I was pretty alarmed by what we had found at the Baptist church and having also recently learned that the Presbyterian arm of the URC were happily anti-Semitic I was looking at protestant churches with more of a wary eye than previously.
Just before we left the baptist church we attended a retreat with them. We could only attend for the day but that was more than enough!!
The ministers in a desperate attempt to save the imploding community had booked a weekend in which they offered confession to individuals and then a prayer service complete with exorcism!
They had decided to use the book "Pigs in the Parlour" by a baptist minister as their guide. It just so happened I had already read that book and knew it was poisonous nonsense. Essentially the man who wrote it was a control freak who used 'Satan-is-everywhere' scare tactics to keep his little flock in line. He shows off in the book about an appalling-and quite abusive-exorcism he performed on a little girl. Her parents were having problems with her behaviour that was all.
He also insisted that mental illness, particularly Schizophrenia was a sign of possession.
When we arrived we were immediately told this book was the whole guide for the weekend (though I don't remember it recommending confession).
My husband had already had a bad experience in a church where they had taken it upon themselves to perform exorcisms wherever they thought it needed. A young man with schizophrenia had been treated to a terrifying ordeal during a service that had caused him to rush to find an escape in his fear and confusion at what was being inflicted on him.
Needless to say my husband never went back.
I too had come across exorcism. Sr Mary Kate had sent me on a retreat some years earlier and during the weekend the priest leading the retreat was called away.
When he returned my friend and I asked if all was okay.
He explained quietly that he was the appointed exorcist and so got called out frequently to various hauntings and so on. He explained that he very very rarely needed to do much. If someone genuinely appeared to be possessed then they had to have been through proper psychiatric assessment and the whole thing had to be agreed by the bishop before an exorcism could be performed.
He had been called out that day to a haunted house. Three girls living together reported swinging lights, thumps and flying objects and were frightened. He went to see them. He did not perform even a blessing.
"I told them to get rid of the ouja boards, the cards and that shelf full of books on witchcraft and if it didn't stop after they had rid themselves of the invitations I would go back and bless the house." he told us.
I realised with this baptist church attempt at exorcism that they had no authority-no real guide to how to go about recognising real demons let alone getting rid of them.
The question of authority began to bug me.
I was heavily pregnant with son#2 when we began attending. I hoped to find some answers.
The minister was a woman and this gave me a lot of hope. I really thought a woman would be better-more understanding and better able to answer me.
I longed for the Catholic Church to ordain women-it was wrong (I had decided) not to.
But it soon became apparent that this minister was more confused about her faith than I was. She made contradictory statements and missed out chunks of Scripture that she seemed either not to like, or not to understand.
She was often away.
The little community of Methodists consisted of mainly old ladies and a few older couples. There were no children other than my toddler there. The old women were over the moon to see a family attending and pounced on me demanding to know why we didn't come every week and whether we should set up a creche (for 1 child!!) and so on.
We explained I was Catholic so we went to Mass the other weeks and no we didn't need a creche but thank you all the same.
They harrumphed over my Catholic status but no one said anything overtly anti-Catholic.
Then they invited a guest speaker a few weeks later and he spent the entire service telling us how evil Catholic priests were and how terrible the Catholic Church was.
To this day I don't know why I sat there and did not simply get up and walk out. Bizarrely I thought it would be rude!!
So that was the end of our trip into Methodism.
We went back to going to Mass every week.
Meanwhile at my own church I had come across magazines all about the events at Medjugorje.
I began to get the magazine on a regular basis.
It taught me to say the rosary and so I took up the beads again and tried again.
More importantly the magazines said that Our Lady was telling the seers that the Mass was the most important prayer in the world. Nothing was more important than the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
I really wanted to go there and see for myself and prayed about it a lot.
But I got a very strong answer that I was not to go. Why go all the way to Medjugorje when I had a Catholic Church with Christ truly present in the Tabernacle just around the corner?
Medjugorje did not help me answer the questions of authority I was forming; not challenge me on contraception or women priests -my biggest problems with the Church, but it certainly helped point me back to the Eucharist.
I don't have anything to do with it now. The Bishops have condemned it and obedience is importance if we are to grow spiritually.
My husband then discovered another church near where we lived. It was a combination of three churches who had come together to form a new community; URC, CofE and Methodist. We decided to give it a go and we were to stay there for the next 9/10 yrs.
There was little conformity of belief here, and as each minister preached or other people made announcements about faith and Scripture the question constantly on my mind was "How do you know? Why should I believe you and not the other guy?"