So this will be the first of many (a few? Several? Not sure yet…) blog posts on my spirituality. It is something I really enjoy thinking about, thus I suspect I’ll enjoy writing about it.
I am an Episcopalian, a cradle Episcopalian in fact. So is my mother. So is my grandmother, and her mother and grandparents and great-grandparents. I’m just one in a very VERY long line of Episcopalians. I’m pretty sure that my family was a part of the Episcopal Church when it was just starting here when we were still a colony of Great Britain. Before that, I’ve got a feeling we were C of E in England. I love being an Episcopalian. Even if I was not an Episcopalian, I think I might still choose to be one. It appeals to me on so many levels—spiritually, intellectually… I love to learn about why we do the things we do. I’m part of something much larger than myself. Every Episcopalian has a connection to me, in that we share the same services (more or less) and say the same words (again, more or less) and sing the same hymns and that is a wonderful feeling. It is a beautiful tradition, the Episcopal faith, full of history and ceremony and grace.
Fun fact: I was christened at the same church in which my parents and grandparents (and my aunt and uncle) were married.
I am also in the minority group in my church overall, I think. (This is just my own experience telling me this—I have not researched this on any kind of formal level.) I am 27 years old. I am not married (though, I’m wicked excited to tell you that I will be SOOON!!!!) and I do not have kids. A year ago, I moved back to the town I lived in when I still lived with my parents as I attended middle and high school. I am far away from my parents these days, but I wake up and go to the small church of my childhood every single Sunday (unless I’m out of town visiting my husband-to-be in CT). I’m an acolyte again (we’re running out of youth so adults have been recruited, and I already knew the crucifer role like I was a pro!) and I read lessons on a rotating schedule. I was also asked to be in the choir again as well. (I sometimes refer to this as “Operation: Get HER!” I’m almost positive they formed a committee task force.) How do you say no to people who have known you since you were twelve? And they’re probably reporting back to my mother…
I feel a connection to this little church, and a good deal of it probably comes because many of the parishioners have known me since I was 12. There is comfort in familiarity, after all. I was confirmed in this church. They watched me grow in my singing, as I found the confidence to sing solos and duets for their offertories occasionally. I found great mentors in my teenage years that continue to inspire me today. They were a great source of comfort and support when my father was deployed to the Middle East. They encouraged me in my pursuits in school, whether it was the sports I played in high school, the plays and musicals I was a part of (also in high school), or when I decided to go to college to get a BFA in musical theatre. They were/are an extension of my family.
Now, I walk among them as an adult, but sometimes I still feel like the wide-eyed little girl who is seeing the Good Shepherd in a beautiful stained glass window in the back of the church for the first time. Sometimes the GIANT pipe organ in the front of the church just stuns me into an awed silence. I will very soon move to Connecticut so that I can be closer to my fiancé and I will attend a new church. I wonder if I will feel the same connection there that I have at my current church. As I continue my search for a deeper connection with God and His will for me, will I also be able to build relationships with the congregation? I hope so. I pray so.
I love our Sunday services. Even down to the language we use; it really appeals to me—it is poetic and majestic but poignant and relevant all at once. Mostly, people don’t speak that way anymore. There is an eloquence that was deliberate but artless. In my opinion, they weren’t trying to sound poetic. They were speaking from their souls and their hearts and that really comes through, to me anyways. Over the years, I’ve managed to memorise most of our usual services. But because I’ve got all the responses and prayers memorised, (and sometimes I know what the celebrant is supposed to say too) I get the chance to really think about the words I’m saying. I don’t know if a lot of other people do this as we’re speaking whatever prayer we’re using at that moment, but I really consider every word of every line. I am terrible at coming up with the words on the spot for my own prayers, but in the Episcopal Church, our services were written out for us; they’re all in our prayer book. Some parishes do things a little differently here and there, but for the most part, no matter where I go, I will feel comfortable in any Episcopal church I attend, as far as the liturgy goes. So my thoughts often turn to an acting exercise I use when I am in rehearsals for a show. I think to myself, “Why do I say THESE words, in THIS order, at THIS time? Why didn’t they use a different word there? Would it change the meaning entirely if I switched the order of the words around?” Sometimes the answers come and sometimes I ruminate on them for a long time. I’m lucky though, that I can count among my friends an ordained Episcopal priest who does not mind my asking her a million questions about the Why? and How? and When? She’s an incredible mentor to me and yes, she is one of those from my home church that has known me since I was twelve.
Episcopalians can be negatively stereotyped, just like any other group of people. “The Frozen Chosen.” “Snobby.” “Elitist.” “Progressive.” But I’ve made a bit of a study of why we do the things we do, and I think people are apt to condemn what they don’t fully understand. It is easy to see something in a negative light when it is misunderstood. I think people should remember that this is a community of faith that is made up of humans, and so is naturally imperfect. As it has been said, “To err is human, to forgive is divine” so I think a little forgiveness of our imperfections would go a long way. But I’ve seen extraordinary kindness and charity from many Episcopalians. I am 100% supportive of ordaining women as priests and bishops. I’ll keep saying it. I love my Church. If you give me the opening in a conversation, I’m apt to talk your ear off about it.