It is with no little irony, as I reviewed the last couple of posts in “Godly Humor,” that I realized how aptly named it was. Another joke by my Lord. For my spiritual journey most resembles a zig zag, which winds and bends, doubles back and races fitfully along, much no doubt, to the amusement of God. It all seems quite deliberate.
So to, the announcement at the end of Part IX, that the spiritual part of my autobiography was “concluded.” How could I have come to that idea?
In the last few weeks, it seemed that I was reflecting a good deal about the past year and my new journey of sorts in the Episcopal Church. And I thought it fair to set down my observations. Take serious note that I do not speak for my own parish, nor certainly for the Church at large.
It has been a bit more than a year since I first set foot in Christ Church, eager, tentative, hopeful, and not a little saddened by the events which led me to that juncture. Yet, not a few months later, I am joyously happy, relieved, dedicated, comfortable, and and endless list of other happy adjectives. It has been a good fit.
I recall telling the Contrarian that I intended to “attend church.” I “might” engage in some biblical studies if such were offered. I expected nothing further. As I learned of the breadth of ministries offered, my excitement grew, but I remained firm. No groups or committees that met in the evening hours, not much of anything that wasn’t scheduled for Sundays. No extra drives into town for me.
Yeah right. God it seemed had other plans. With, I imagine, great glee, I started in the Adult Forum group, wherein we first studied Hosea, and then on to Paul’s moral teachings. I met wonderful, bright, and by my estimation rather right thinking individuals. I soon felt right at home, and that was due in no small measure to the immense welcoming that is so much a tradition of the Episcopal church at large, but is central to my parish.
While I was “careful” with my liberal opinions, and “mindful” of my newness, I was constantly urged to speak my mind and join in the conversation whatever it might be. For Episcopalians by design are not a hierarchical group. Although we are led by fine, well educated, and spiritual leaders, they in deep humility encourage everyone to be an important part of the congregation.
There is an exuberance, an excitement there, no matter what day of the week you happen to stop by. People are busy. They are busy about being a Matthew 25 people.
“When was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?”
I can honestly say that in no church that I ever attended have I found so many ways of serving the community and thus God’s people. In no place did I feel God’s call so loudly and insistently.
And against all the pronouncements of “no night meetings, no weekday drives,” and all that, I find myself immersed more and more. Today, I serve as a chalice server, co-chair of the library committee, member of the Adult forum committee, Jubilee ministries committee, volunteer at Loaves and Fishes, new member of the Education for Ministry Program, and it appears a couple more that have not yet quite formalized.
I say this in no way to toot my horn, for goodness knows I can name several dozen at my church who do twice as much or more. They are my models and examples, for the face of Christ shines brightly in them. It is with their very lives that they draw me forth. I can say as much for the magnificent clergy that we have. Warm, engaging, spiritual, deeply immersed in the Gospel, they all, Rector, assistant Rector, and deacons reach forth to teach and preach and to guide and lead in the best tradition of Church.
I am reminded that I have not been transformed as much as I am being transformed, for like the journey, it is never ending.
I recognize that in the greater Episcopal Church there are serious problems. Some of our brethren have seen fit to turn their back on a fine tradition of the church, namely that we disagree and argue during the week about doctrine, and come together on Sunday to worship our God. Some have determined that they cannot abide by the decisions made by the majority on some issues and have gone their own way. I view this with sadness, but note that there is a movement throughout Christendom of realignment generally.
Not all think the same within my own parish. One would never expect that. Yet, I like to think that while we may disagree, we respect each other. We care for the well being of all our congregants no matter our different theological beliefs. We search, in the words of our rector, to find God working in our lives in agreement and disagreement. We seek the lessons that are always there to be learned.
I can say that all that I desired in “church” were met here, and more, that I did not contemplate. I rejoice in liturgy and am uplifted in the great traditions of the service. I feel God’s hand upon my shoulder each Sunday as I enter the pew. I feel a hushed reverence at Eucharist unlike any I have ever known.
Is my parish singularly special? I cannot speak to that, for I know no other. I suspect it is and it isn’t. It is unique and yet reflects all that I have come to understand of the Episcopal tradition. God may be quite the comic when it comes to upsetting my notions about the journey, but he was quite serious when he chose Christ Church and the Episcopal faith for me.
May all your faith choices be as wondrous.