Sunday, April 13, 2008

"Why are you an Episcopalian?"

Jake's asking this question, over at his place. He got me thinking, and feeling, and appreciating. My responses serve as a quick-and-dirty faith story, and I want to share them here.

Most of my readers probably also read Jake; he's one of the hubs of our Episcopalian blog-web. If you share this same boat with me, please go answer him there. If you're of another tradition, or a different faith entirely (hey there, Orthodox Mimi) feel free to play, in the comments.

1. What initially drew you to the Episcopal Church?

I was raised here. One of the things my parents did right, was never making me go to church. I went when I wanted to—which meant that I was free to be drawn in. I was very involved in diocesan youth programs; I got my questions, and my authentic faith, nurtured there.

2. What brought you back to the Episcopal Church?

This is really the more salient question. I left the church after college (1992) because I was sick of patriarchal language. “Father,” alone, does not bring me closer to God. My peers got that—but my elders wouldn’t budge. (When I asked if we could use inclusive language, then just beginning to be known, I was told, “This is [small town near Olympia"]. That priest has long since moved elsewhere. I actually wish I'd been around for his replacement; I know her now, and she's great.)

I spent the next 11 years in an interfaith community, hanging out with mostly Buddhist ex-Christians, occasional Jews, and the odd Earth-centered pagan. I learned a lot from them, and they gave me what I needed for a time. Some members became as family to me, and we are still close. When I wasn’t there, I spent a lot of time with Quakers. I loved them for their peacefulness and their activism, and thought of sojourning there. But it got to where I was missing liturgy more and more. I was hungry for the Eucharist, though I didn't know how deeply. I had brief, intermittent times of worshipping as an Episcopalian—when I lived in Seattle, I felt safe at the cathedral—but I just wasn’t ready to go back to the church as I had known it.

Enter, August 2003. I found out about +Gene from friends on a message board. I didn’t have to think about it; my response was, “They did that? I’m going home.” I was so burstingly proud of the tradition I'd grown up in, for recognizing that all people are human. I drove an hour the next Sunday, to St. Mark’s, Seattle; I knew people there would be celebrating. I went to the healing rail after Communion. The poor woman asked what I needed prayer for—and I opened my mouth and burst out sobbing. I didn’t know why, but I knew I was home—and I knew God had work for me to do.

I was shaking for a long time after that; I still call it a God-quake. I went home, and got involved in my local parish. I found that the church had come to terms with some things, in my absence. I fell in love with it again, and committed myself to being here.

3. What are some of your current reasons for remaining in the Episcopal Church?

Ask God why I’m in seminary, LOL. I am called to serve the marginalized; I'm thinking of starting a chaplaincy for homeless people. I want to physically and sacramentally feed them.

The ethos this church has developed—namely, living the Baptismal Covenant—keeps me here. The sacraments mean more to me than I can tell you. The Incarnation means more to me than I can tell you. This is the church that still walks me through resurrection. This is the tradition I’m called to be faithful in.

My best friend’s in San Joaquin. Being close to her drew me into their struggle. How that turned out, feeds my faith in this church. My passion for mission was awakened, fed, and instructed by Episcopalians in New Orleans. This church is home.

4. When you recommend the Episcopal Church to others, what are some of the aspects of our common life that you mention?

Most of my circle are Episcopalians. I recommend my parish, because we are inclusive, creative, exuberantly welcoming. I don’t have to sell the tradition, but if I did, I would tailor it to the conversation. You want liturgy? We have it. Incarnational theology? Oh yes. Outreach and mission? Come.

1 comment:

FranIAm said...

What a great post. Believe it or not, even though I am awash in so much Episcopalian love here in blogworld, I do not read Jake. I have been there, but it is not on my regular list.

I loved reading what you wrote and it is not so different in its essence, from my own journey. If it is just in your heart you come home, sobbing and loving all the way.

Thanks for sharing this with us.

I won't answer the questions as my own post today (and thank you so much for your witness, your comment) has somewhat exhausted me.

Pax to you dear one!