Monday, September 10, 2007

How I Got Here

I've been dithering for several hours, trying to decide what to write here tonight. I thought earlier today about writing something called "More on Madeleine," but really I mostly said it all last night. There's just one major thing I didn't point out.

You may want to skip this one, Paul.

It's probably eleven years now since I first walked into St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal church at Fifth and Wilmot in Tucson. I was at a bit of a spiritual crossroads at the time. I had probably much abandoned the Roman Catholic Church after my marriage in 1979, having been annoyed with the church for years about its teachings on birth control and other issues. I wasn't quite sure what I believed, and had spent well over a decade waiting for inspiration to hit, without doing any actual work on figuring out what to believe or not believe, and why.

By 1996 or 1997, I had realized the flaw in this plan, but was unsure how to resolve the issue. My one visit to a Catholic church since moving to Tucson had left me with little remaining affinity for that denomination, and yet I was even less comfortable with the idea of trying a radically different one.

But maybe a less radically different one?

Father John Smith of St. Michael and All Angels

  • One of my best friends back in Syracuse was an Episcopalian. She'd even applied to enter the priesthood, but had been turned down. I'd attended her church once, and kind of liked it.
  • Madeleine L'Engle was Episcopalian. I wasn't wildly enthusiastic about her religious non-fiction, but what I had read was generally compatible with my own beliefs, such as they were, and even with my doubts and uncertainties.
  • There was an Episcopal church just a few miles up Wilmot from me. The yellow pages listing said it featured an Anglican style of worship, which I took to mean as fairly close to a Roman Catholic sense of formal rites. The church also featured a sign out front that I rather liked. It said, "Jesus was a refugee."
So I went to St. Michael's one Sunday morning. There I was welcomed by a parishioner named Suzanne, and by the relatively new pastor, Father John Smith. The service was remarkably like the Masses I'd grown up with, but without the troublesome elements that drove me away from there. I went back the next Sunday, and the next, and the next.

This morning's crew of acolytes. For once I had the week off.

Over a decade later, Father Smith and I are still at St. Michael's. I'm the church webmaster, the unofficial church photographer, a lector, a crucifer and a torcher. My mustard seed faith isn't all that impressive, but it gets me through, and it's more than I had before. I love these people, this place, the rites, even the sermons. I'm very glad I walked through those wooden double doors a decade ago.

And I might not have done it were it not for Madeleine L'Engle.



Anonymous said...

It is interesting how some seeming insignificant thing can change our lives. I remember bits of a movie I saw in grade school that changed my outlook on life. I am glad that you found ST Michaels and are hpappy there.
I just bought L'Engles's book "A wind in the door" At Goodwill because you had mentioned her several times. I haven't had a chance to read it yet because I also bought a bunch of other books at the same time.
I hope your week is a good one.

Jeff Noble said...

Interesting. I am on the same journey you took several years ago. I have been trying to move away from the Roman Catholic Church to somewhere - where, I'm not sure. One of the places I've been is an small Episcopal Church which I have liked a lot.

My problem is my home church. I really have issues with the overall Roman Catholic Church but have not found the resolve to leave the very personal local church family who've been a part of my life since I first joined in 1979.

I'm still seeking. Just wanted to say hello.

bea said...

I'd say it's been about 15 years for me since I discovered the common factors the United Methodist Church had with the Catholic church services... worship is similar. Similar in all the ways that made sense to me, and the rest didn't matter. I have been going ever since, and there are no regrets. I can tell you have found a home there. bea