2016-12-08 / News

Pastor brings God talk to Main Street

By Anthony Aloisio
Staff Writer


Pastor “Cat” Anglea holds a cat figurine that will be available as part of Second Congregational’s “Kid’s Christmas Shopping” event on Dec. 10. For more information on the event, call 284-7898. Preregistration is required. (Anthony Aloisio photo) Pastor “Cat” Anglea holds a cat figurine that will be available as part of Second Congregational’s “Kid’s Christmas Shopping” event on Dec. 10. For more information on the event, call 284-7898. Preregistration is required. (Anthony Aloisio photo) BIDDEFORD – Pastor Catherine Anglea of Biddeford’s Second Congregational Church, located at 19 Crescent St., is pushing a new strategy to help people “move forward in their faith journey.” Anglea and her husband, congregation member and Biddeford School Committee member Dennis Anglea, plan meetings, which they name “God Talk,” at an accessible public location, and invite anyone interested to join an open, interfaith conversation about God and faith.

“The idea is to allow people without church associations, or people who are exploring ideas of faith, to come together and just talk about who they are and where they are in their faith,” Anglea said.

The meetings occur on the second Wednesday of each month at EDGE Bar on Main Street in Biddeford at 7 p.m. According to Anglea, the church has no agreement or formal affiliation with EDGE, but it uses that location because it is an accessible space. Anglea said the location may change.

“A couple people have already voiced that they don’t like the idea of meeting at a bar because they’re either recovering from substance abuse or, they don’t like the idea of a bar,” Anglea said.

Anglea emphasized openness and accessibility of meetings.

“No one is allowed to preach to another person on what they must believe,” Anglea said. “And, in doing that we hope that there will be an openness to make people feel comfortable to talk about their faith.”

Anglea first came to Second Congregational in spring 2014, while she was still a student at the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine. At the institute, Anglea studied faiths broadly, including Islam, Judaism and Hinduism. Since then she has completed her study there. She was ordained as an interfaith chaplain, and in September she was ordained by Second Congregational as a Christian minister, which earned her the title of Reverend. Anglea also serves as pastor for Newfield Community Church, where she was also ordained.

“When I first started (Chaplaincy Institute of Maine), it’s interfaith, and there were some people who were very down on Christianity,” Anglea said. “It took me talking to them, and trying to be open with them, and hearing them before I realized that most of them were down on Christianity because they had been spiritually wounded –by the church or a Christian in the past.

“I finally got to the point where I just said OK, I hear you where you are but you need to understand that this is who I am, and this is my faith, and I have a right to stand for my faith just as much as you do. I want to respect your faith, but I need you to respect mine too.’”

It’s that kind of conversation that Anglea wants to foster with God Talk, she said.

“This is a time in history where a lot of people are very scared, because there’s been a lot of bullying and talk about ‘I don’t want anything to do with you because you’re another,’” Anglea said. “This is the chance to embrace people for who they are and let them know that it’s OK to be different.”

Anglea spoke often about what she calls “spiritual wounding,” which she describes as being told how to believe and being threatened with spiritual condemnation.

“I think the Christian church, other faiths as well, especially organized religion, has been very good at wounding people in this way of being judgmental and telling people that they’re condemned,” Anglea said.

Angela described a hard conversation she had had with a young woman who lived in her home temporarily in 2002. Anglea said she takes in foster kids and “sofa kids,” who are in their parents’ custody but for whatever reason, need a place to stay.

“(This young woman) came in one day and says ‘Why do people of your faith tell me I’m condemned for who I am?’ because she was gay,” Anglea said. “I said, ‘You’re not condemned, and they’re wrong.’ But she was spiritually wounded because people were making judgment on her and telling her that she was wrong for who she was.”

Anglea intends God Talk meetings to be a safe space.

“What I don’t want is someone coming in and telling people how they should believe,” Anglea said. “I don’t feel that’s part of what we’re doing.”

God Talk started as an idea that branched off of a similar idea that Anglea said she discussed some time ago with Pastor Mike Gray of United Methodist Church in Old Orchard Beach.

“One of the things she and I talked about for a long time was going to a local pub,” Gray said. “They have a program called ‘God on Tap,’ which basically mean you just do (Bible) study in a pub and sit around and talk to people at the bar.”

Gray said at his church this “dialogue-based learning” is common.

“I don’t preach. I don’t really even teach, what we do is we have questions, and we look to each other to learn best from each other,” Gray said. “It really is going more toward, pastors might not have all the answers or really don’t have all the answers, and that sometimes the best thing to do is to come up with a really good question and then just let discussion happen.”

“It’s done exceptional things,” Gray continued. “We haven’t seen growth in numbers, but we’ve definitely seen growth in people faith-wise.”

For God Talk, Anglea wanted to expand the God on Tap idea beyond Christian Bible study and include all faiths.

“I understand that everyone who comes may not be Christian,” Anglea said. “My interfaith training welcomes the opportunity to explore with people how they believe and what they practice.”

Anglea described how she might start a conversation at God Talk.

“I might ask somebody ‘Where do you see God?’ or ‘Where do you find God in your life?’” Anglea said. “Somebody might answer ‘I find it on the bank of the river, fishing,’ or ‘I find it climbing on a mountain.’ And those are wonderful answers.”

“I find I have the best theological discussions with people who are seeking some sort of answer,” Anglea added, “or people who are agnostic, and they have questions about why something is a certain way.”

Anglea said people “all across the spectrum” are welcome to attend.

“I would like to reach some of the college kids,” she added. “Because I know that’s an age where a lot of questions arise.”

Anglea said God Talk has only met twice so far, and it has not yet been well attended. She hopes that as long as she continues to go people will start to show up more. Gray, for his part, was excited about the idea.

“Cat (Anglea) has always been gangbusters about this kind of stuff,” Gray said, “and getting out in the community, and she has the capacity to do it, and she’s running with it, and God bless her, I think it’s awesome.”

FMI

The next God Talk meeting will be at EDGE Bar, 61 Main St. in Biddeford, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 14.

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