Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Part Two... a Liturgy Newbie


Thanks for reading Part One and not hanging me out to dry.  I'll admit now that I had loads of anxiety during the hours that the post was being read.

So St. Tim's... What was this Baptist girl to do?!?  I grew up at a mainline Baptist church.  I worshipped more recently at an Evangelical contemporary church.  Both of these feel familiar to me. I know how to follow along in a hymnal, or even on projected screen.

Dan had grown up in an Episcopal congregation... worshiping at St. Tim's felt like old home to him.  But me?  I felt like I was reading a script.  It wasn't worship as much as it was a group reading.  My only experience in an Episcopal church prior to this was as a visitor.  In fact, my first experience was when my friend Angela had me visit with her in high school.  The bishop was visiting her small congregation and she wanted me to come to the service.  All I remember is that at some point during all of the sitting and standing I tripped over the kneeler and fell for all the congregation (and the bishop) to see.

When Dan and I married, we didn't have much of a discussion of where we would worship together.  I was on staff at a Baptist church.  No discussion needed.  When we moved to Winston, however, and we began our search- we picked more contemporary services over those of a traditional bent.

So (again) St. Tim's... What?!?!  How on Earth would I even begin to fit in when worshipping in this space at first appeared daunting?  Again, I have nothing to ascribe it to other than the Holy Spirit.  This place felt right.  Immediately.  I knew I was supposed to give it a try.  I knew I was supposed to be open to new things, including giving this faith heritage a chance.

(Small caveat... I am not a big proponent of going where it "feels right"... Church shouldn't be a consumeristic space in our lives, yet it often becomes this.  All I'm sharing now is my perspective of how something so different than my previous experience immediately felt sacred and, well, right.)

What I have found at St. Timothy's is beautiful.

It is a chance to participate in the Church universal- knowing that my prayers are being echoed throughout the world.

It is learning a whole new (to me) faith tradition- and I often feel as though I'm right back in my Religious Study days.  Sometimes in Bible Study my hand goes numb as I am furiously writing all of the nuggets of wisdom I'm learning.

It is beginning to understand the beauty of Liturgy.  And to agree with what my friend John said when he pointed out that Liturgy gives him the structure to worship even when his heart doesn't feel like it. It's putting a dialogue in front of me that I get the chance to participate in- and know that I'm not alone in that process.

15 years ago- the thought of Liturgy would have been a roadblock for me.  It would have felt limiting to all that God could be teaching me.  Today, however, it gives structure for the way in which I hear His voice.

One of the biggest things I've learned in these recent days is that there is so much freedom in how we worship.  Something in which we fail frequently is assuming that truth can only be learned in one way- our way.  And now that I've worshipped in churches that are traditional, mainline, conservative, liberal, liturgical, contemporary, and other... I'm seeing a bigger understanding of Jesus's teachings.  I'm grateful for this path- although at moments it's been beyond painful.  I'm grateful that my community of the faithful has been gracious when we don't line up theologically and politically.

And I'm grateful that His mercies are new every morning.

Thanks be to God.

Monday, July 4, 2016

'Coming Out' Spiritually...

Yesterday I posted a picture on my Instagram account- publicly acknowledging for the first time the shift that has happened in our spiritual home over the last year.  While I am in no way making light of any experience my LGBTQ friends have had... I'll tell you that I felt a little bit that I was Coming Out.

The love I feel for my former church is so intense.  I have been so careful to not share about our current journey for fear it would look like we somehow didn't like them anymore.

Let me save you the trouble of looking for dirt if that's why you're reading this- wondering if maybe I'm gonna spill some big, juicy drama that occurred between us and our former church home.  NOTHING (bad) HAPPENED.

The road to a new church home has consumed the last year of our lives.  So much so, that I'm going to share that experience in two parts.  Not for a drama factor, but just for ease of sharing.

I have been a member of 3 (now 4) churches for all of my life.  The first one, I was born into.  The next one, I chose because of my time and service in Chapel Hill.  The last one, we found after a long search when we moved to Winston.  We knew going into our membership there that we didn't line up theologically 100% (spoiler alert: we're sorta liberal)... but we fell so in love with the people and the fellowship that we allowed ourselves to look beyond any differences and dive right in.  It was in this place that our biggest life events to date took place: we longed for, conceived, lost, and gained children.  We developed deep friendships- and lost some of those friends to tragic, unbelievable death.  We prayed fervently during extreme illness of children and parents... some with joyous outcomes, and some that won't be joyous again until we reach heaven.

In short, we grew in all ways during our time in that sacred space.

Along the way, especially as Elizabeth began to ask hard questions, we wondered if we needed to look at other church homes.  This is where the beauty of our marriage partnership became even more evident.  When I would feel a need to go, Dan would gently remind me that we don't all need to "look alike" in a church... and we would stay.  When Dan would feel a need to go, I would remind him about our beautiful fellowship... and we would stay.  Last year, however, we both came to the same point of needing to go at the same time.

We wept, we talked, we prayed... and we repeated that process over and over until we knew we were doing what was best for our family.

Last summer we began the Church Search again... a long and lonely process of not feeling rooted.  We were blessed, however, to explore so many neat places of worship all over our city.  We met people we wouldn't know otherwise and got a chance to see how Others are "doing church" oh so well.

We found a Community close to our house and were so excited to be welcomed in to their fellowship.  Our kids were part of their Christmas program.  We were loved well during the loss of my Mom.  It felt good.

And then....

One Tuesday night in February, my Book Club went to serve dinner at the Overflow Shelter at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church.

When we walked into the building, I had an experience that I can only accredit to the Holy Spirit.  As I entered the church, I knew it was a special place.  I knew it was somewhere we were supposed to- at least- visit.  St. Tim's had been on our short list, but since we'd plugged in elsewhere, we weren't continuing to look at new churches.  Prior to walking in that first night, I'd had 3 good friends mention to me how much I'd like it there.  One of those friends had a child in E's class and she'd also invited E to come.

So right in the middle of heading toward plugging in elsewhere, we decided to give St. Tim's a try.

And that was the end of that.

We've been there ever since.

Tomorrow's post... Liturgy Newbie