As referenced in the post “A Butcher, A Baker, a . . . Harness Maker?” my family consists of several ministers. My great-uncle, Rollo Werts Amore, was commissioned in the Salvation Army in 1918. He performed many duties as an officer in the “Army”. One of those was to officiate at my parents’ wedding in 1943. He retired as a Senior Major in 1950 after serving in several Ohio cities.
My dad’s first cousin, Raymond E. Amore, son of Herbert Irwin Amore, went to seminary and received his theology degree in 1953 from the Olivet Nazarene College in Illinois. He served the Warsaw Church of the Nazarene for about three years and the Hebron Church of the Nazarene for at least ten years.
A great-niece of my maternal great-grandmother went to school at the Ursuline Academy in San Antonio in the early 1930’s and went on to take her vows and become a nun. A first cousin of mine was all but short of taking her final vows to become a nun when she and a man about to take his final vows to become a priest ended up getting married. They serve the Lord now as lay persons in their parish.
My paternal side – the Amore and House families – was pretty consistent on what churches they attended and the denominations they affiliated with. William Amore – the first of my family of Amore ancestors I have located – attended the Mt. Zion Methodist Church in Coshocton County before switching over to the Salvation Army. That became the primary denomination within that family although others attended churches that were Baptist, Methodist or Nazarene. One thing is for certain – there was a calling within members of the Amore family to attend seminary or theological training to minister to others. My House ancestors primarily were affiliated with the Nazarene Church. My paternal grandmother, Ella House Amore, devoted much of her life to the Nazarene Church.
The Johnson family on my maternal side was primarily of the Reformed or Christian faith. In 1957 the Evangelical and Reformed churches and the Congregational and Christian Churches merged to form one denomination – the United Church of Christ – of which I have been a member since my confirmation in the mid-1970s.
The Stern side of my maternal branch came from the old German Dunkards or the Church of the Brethren. The men grew their beards and were conservatively dressed in dark clothes. The women didn’t cut their hair, wore no make-up, little or no jewelry, and wore modest dresses and covered their heads. They didn’t conform to the world’s ways nor didn’t allow instruments in worship. They frowned on those who enjoyed frivolity for its own sake or women who dressed “immodestly”, and those who enjoyed alcoholic drinks.
In my previous post, I questioned how our ancestors’ views on religion and faith shaped our lives and the lives of their descendents. I can only say for sure how my grand and great-grandparents’ views have played a part in my own life. From the more conservative traditions of the Brethren, I was taught by words and actions that your reputation can be ruined just by one improper deed. That a person could and probably would be judged by the way they dressed, wore their hair, how they spent their leisure time, and talked to their elders. I learned at a very early age to speak to those older than I with respect and that persons in authority were to be held in high regard.
My father with both the Salvation Army and Nazarene background, attended some sort of church or religious service more days of the week than not. He learned by listening to the strict doctrine of what to do, what not to do, how to behave, how not to behave and then once leaving the place of worship seeing all those rules broken, that there is much hypocrisy within the church. To hear a sermon on how to love everyone and that God should be the only judge and then being faced with gossip and judgments behind others’ backs, was what prompted him as he got old enough to decide that organized religion wasn’t for him. Unfortunately, he hasn’t ever been able to find that “happy medium”.
My mother’s sister converted to Catholicism upon her marriage so many of my cousins are members of the Catholic Church. From that, I’ve learned tolerance for other denominations.
While the United Church of Christ (UCC) seems quite liberal, there are many congregations that are still very conservative. Our Synod meets every two years and votes on items that have come up for review. Some of those items are very controversial and unfortunately the press reports on the votes as if the delegates at Synod are speaking for the entire UCC – they are not. Our denomination is autonomous on each level. The Synod doesn’t tell the prior levels what the “creed” is, the Conference level doesn’t speak for the Association or the individual congregations nor does the Association speak for the churches within it. In the UCC we are primarily free to follow our Christian faith based on our previous faith experiences. My congregation consists of families whose members have come from different denominations yet neither will “give in” to the other’s creed or doctrine.
No, I do not keep my head covered as my great-great-grandmother, Nancy Caylor Stern, did. Nor do I wear remarkably conservative dresses. I do wear (sometimes) flashy jewelry and I enjoy hearing the piano, organ or other instruments during Worship. I like to dance and just have fun – just for the sake of having fun. However, I respect my elders (and not just those who are related to me), I strive to serve the Lord in word and deed, and I hope my actions speak toward my reputation.
For it is not those around us who will have to judge us – but the Lord, Our God, has that final say on our lives. He is the One who knows my heart and He is the One I serve.
(Picture 1: Rollo Werts Amore; Picture 2: my Aunt Marie; Picture 3: Isaiah (Zade) H. Amore; Picture 3: Central Christian Church, Anderson, Indiana where my Great-grandparents John & Katie Johnson were members; Picture 4: Nancy Caylor Stern with her grandchildren, John and Clarence Wilt)