A couple Sundays ago we visited a second Episcopal Church. I wrote in my post about the first Episcopal Church we’d visited that I had so much hope in going, because I’ve been reading different articles and books about evangelical Christians who have found a new home in the Episcopal Church. But our first visit disappointed me, so I thought this one might too. I was a little bit begrudging.
This church, like the Presbyterian one we visited before it, had a husband and wife reverend team. It’s in a neighboring town, an upper class community surrounded by historic mansions and giant homes. It’s a beautiful stone building and it was a beautiful service. But like I said, I was begrudging at first. I brought some of my judgments in with me– particularly one about the church being in an affluent community and wondering how connected they are to the greater community. I also brought in my doubts– we’ve been visiting so many churches, how will I even know if this one feels right or not? So as the service began, I was looking for the things I could disagree with and feel indignant about, and I found some. (We can so often find exactly what we’re looking for if we look hard enough, can’t we?)
But as the service continued, something else happened. I can’t name exactly what it was, but something made me pause and think, oh, well that’s actually nice… And as I let that little bit of light crack through my gloomy thoughts, everything else began to soften and brighten, too. By the end I found myself drawn in by the liturgy and Eucharist and hymns. The reverends greeted us at the door on the way out, and invited us to the Fellowship Hall for coffee and snacks, which has become a regular part of our church visits.
When we went to Fellowship Hall, the reverends found us there and talked with us some more. I spoke with Adele and she asked about what we believe and how we came to their church. She told me about a Rachel Held Evans article she had read that I was familiar with. She referenced a pastor that I like that I had heard an evangelical pastor denounce unequivocally the week before. She gave us a booklet about their church history and beliefs, instead of a welcome mug. She was real and honest and expressed her own doubts and questions about the church and theology. She looked at me with love and understanding in her eyes when I said our last church had broke our hearts.
It was a good visit.
This morning, I read Addie Zierman’s post, For the One Who’s Still a Long Way Off, and it gave me some peace. Throughout this whole church search process, I’ve felt pressure to settle in, to choose, to find the right community as soon as possible. It’s a pressure I’m putting on myself mainly. It just feels sometimes so urgent for me to find a community again, but Addie wrote:
“You’re going back, frankly, because you’ve run out of options. Because you never could manage to outrun your past, because it kept creeping up on you as you lay in the hollow of your despair, wishing things had turned out differently. Go home, go home, go home, the phantom lullaby sang in your ears, and it was so familiar and soothing, that eventually you found yourself thinking, What the hell. What else am I going to do? And so here you are, taking the long way, dragging so much baggage that you can hardly keep going. Failure. Resentment. Pain. Anger. Doubt. Distrust. It feels like a long way from where you are to where He is, and you don’t even know what it’ll be like when you get there. Is it as bad as you remember it? Is it as good?”
There is a part of me that needs to go back to church, that needs a community again. And I’m finding some of my preconceptions challenged. I’m finding my mind and my heart is opening up more than I thought might be possible now. I’m finding pastors and congregations that welcome us and surprise me with their honesty. But I can also feel that part of me that’s not ready, the part that is scared and hesitant and weary. So yes, I’m taking the long way back, and I’m dragging baggage and sometimes I feel like I can hardly keep going, but I am going. And I’m not quite close enough to see home yet, but I’m getting closer.