Paternosters are one-decade rosaries. They are more easily documented than rosaries, since many rosaries were destroyed during the Reformation. Beaded cords used to recite prayers have been found in many cultures and over many years. In fact, our word “bead comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “biddan” meaning “to pray” and “bede” meaning “prayer.”

It was very dangerous to be a Catholic during the Reformation. To possess a rosary or any other Catholic paraphernalia was to risk imprisonment or death. One way that Catholics chose to practice their faith in secret was to carry Paternosters instead of rosaries. They were easily portable and concealable. It was possible to use the paternoster discretely while going about daily life in public because it could fit in the palm of a hand.

Pre-Christian people valued certain stones for their talismanic or protective qualities. Among these were coral – to strengthen the heart, rock crystal – for purity, amethyst – to protect against drunkenness, and agate – for protection. Other materials that were used included amber, carnelian, and emeralds. When Christianity became popular, beads fell out of favor. God was to protect you – not the beads. But old habits die hard. When people made rosaries, the used the same stones, for the same reasons.

Paternosters are not meant to be worn, but used. Following the standard order for rosaries, the prayers go as follows: at the cross, recite the Nicene Creed. At each of the ten following beads (Aves), recite the “Hail Mary” prayer. At the final bead (the Paternoster), recite the “Our Father” prayer.

References –

The Book of Beads – Janet Coles and Robert Budwig
The History of Beads – Lois Sherr Dubin
Sacred Origins of Profound Things – Charles Panati

Tradition will kill you.

“We do it this way because we’ve always done it this way.”

I find it interesting (and disturbing and sad) that the only person who has talked to me about staying in church has used this as an explanation.

We need to keep this going because it is tradition.

I remember seeing a psychological study about peoples’ reaction to smoke coming under the door. There is a subject in an office waiting room with other people, but the other people are part of the study. Smoke starts to come under the door. The subject sees it, but doesn’t alert others, and doesn’t leave. This happened time and time again. When asked later why they didn’t react to it, the answer was that they didn’t want to cause a fuss. So, for the sake of keeping the peace, everyone will die. They’d rather be quiet than get everybody moving towards safety.

If we are in a car that has gotten off the road and is headed towards a cliff, we need to jump out of the car.

If the church goes one way, and Jesus goes another, we know who we must follow.

I’m finding it amazing the number of people who are on the same page here. People are leaving church not because they haven’t heard the Gospel. It is because they have heard the Gospel. They have heard the message to love and serve, and they are seeing a huge disconnect. They are seeing hypocrisy. They are seeing that church is self-serving rather than self-less.

The tithe goes to keep up the building and pay the staff. It doesn’t go to feed the hungry or clothe the naked.

The ministers have all the power, and they don’t teach the members how to be ministers.

We need to all think for ourselves. We all need to read the Bible for ourselves. If what the church says does not line up with what God says, then we are obliged to try to reform the church. Or leave. To stay and pretend that everything is fine is to give support to something that we know is wrong.

Sometimes things start off ok, but then they get sidetracked. I read about a women’s prayer organization that is for Anglican women. The charter said that no money would be raised in the name of the organization. Yet, years later after it was founded, they take up dues. They collect money for various scholarships for their members. I’ve heard that there is no proper accounting for this money. So, the start was good, but it got off the track.

Plus, I’m against anything that doesn’t allow someone membership based on something they have no control over. Only women can join? What about men who want to pray? God calls everyone.

This is like saying only men can be priests. Yes, I have a problem with that too. But I also believe from my studies of the Gospels that every person is called by God to know and love and serve God. It isn’t for the few, the proud, the priests. It is a gift that is given freely to all by the Holy Spirit.

We pray for soldiers who are at war. Yet we are told to love our enemies, and “thou shalt not kill.” There is a huge conflict here. We are praying for the safety of people who are doing something that we know from the commandments we are not to do. This is crazy-making.

Sometimes something is so broken that it can’t be fixed from within and you have to start all over.

God is constantly talking to us. He never stopped. It behooves us to listen to God talking in all things. God didn’t stop talking when the Bible was written. You can find truth everywhere.

But don’t take my word for it. Read, pray, think on your own. Stretch your horizons and boundaries.

Don’t be afraid. Love. Perfect love casts out all fear, remember?

Church shouldn’t involve money, or a building. It isn’t a place. It is a gathering. Look up the meanings of “ekklesia” – the root word for church. It is pretty surprising.

I don’t know what church should look like yet. I’m thinking I should send my tithe money to a charity, like the American Red Cross, or the Nashville Rescue Mission. My Sunday mornings are changing. There should be time to read the scriptures and time to pray and listen to God. I know there is a lot of healing to be found in a small circle of people who are willing to be open and honest with each other.

