29 November 2013

Christmas 1994

It seems still as portentous to me now as it did at the time - that, having moved to Pukekohe in 1984 with the express intention of being one of the three families to constitute the foundation stones of the Pukekohe Reformed Church, I was now about to leave that Church and become a Catholic.

Christmas, 1994 fell on a Sunday, and the Pukekohe Reformed Church celebrated the Lord's Supper on the last Sunday of even-numbered months - still does for what I know.  In August, having decided in July that I must become a Catholic, I had received Communion.  I felt uneasy doing so.  A good proportion of my motivation was cowardice.  Not to receive Communion would certainly have caused our elders to ask me what was going on that I did not come to the Table.  I had, in fact, attempted to contact Roel, our elder, before that to tell him that I had decided to become a Catholic.  I had asked him to come to our house, but he had been unable to do so, due, principally, to ongoing matters in the denomination.  In October I again received Communion, this time with a certainty that I ought not to have done so.  I determined that I would not do so in December.  If Roel could not come to see me - he had again begged off - I would have to see to it that he and Michael, our minister, knew what was happening to me and why I would not receive Communion.

Saturday, 24 December, 1994 - Christmas Eve - I telephoned Roel and told him again that it was urgent that I see him.  What was the matter, he wanted to know.  I had decided that I was going to have to become a Catholic.

This time there was no question about whether he would have time to see me.  We (I, with Susan, and, as well, Johnny - who was the only member of our family who was a Communicant member of the church) were to come to the church office that evening.  Roel and Michael would be there.

I still feel, today, on remembering the occurrence, the fear that I felt that evening.  I scarcely knew how I would justify my decision.  I didn't know what Sue and Johnny would say, for I knew that Michael and Roel would want to know their positions.  Nonetheless, I knew that I had to go.

Michael and Roel were extremely upset.  Roel, it became clear, had had no idea whatever that I had actually thought I might decide to become a Catholic.  I suspect the reason for this is as much because such a thought was almost unthinkable to him as for any unclarity on my part.  When I had first talked to him, just before Christmas, 1993, I had told him that, though I had at the time no intention of being a Catholic, I had to understand this business, and, I had said, it could mean that I would have to become a Catholic at some point.  Perhaps he thought it was only hype.

I was not able to say very much to the two of them.  I told them that I had taken seriously their view of church authority - and that I believed that authority had never been transferred to any Protestant group, but still lay with the Catholic Church.  I remember Michael asked me a number of sharp questions: how did I suppose I would be saved?  By fulfilling the law perfectly as Our Lord had done (this, I think, viewed rightly, is the right answer - that fulfilment can only be by grace, naturally, but I think I phrased it that way to shock, and I suppose it did).  Had I been praying for the dead?  Yes.  Had I been praying the Rosary?  Yes.  I feel so sorry both for Michael and Roel.  I was a deacon in the Reformed Church of Pukekohe.

What about Sue and Johnny?  Both said they were unsure.  They had made no decision.  I had said that it was my intention that any of my family who intended to remain Reformed would have my support - that, indeed, I would ensure they got to Reformed church services.

The upshot was that I was to resign my deaconate, and not Commune.  Susan and Johnny were welcome to Commune if they wished.

The next morning was tearful.  We attended the regular 10:30AM service.  Michael had to stand in the pulpit and announce my resignation from the deaconate - and the reason for it.  I do not remember if Sue and Johnny received Communion or not; I rather think not.  After the service very many came to us - some weeping - wanting to know how I could do this, what had happened, what did this mean?  I did not really have anything adequate to say.  It was one of the saddest days of my life.

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