Faith journey continues as time goes on

You could say I’m a bit of a religious cornucopia. There’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that all squeezed into this one vessel and spilling out the sides.

In my 31 years on this planet, I have been exposed to several different and unique versions of Christianity and studied its precursor, Judaism, all within the boundaries of Nebraska.

As a kid, I attended the small white brick United Methodist Church in Bradshaw.

That tiny building with the sanctuary upstairs and classrooms in the basement was where I learned the words to “Jesus Loves Me” and “I Am the Church.”

Those moments sitting on the peeling linoleum floor and singing songs as our piano player led were my favorites. There were the regular Sunday sing-a-longs and those vacation Bible school mornings when we would sing while eating peanut butter cookies and drinking cherry Kool-Aid.

When I was in elementary school, the church leaders decided it was time to tear down the little brick building and create a new, more modern church.

I took my little booklet and started to collect quarters to help buy the bricks and mortar for the new building. My efforts earned me a spot on the donor plaque that hangs inside the door of the church.

It was in that building that I went through my confirmation classes, was baptized and confirmed. That same building is where I was later married, and later still where we celebrated my dad’s life.

My first real introduction to a different faith from my own came in high school.

Before that, the only experience I’d had was the few weeks I spent with a friend in first grade, attending Catholic mass with her and learning the Sign of the Cross.

During my high school years, my school merged with the school in a nearby community where almost everyone was Mennonite. These Mennonites looked and acted pretty much like everyone else.

In my last two years of high school, I studied their beliefs through Bible studies and ski trips and learned how we weren’t so different after all.

Then came my four years of college at Creighton University in Omaha, a Jesuit Catholic liberal arts school.

I knew nothing about Catholicism other than the little I had learned from my friend years before.

So my first semester Introduction to Christianity course had me on a steep learning curve as I attempted to learn the ins and outs of Catholicism all in one semester.

Fortunately, a friend of mine was there when, while studying for midterms, I finally admitted I had no idea what the Eucharist was. He kindly informed me that it was communion, and I was able to stumble my way through the rest of the semester.

By the end of freshman year, I had bought “The Complete Idiots Guide to Catholicism,” a book I still have and refer to this day when questions arise.

I was able to survive four years of college classes, attending mass and discussions with priests, and handled most conversations with ease by the end.

During my college years, I also took a class on Judaism to meet one of my many liberal arts education requirements and had the chance to visit an Omaha synagogue.

I spent time with friends of different Protestant faiths than my own.

Since then, I have always been intrigued with learning more about other faiths, whether it be other Protestant denominations or entirely different religions like the faiths of the Native Americans, or Hinduism.

Through all of my experiences, I have added bits and pieces of each of those faiths into my own belief system, creating my religious cornucopia.

I’ve always been proud of my religious mixing pot, but it was brought to the surface in the past few weeks as I wrote stories about Hastings Catholic Schools and the people who make it a success.

This is Catholic Schools Week, and Hastings Catholic Schools is also celebrating 100 years of Catholic education in Hastings.

As I spoke with the students, teachers, parents and alumni of HCS, I was reminded of my own spiritual moments of awakening, joy and struggle.

I was able to relate to them when some became so passionate about the emotions, education and experiences they’ve had. To every person, faith means something a bit different. And it looks different for everyone, too.

I don’t know where I’ll go next in my own faith life or what that incarnation will be, but I know that I’ll embrace it with arms wide open, and with a little more space in my cornucopia.

Shay Burk

Veteran Tribune reporter Shay Burk writes whatever is swirling around her mind each week. Read her columns on Tuesdays for her humorous thoughts on everyday life.

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