This Musing comes from the heart of my husband. The last two years have been quite a faith journey for us in a myriad of different ways. We've had a lot of questions come our way in those two years about what we're doing, church-wise, and a few think perhaps we've gone completely off the deep end. If you're among those wondering what in the world we're doing, Brian has put into words so much better than I would be able to to, a little bit of what that has looked like for us. There is no one I would rather have made this journey with. So... in the words of my dearest friend and husband...
Two years ago this month I stepped down from my dream job. For nearly 15 years I pastored Cornerstone Community Church ... a church I helped start ... a church I gave my life and passion to. It was a hard decision and yet in some ways it wasn't. I couldn't stand the thought of giving up. I saw it as failure, but I was mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. I allowed myself to get to a place of irreversible burnout with no vision, no passion, no direction. My calling and vocation became a love-hate relationship and I operated in functional depression for much of the final year just trying to make it from Sunday to Sunday.
One of my off-weeks that final summer, Sherrie and I attended an Anglican church just to see what it was like. I always liked to visit other churches, when I had the chance, to see what they were doing, how they worshiped, and how they arranged their chairs (some of you will get that). I wasn't sure what to expect that Sunday with all the pomp and circumstance. Processionals and recessionals. Sitting, standing, kneeling. Singing hymns and reciting creeds. Real wine at communion! It was way different than anything I had ever attended or experienced.
Yet, in spite of my ignorance of their tradition and liturgy it somehow ministered to me. I didn't know what it was at the time but there was this connection ... this draw. I was moved by the reverence for Christ. I was moved by the unity in the prayers and recitations. I was moved by the beauty of the Eucharist. I had no idea at that time what the future would hold, I just knew I found some peace that morning.
After leaving Cornerstone we set out to do what we hadn't done in nearly 20 years ... look for a church. It was tough. We didn't feel like we could go anywhere in town, but we didn't really want to go out of town, and we didn't feel like we could just quit ... even though quitting would have been the easy answer. At first we returned to our roots and attended a few Baptist churches, but the connection ... the draw wasn't there. We tried church online, but I knew all too well the importance of personal relationship and community. I had preached it for years.
Finally one Sunday we went back to that Anglican church and there was that connection ... that draw. That particular church wasn't the right fit for us, but the liturgy and sacrament was working its way into our spirits. We began to attend an Episcopal church pretty regularly. (Episcopal churches started as the American version of Anglican churches). I devoured books on Anglicanism. I asked questions. I observed. I learned. I worshiped. And it brought me peace ... peace that had eluded me for some time.
When I took a new job that had us relocate to the city, we had to start the process all over again. Each Saturday was the question, "Where are we going to church tomorrow?" Each Sunday was a discussion of what we liked and didn't like about the church we visited that morning. It was exhausting. We finally found a small Anglican church in the city that we kept going back to every other week while we scouted others on the off weeks. Then we ended up there occasionally on our "scout" weeks. Finally we just kept going back.
We were invited to attend an 8-week confirmation class (who we are, what we believe, why we do what we do -- or -- the Anglican version of 101 and 201) during the fall. Just before Christmas we were confirmed into (joined) the Anglican Church.
Most people have been supportive. Some have wondered what in the world we're doing. And some, frankly, don't care. We've fielded a number of questions over the last year; especially since our confirmation. I assure you that we have not left the faith as Anglicanism is well within the bounds of Orthodox Christian faith and belief.
If you've ever sung a hymn written by Charles Wesley, then you've sung a song written by an Anglican. If you've ever read a book by C.S. Lewis, then you've read a book written by an Anglican. If your pastor has ever quoted John Stott or N.T. Wright, then they've quoted an Anglican.
So why did we become Anglicans? This isn't exhaustive, but it covers the key reasons:
- The centrality of Christ in worship
- The corporate reading of Scripture
- The importance of communion
- The unity of 85 million believers
- The regular confession of the creeds
- The sign and symbol of the liturgy and sacraments
- The bridge to the ancient church
All of these things together form the connection ... the draw. The mystery of the liturgy and sacraments continue to bring peace. We like that as a church we recite creeds together, read Scripture together, pray together, confess sin together, and take communion together ... every week.
I never dreamed that I would prefer quiet, worshipful hymns over loud, modern worship music. Or the beauty and reverence of communion over a well-crafted sermon. But here I am.
We're still pretty new at this particular faith tradition, but the peace, the contentment, and the connection tell me we're home.
If you would like to know more about the Anglican tradition I recommend the following books:
The Anglican Way by Thomas McKenzie
Beyond Smells and Bells by Mark Galli
Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail by Robert Webber
If you'd like to know more about our journey, just ask.
Peace of the Lord be with you!