"A lay Catholic perspective"

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Encounters with Loving Protestants

by Christopher Robinson


WE NATURALLY THINK of loving Protestants as an active verb (loving) with an object for that love (Protestants); thus it defines an action. However, let's look at it the other way around. Think of loving Protestants in terms of an adjective (loving) which modifies a noun (Protestants); in other words, it describes some holy people — loving Protestants are Christians from a different Church who love me. Allow me to share with you some of my experiences of loving Protestants.

First experience

In 1984, while I was posted at CFB Summerside, P.E.I., I was the organist at the Protestant Chapel on the base. The Protestant chaplain offered a weekly Bible study for his congregation. After much urging from members of the choir, I agreed to go. We studied Acts of the Apostles which is the story of the early Church. In that experience I learned how to study the Bible and I received God's love in a special way through those loving Protestants. That was the beginning of regular Bible study and Bible devotions for me.

Second experience

A few years later, during my posting at CFB Chilliwack, B.C., I went through a painful personal experience. Much of the emotional support I needed came from people in the Military Christian Fellowship (I was the only Catholic in an otherwise Protestant group) and, later on, from the Chilliwack Christian Singles which was a group of single people from various churches in Chilliwack. These people loved me completely and unconditionally.

There were several amazing things about that singles group. Before they could invite me to join them, they had to amend their constitution because they had a minimum age of 35; I was only 32 at the time! A few months after becoming a member, they asked me — the only Catholic in the group — to lead them in a weekly Bible study!

After a year with them, they voted me in as president of the group. And they just kept on loving me every day and showing me care. We went on regular outings for skiing, hiking, cycling, etc. and they looked to me to organize some kind of church service for these outings if they fell on a Sunday. If on a different day, they expected me to lead them in a prayer before and after the event.

To stay or not to stay

During this time of receiving God's love in such practical ways from all of these Protestants, I considered leaving the Catholic Church. While being faithful to the sacraments and attending Mass every Sunday and sometimes during the week, I often went to Sunday evening services in other Churches. In my confusion I would pray, "Lord, based on the preaching I hear tonight at such-and-such a Church, I will either stay in the Catholic Church or join that Church." Each time I did that, the Lord would show me his mercy by ensuring I heard the Protestant pastor explaining some doctrine of the Catholic Church from his pulpit! I am sure that the Pastor had no idea of the effect of his preaching. Needless to say, I decided to stay in the Catholic Church. On one occasion, at a Christmas banquet for singles, the pastor preached about Mary's role in our salvation; he preached the same things that the Catholic Church has always taught!

Meet some loving Protestants

Allow me to introduce some of these wonderful people to you. Lennie was about fifty years old and recently widowed. Somehow, she was managing to live on less that $300 a month! In my situation I had extremely little time for routine housekeeping chores in my apartment — I was working 60 to 80 hours per week — so I asked Lennie if she could come to my apartment twice each month for an hour or so to iron my civilian shirts and run the vacuum cleaner over the floors. She quickly agreed to my request, happy to earn a bit of pocket money.

After her first half day I came home from work and my jaw fell; she had done the chores which she had agreed to do plus she had done my laundry, scrubbed my floors, cleaned my bathroom, washed the windows, and organized my linen closet! Talk about going an extra mile (an extra ten miles?) and she would not accept any more than our agreed fee. In my heart I experienced God's love in her actions. She had lots of love to give and she had found a willing recipient in me. Thank you, Lord; thank you, Lennie.

Then there was Dave, a Protestant chaplain at the Canadian Forces Base in Chilliwack. For the two years when we were both in Chilliwack he always had time for me: to listen to me, to give me his counsel, and to reassure me that our Lord had not forgotten me. This was during a time when I was really hurting. I could drop into his office or I could visit him at home any time. Day or night, I was always welcome and he would lift my burdens and help me to let go of things which were dragging me down.

My last introduction is Ed, an Air Force pilot. We did our year of Basic Flying Training in Moose Jaw at the same time. For the following ten years we saw each other occasionally, then we spent a year flying together in Winnipeg before he moved to Montreal to fly for an airline. He was a non-believer but we were always good buddies.

One particular day about a year after he had moved away, I was feeling really dragged down spiritually and I asked the Lord to encourage me. He sent Ed to see me. When I returned from a meeting that morning, Ed was sitting in my office waiting. I was amazed; I could not think why he would wait alone in my office for half an hour to see me, but he quickly explained. He had recently heard the Gospel and become a Christian and he just wanted to say 'thank-you' to me; he had always seen something different in me and since his conversion he knew what that difference was. He said, "I have found the Lord; thank-you, Christopher, for being a faithful witness to Jesus all these years." That moment was a tremendous experience of God's love and consolation for me. Thank-you, Lord, for sending Ed to me that day.

Current experience

Today I am studying music at Concord College, a Mennonite Brethren institute which offers Baccalaureate degrees in Church Music. The faculty, the staff, and the students have accepted me wholeheartedly and I am experiencing God's love through them in very special ways.

Thank-you, dear Lord, for loving Protestants.