My idea of a Christian was an amalgam of a televangelist, Jehovah’s Witness, Anita Bryant, and the WASPs at my prep school. (A WASP was, to me, a privileged white person who could trace their ancestry back to the Mayflower, or to some country of fair-skinned people. I never would have guessed that I would spend almost every Sunday with Anglicans!)
I grew up as a secular Jew, simply defined as “a person of Jewish heritage, but not observant of Judaism.” My mother always said that there were four types of Jews: orthodox, conservative, reform, and unaffiliated. We were unaffiliated Jews. But even though I didn’t study the 613 commandments, my Jewish identity was not simple to define. [Read more . . . ]
In Seattle, following a five-year stint on the staff of a Lutheran parish, I visited St. Paul’s on the strength of its reputation as a good “liturgical” church. When I first arrived here, I was attracted to the fine music and splendid liturgical life, but also challenged to adjust to some unfamiliar things.
My parents brought me up in a Missouri Synod Lutheran church in rural Minnesota. Our parish was progressive by Missouri Synod standards, but it didn’t stray too far from the minimalist style and robust (and stern!) theological tradition of German Lutheranism. Nevertheless, my mother had been a Roman Catholic before marrying my father, so every once in a while she would turn to me in the middle of a church service and say something like, “You know, they could engage all of the senses if they wanted to. They could use incense. Worship is best when it engages all of the senses.”
Years later, I began to understand my mother’s motivations. [Read more . . . ]
When my husband and I first entered the doors of St. Paul’s at a 10:30 Sunday service twelve years ago, our senses were fully engaged.
As a former Roman Catholic, I was immediately transported to my youth at the first whiff of lingering incense. I surmised that this church had experienced several decades of liturgical processions, with heavenly smoke permeating the walls and rafters. It was a part of my past that I missed.
The people present who were waiting for the service to commence were praying on their knees or sitting quietly or talking softly with neighbors. I noticed what appeared to be a homeless man, as his clothes were in tatters and his overall appearance disheveled. He walked up the aisle and lay prostrate below the altar. I could hear him speaking and crying and I wondered if this was his first time at St. Paul’s as well. Those sitting in the pews did not reveal any alarm at this act of contrition . . . [Read more . . .]
My life has taken many twists and turns I would never have imagined, but then again, whose has not? One of the more significant turns for me has been the journey away from my evangelical upbringing toward Anglicanism.
This pilgrimage has led me to a new landscape with different traditions and practices that reflect the passion of my heritage but better meet the deep desires of my heart for spiritual meaning and relationship with God.
While I continue to have great respect and love for my evangelical heritage, I felt disconnected to the ancient traditions of our Church and the stories of men and women who had gone before us. For me, there was no sense of mystery surrounding the Godhead; nor was there room for faith that earnestly questioned God rather than only defending Him/Her. As I often found myself in the ‘questioning God’ category, I wondered if there was a community that would provide a new context and lens through which I could worship God and continue to mature in my faith. [Read more . . .]