19 January 2013

Sharing Christian norms - across church traditions and cultures

A little while ago I was talking with one of the volunteers at Oudezijds 100 about the Bible and church. I knew he was Catholic, and I'd mentioned the Catholic church during the evening prayers. There'd been a bit of an uproar here in the Netherlands about the Pope's stand against homosexual marraige, and I wondered if the Catholic Church in Poland had also been receiving a lot of criticism. No.

I'd just had a great discussion about old-fashioned norms in villages (and if that was also true in Canada), so my conversation with the volunteer quickly shifted from the relative non-isue of homosexuality to other cultural and church norms. Expectations about getting married came up, but also church norms (even the church catechism).

Near the end of the conversation, he mentioned how he was surprised that some of the Christians in the Netherlands he knew did not find it necessary to go to church on Sunday morning. My agreement with him was so enthusiastic that he thought at first that I was joking. But I wasn't - in fact, it's one of those things that has always puzzled and somewhat distressed me. Until now, I have never met any other Christian in this area who has questioned it (disclaimer: Christians from more conservative backgrounds would likely also consider Sunday church attendance a norm, however, they would also likely find the Red Light District a problematic place to live). And so imagine my surprise when this Polish Catholic - whom many would consider to be very different from me in terms of culture and church tradition - is the first one I've heard question this! Furthermore, his questioning reaffirmed for me that, despite what here is often the norm, being a Christian means going to church on Sundays (and how wonderful is it to have Christians from other cultures and traditions to remind us of what we sometimes are no longer sure about).

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