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A Catholic and a Baptist walk into a church

Early in my parenting years, I went through a deeply confusing time in my Catholic faith journey. I challenged many of the teachings of the Church, I lost my desire to pray, and I had no motivation to get involved in Church ministries. It led to feelings of detachment and indifference.

I started to seriously consider exploring other denominations, and I felt hurried on the matter, as though it was a problem I had to solve. After all, I had a husband and three young children to raise, and I needed to get this sorted out.

I see so clearly now that I was trying to think my way through this struggle, rather than pray my way through it. But in God’s loving way, he stepped in and sent me a lifeline.

Enter my friend, Jane Romberger.

Unaware of my situation, Jane and I bumped into each other on an idle summer day and she invited me to join a women’s Bible study that she was leading at her church, Mission Hills, where her husband, Mike, serves as pastor. Because Mission Hills attracts believers from all Christian backgrounds, I felt like this would be the optimal laboratory for me to explore whether or not I might really be a Protestant.

While I was excited by Jane’s timing, I was also nervous to jump into an environment so unfamiliar to me. I shared my challenges with Jane, and voiced my concerns: Would I be pressured to convert? Would I be judged because I’m Catholic? Would women say things offensive about the Catholic Church? She encouraged me to just come and see, and assured me that I would be welcomed like everyone else.

She was right.

At times I was asked questions about my Catholic beliefs, but they were always marked with love and genuine curiosity. I was treated just like any other Christian woman in the room. And no one modeled this better than our leader—my friend, Jane.

She saw my confusion and detachment, and she invited me in, she welcomed me, and then she let the Holy Spirit do the rest. She prayed for me, she prayed with me, and she prayed over me.

About halfway through the Bible study, God helped me to realize, in a profound way, that I am and always will be a Catholic. I started falling back in love with my Catholic faith in the basement of Mission Hills Church.

When I shared with Jane how things were shifting for me, she didn’t challenge me or try to dissuade me from going back to the Catholic Church. Jane witnessed to me all along that my faith journey was between me and God, and that her role was to serve as his instrument, whatever the outcome.

She and her husband took my husband, Chad, and me out to dinner where we had long open discussion about the things that were leading me back to the Church, like the Eucharist. I can’t think of a finer way to model Christian unity than the way that Jane and Mike Romberger did for my husband and me that evening.

We talked openly about our differences—they did not shy away from sharing their beliefs, and we did not shy away from sharing ours—but our hearts were bound together knowing that we agree on so much more than those things on which we disagree. It made for a loving and God-centered conversation.

With Christianity so clearly under attack in the world today, the need for unity among believers is greater than ever. These simple encounters among neighbors of different denominations are pleasing to God; they bolster our ability to understand one another and support each other in our walk with Christ.

I recently learned that Jane and her family will be moving to California. She leaves behind a sister in Christ forever grateful for the way that she shepherded me through confusion, the way that she welcomed me into her Bible study without an agenda, and the way that she shared with me her love for Jesus.

The first day of that Bible Study, it felt to me like a Catholic and a Baptist were walking into a Church. Jane taught me that it’s really just about us being sisters in Christ, walking alongside one another, wherever we are.

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