I've sort of had church on the brain lately. (Completely aside from Cute Church Guy, I swear.)
Instead of "giving up" anything for Lent this year, I "took on" something--I decided to read a daily Lenten devotion from a little book of them sent out by one of the churches I'm currently associated with. (There are two--my little, diverse "everyday" church, and the big, rich downtown church I used to go to, and still do occasionally when I'm in the mood for "high" church.) Having gotten into the habit of the daily devotional reading, I've continued it, with a little publication put out quarterly by the Episcopal church. It's kind of a nice start to the day. Each day's entry is based on one of the scripture readings designated for the Daily Offices for that day, and they're generally not too preachy--just designed to get you thinking. This morning I actually pulled out my (admittedly somewhat dusty) Bible, to read the entire passage that was excerpted in the booklet. This particular Bible was given to me by the Episcopal church in my hometown, when I moved away 20 years ago, and looking at the flyleaf, inscribed in Father William's gorgeous calligraphy, brought back all kinds of memories.
Do you want to hear the story of how I became an Episcopalian? I think it's kind of cool.
I was actually raised a Methodist. (My mother was raised a Democrat and a Baptist, but when she married into a Republican Methodist family, she happily switched over. She also stopped drinking sugar in her tea--way to assimilate, Mom. Hee.) I had (and have) nothing against the Methodist church...but it's not very...exciting. That's the point, really, I guess. They're methodical. I occasionally went to other churches with friends--Baptist, Assembly of God--that I KNEW weren't for me. The Presbyterian and Disciples of Christ churches were pretty similar to the Methodist--no great motivation to convert there.
At any rate, I coasted along in the Methodist church until college. Somewhere along the line, I stopped going. It wasn't a crisis of faith so much as an expansion of social life--hard to get up in time for church on Sunday morning when you never went to bed Saturday night, you know? A couple of my music professors were Episcopalians, and they used to get us gigs occasionally in the area Episcopal churches. Paying gigs, too--not much, but $25 would buy a lot of beer in those days! I also had a good friend in the music department, Dennis, raised rigidly Southern Baptist, who had a burning desire to become an Episcopalian, but was afraid to tell his parents, so every time we went out of town for any sort of convention, we had to find an Episcopal church to go to. (That wasn't the only thing he was afraid to tell his parents--he was also gay. We used to joke that if he ever got up the courage to say "Mom, Dad...I'm gay, and I want to become an Episcopalian," his mother would drop to the floor in a faint, raise her head and say weakly, "Did you say EPISCOPALIAN?" Hee. He did finally tell them both things. The gay admission got him disowned for about a year, actually, though eventually they came to some sort of uneasy peace. But I digress.) So I was exposed to the Episcopal service, and I really liked it. Not enough to haul my ass out of bed on a Sunday morning, but I liked it.
Then, one Saturday night, I suddenly had an urge to get up the next morning and go to church. Not "my" church, though...I wanted to go to the Episcopal church. It was very weird--I couldn't think of anything that had sparked this sudden desire, but there it was. So I set my alarm, and the next morning I got up and went to church.
I walked in, and sitting there on the aisle was my friend Dennis. By way of backstory, I must tell you that Dennis had left school and moved away, unable to continue to live so close to his family, and he hadn't been home, nor had we spoken, in a year or more, at that point. I slid into the pew beside him, and his eyes widened. "I was going to call you last night when I got in and tell you I'd be here, but I got sidetracked." "Well, I guess you DID call me," I responded. We both got goosebumps.
I decided that was a sign from God if ever I'd seen one, and you can bet I was back at that church again the next week, and the next, and the next. Seldom in life have I been pointed so specifically in the right direction.
And it was the right direction, for me. I love the Episcopal church. I love that we've had the courage to ordain women, and gays, despite the flack sent our way by certain segments of the worldwide Anglican communion. Go, us! I love how much work is done by the Episcopal church, globally and locally, to feed and clothe the poor. Go, us! I love the rites, and the rituals, the beautiful language of the liturgy. Go, us!
I love how cute certain junior wardens are. What, you didn't think I'd end this on a completely serious note, did you?