Friday, February 6, 2009

Journeys of Faith: Coming to St. Paul’s from an Evangelical Background

by Kate Rickard

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.

When I experienced the Eucharist for the first time at St. Paul's, I was drawn in like a cold wanderer to a warm home. There was something in that experience I still fail to put words to and to be honest, I don't feel a strong need to compeletely understand it. Since attending St. Paul's, I've encountered a mysterious, loving and incarnate God who is real to me in the faces of my neighbors and the wine and bread of Eucharist. The Anglo-Catholic tradition has opened me to new ways of seeing our world that are "sacramental;" the world is infused with the holy and all life is sacred. I also feel freed up to be in relationship with others in a way that is mutually transformatitive and honoring to Christ.

This pilgrimage has not always been comfortable. At first, attending St. Paul's was a little bit like travelling to a foreign country. I wasn't sure how I fit in among the "locals" and I often didn't understand the language. When should I bow? Should I make a deep bow or just a little bow? Ooops! I missed a bow! Are people looking at me? When should I sing? What should I sing? Which book are we using and what page are we on? Why are we making all these gestures in the first place? And why is Mother Melissa flinging water onto me with a branch?!?

I found that when I let go of worrying about understanding and perfecting my role with all the Anglo-Catholic bows, genuflections, smells and bells, I began to experience the heart of the liturgy. And I started to enjoy myself! I realized that the physcial movements of bowing and genuflecting along with chanting and pausing for silence pull my entire being into an experience of God's presence. The liturgical practices also connect me in a tangible way to my brothers and sisters as we all move and sing together.

When I attend evangelical churches now, I am amazed at how different my new Anglo-Catholic home is from the tradition of my upbringing. There are times that I miss the spontaneity of the evangelical church and the earnest, simple way the Holy Spirit is sought. However, within Anglo-Catholicism, I've found room to grow and expand the horizons of my faith in new and energizing ways. Quite frankly, my faith is infused with more hope than I ever imagined possible. And I have found that there is just as much passion and Spirit within the ancient liturgies, use of the daily office, and symbols of my new tradition - it is only expressed in different ways. This wanderer is glad to have found a home to settle down and grow old in.

Kate Rickard is in discernment towards Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church and works at Seattle Pacific University. You may also read her lay homily here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So similar to my own journey. Thank you for sharing yours, it's a beautiful expression!