the other hand, my wife and I are not really church goers.  See above for my reasons.  The MadDoc has had a varied history of attending various churches in her past, so she’s not beholden to any one denomination.  And we both agree that you don’t really need to go to church to be a believer.  So it’s really been a one-sided, unbalanced view of things for MadBee.  Because of that, we decided it was time to start supplementing MadBee’s religious upbringing with some exposure to other denominations.

So, with the implicit agreement of MadBee’s dad (or because he just won’t engage with his ex-wife on any of these subjects), we’ve decided to take MadBee to some different churches here in Knoxville.  With my background with Catholics and the fact that they’re predominant in Northern Kentucky, where both my wife and I are from, we figured we’d start out with attending a Catholic mass.

The MadClan (including my mom) headed out to St. John Neumann for the 6 p.m. mass.  It was a good choice from my perspective, because this was the guitar service.  The church is really stunning with lots of great stained glass.  The mass was well-attended and the people were friendly.  The priests (I think there were two of them) followed the format that I remember from 40 or so years ago.  It was nice.  I think my mom really enjoyed being able to go and MadDoc seemed to get something out of it as well.

As for MadBee, she was reluctant to go.  She’s only ever attended small Baptist churches and it appeared that she may have gotten some pressure from the other side of the family as to our idea to try out different churches.  But she did really well.  She was respectful and followed along in the various books that were available in the pews.  She also asked questions and seemed genuinely curious.  MadBee has some friends from cheer who attend the church, so I could see us going back again.  I’m calling this experience a positive one.

I think we’re going to try a Methodist church in 2 or 4 weeks  There’s one near our house that looks promising.  Look for my review in this spot.

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