But I know I can’t be part of something I feel is wrong. And I know I’m not alone.

Let us pray together for the strength to return to the beginning. Let us examine everything in light of Jesus’ teaching to Love. What practice shows love? Do it.


A reason for the protestant reformation is that people wanted to have a say in the church. They wanted to participate. The priests were doing all the stuff in the church. So now we are here today. How much of what we have now is lip service? How much can the people really do? How much are we taught, and how much are we kept at arm’s length?

I feel that today’s church does not empower. It does not teach us how to hear the voice of God. It does not teach us how to be awake or how to serve. It teaches us to be good docile sheep.

I’m starting to have an empathy with Mary, with Peter, with Martin Luther, and with John Wesley. What was it like to be them? They all started something new, but they didn’t mean to. They had no template and no map. They all knew a change was needed, or was happening and were swept up in it. Some of them thought that they were part of the past, just bringing it up to fruition. They didn’t realize they were bringing change.

How come I am able to have conversations about God at the Y, but I can’t at church? These are deep conversations about how God has talked with us, right here, right now. I would mention something God had told me, and my conversation partner would then tell me something that God had told her. We would both be uplifted by sharing our experiences. We now seek each other out to have these conversations. There are three of us now who meet to exercise in the pool on Sunday afternoons and we have our own little version of church.

I told my priest from the very beginning of my re-joining church about my conversations with God, but when I started telling others at church about them I was chastised. I was told it was a conversation stopper. I was told that it made them uncomfortable. Of all the places in the world, it isn’t OK to talk in church about how God talks to you? I was told it made them uncomfortable because they weren’t having such experiences. Church would seem like the very place to find like-minded people. I would figure that would be a reason to go to church – because you want to share your experiences.

One reason to go to church is to share your faith. To share means to grow in it together. I like hearing about how other people hear from God. It strengthens my faith. It lets me know I’m not “hearing things.” All too often the stories from the Old Testament are just dry stories, dry as bones. They aren’t alive. When we awaken to God, when we listen to His call, we are connected. We become alive. Those stories serve as a template of sorts. They let us know we are on the right path. They let us know when it is God talking and when we are just stuck in our own heads.

Our God is not a God of the dead, but of the living. Our God is alive, and real, and loves us. Our God is constantly trying to reach out to us, to connect with us. All our lives is a returning to God. We are born into this world of division and noise, and all our souls seek unity and peace. We long for communion – for union with. To be one with.

If we go to electronics school, we expect to learn about electronics. We expect to learn about resistors and diodes and LEDs. If we go to craft school, we expect to learn how to make things. We expect to learn about pottery and glassblowing and embroidery. We expect in both instances to be given enough knowledge to be able to do it ourselves.

But church right now isn’t a school. It is a museum. The rituals have stayed the same for over 2000 years. We are told stories about past people who heard from God and acted upon His word, but we aren’t empowered to do this ourselves. We aren’t taught how to hear from God.

Is this because the ministers are afraid we’ll not need them anymore? Is this because the ministers themselves don’t hear from God? Or is there something else going on?

I’m just going to be brave here and say this. God talks to me. I have heard from God since I was 12. It isn’t all the time. I have wrestled with this reality for many years because I didn’t know if it was real or not, because I’m also bipolar. I don’t hide this. This isn’t a secret. I have twice checked myself into a hospital. Twice I have realized that something was wrong and I sought out help. I have had spiritual directors and counselors tell me that is very unusual. Most people who are way out there don’t know how close they are to the edge and they just fall off. I knew. I got help. But I’ve had way too many verifiable experiences to just think that this is all in my head.

But I’m terrified of misleading people. It is absolutely critical that I don’t lead people astray. There are way too many people who say they “hear from God” and it is obvious by their actions that the god they are talking to isn’t a very nice one, or isn’t a very healthy one. When I mention this to spiritual directors and counselors they say that my desire to not mislead people is a good sign. They say that it means that I’m on the right path. But it still concerns me, and I still hold back.

In church I asked my priest for training and for oversight. I want to know how to best help people, and I want to be watched. I don’t want to stray from the path and lead people astray. Instead of training and oversight, I got responsibility and micromanagement.

The church is like this. Say I want to go over there to help those people who are hurting. They are lost and broken and need help, but I don’t know what to do to help them. The church says that is great, so here’s a diagram to build a car to get to them. It took two years to get into the deacon discernment process. Meanwhile those people are still hurting and lost. Then once in the process, I’m asked about my spiritual history and my work history and my current financial status and there is a physical exam and a mental exam….and on and on and on. There is absolutely nothing about how to help people. It is all examining me and my motives.

Something feels very deeply wrong about all this.