Looking back at the past 18 months since I started attending Old St. Paul’s, I feel blessed to count myself among those fortunate seeds. In fact, I’m so certain that I’ve found good spiritual soil that I have decided to announce it publicly. On March 22, I will be confirmed into the Episcopal Church.
Although I was baptized as a baby in the Methodist Church, I’ve never officially chosen a denomination or even become a formal member of a church community. Up until a few months ago, I never even had a strong interest. Religion is a personal matter, why the need for a public display? Why don the label of any one denomination? Some of those thoughts come through for me in my father’s voice. He’s been a staunch atheist for as long as I’ve known him. Although he loves me and my mother (who’s every inch his intellectual equal), he can’t help but see our desire for faith as some misguided attempt to surrender our reason. That’s not the best soil for a seed to take root in, so I kept churches at arms-length for most of my life. In many ways, staying “nondenominational” is a great way to protect yourself from some of the less comfortable aspects of being a Christian in America. When a church takes a stand you disagree with or a scandal hits the news, it’s easier to protest: “I’m not one of those people.”
But I’m choosing to make Episcopalians, and Old St. Paul’s in particular, my people.
My priests, The Rev. Mary Luck Stanley and The Rev. Mark Stanley, are helping me learn more about who these people are exactly. Through our weekly Forum series, we’re learning about the Episcopalian Church as an organization and as a faith community. In the next few weeks leading up to the Bishop’s visit in March, we will discuss topics ranging from Church hierarchy to the history behind the Book of Common Prayer to where the Church stands on social issues today. I feel tremendously blessed to have this information provided to me so openly, information that often feels buried either in the mystery of Tradition or the challenging language of the doctrine.
However, I believe I already know the most important facts about my new community. To paraphrase Mary, what binds Episcopalians together is our approach to learning about and practicing our faith rather than a strict set of beliefs. Back when I was church-shopping over a year ago, The Forum series had the greatest influence on my decision to start attending Old St. Paul’s regularly. In many ways, The Forum bridges the divide between my parents’ perspectives on faith by bringing intellectual rigor and curiosity together with faith. I could tell that this was a diverse community that really practiced what it preached. These were people committed to growing as Christians together.
In his Parable of the Sower, Jesus never specifies what types of seeds are being planted by the anonymous farmer. The seeds don’t have to be all alike. There’s room for the doubtful and the certain because we recognize that both have similar spiritual needs. We may not all grow into the same thing, but we do need some of the same nourishment. On March 22, I will make a public announcement, not of what I want to be when I grow up, but where I want to grow. How much luckier I am than a seed in getting to choose my soil.