Although raised with a strong Catholic heritage, I stopped going to Mass after first year university. I had ‘gotten saved’ a few years earlier but our family had continued attending a Catholic parish. I had already stopped believing in some of Rome’s dogmas, and now found I was getting little out of going to Mass. There was more support for my faith from an interdenominational fellowship group on campus. I still agreed with the core Christian doctrines such as the Trinity and the Bible being God’s word, but by then I had shifted to a more fundamentalist understanding and approach to the Christian faith. At the invitation of a friend, I began attending a lively Pentecostal church with many other university students.
Nevertheless, I never felt an antagonism towards the Catholic Church, but rather a fond affection for the basic faith and heritage it had given me. Occasionally, I would voice this to protestant brothers and sisters and at times even find myself saying ‘there’s nothing like a Catholic who gets turned on for Jesus.’ I puzzled as to how they could still subscribe to some of the Catholic distinctives, but sensed that they had taken something solid and rooted, and added into that a real living relationship with Jesus. Yet they weren’t usually flighty or way out in left field like some of the charismatic or fundamentalist Protestants I occasionally encountered.
Over the years I have been an adherent/ congregant in a number of different churches: Pentecostal, Baptist, Mennonite Brethren/ Vineyard, Anglican, and Missionary Evangelical. I loved the people, the fellowship and encouragement. However, I never really felt like I was a ‘Protestant,’ but instead preferred the generic label ‘Christian.’ In fact, in all my years of being separated from the historic Church, I have always felt myself in some sense to be a little ‘c’ catholic since I was part of the one universal (i.e. catholic) church. Ultimately I realized I was a ‘denominational orphan’ - and since I had wandered or roamed through several different denominations I jokingly began calling myself a ‘roaming catholic’ - from whence comes the title for this blog.
This blog is dedicated with gratitude to all those – both Catholic and Protestant - who have encouraged and helped me in my faith journey: my parents, immediate and extended family, friends, pastors, co-workers, authors. But in a unique way it is dedicated to the memory of my friend, brother-in-Christ, and brother-in-law David R. Clark.
In high school he was a great friend and encouragement to me in my faith. I’ve been blessed to have a close-knit family, so when he married my oldest sister, our friendship changed as he now became more like a brother. Dave eventually became a pastor in the United Church of Canada. When I struggled with faith or life issues over the years, he would sometimes say a sentence or two on the matter, but would continue to let me work through it myself – I think so that I would own my faith. Years later when I had come to more solid conclusions about a theological matter, I would often recall his words and realize that what had seemed like an enigmatic response was actually his prodding my thinking in a helpful way.
Although I spent a number of years in more fundamentalist-style churches, I eventually fulfilled a dream to study in a prominent interdenominational evangelical seminary in Western Canada. Home for the Christmas break, I explained that I had wrestled with going to a Vineyard-style church, an Anglican church - or something in between. Before I could finish, Dave declared that I had settled on an Anglican church. When I asked how he knew, his only response was “you can take the boy out of the Catholic Church, but you can’t take the Catholic out of the boy.” Looking back, I’m surprised how well he knew me, and how wise he was in many areas of life and faith.
In 1998 we suddenly lost Dave. It was one of the biggest shocks of my life and it took me five years to really come to terms with losing him. As the years go by, my affection and appreciation of him only grows – as does how much I miss him. In the hope of attaining heaven, Dave’s face is one of the first I want to see. Hence it is with gratitude for his life, and in the hope that he is even now joined with the choirs of angels and saints praising God that I dedicate this blog.
David Robert Clark, 1962-1998