I have always been an Episcopalian. I grew up a part of Christ Church Cranbrook, a beautiful, gothic building that inspired mystery and wonder in a child, but was going through some pretty dark times. Ultimately, my family made the move to St. James Episcopal Church, a more contemporary building with growing and joy-filled ministries for children, youth and people of all ages. Throughout my life, I’ve been part of many parishes, from a tiny one with ten pews to a large cathedral and several in between. I have certainly changed from the little girl I once was. The Episcopal Church has undergone growth and transformation even as I have, as evidenced by the new church teaching series entitled, Church’s Teachings for a Changing World; the fifth volume has just been released.
In virtually every area of our lives we grow and change in time, from our physical cells to the way we think about who we are and what is important to us. Think of the number of years we go to school, expanding our understanding of the world around us, and instilling an appetite to continue learning and growing throughout our lives. The relationships we have with people who are dear to us shift and evolve, or else they break.
We are transforming with each breath we take, yet many of us were raised to think our faith, including our understanding of God and the tradition, is something that doesn’t change, perhaps even shouldn’t change. It is one reason why so many people across denominations have left the church; they weren’t encouraged to be sure their faith life was transforming all along the way.
One of the things I look forward to is teaching a refresher series on what it means to be followers of Jesus, particularly in the Episcopal Tradition. It is a joy to journey with people who are engaged in asking questions, who are wondering what, exactly, are we doing here in this life we’re given? Sometimes life experiences force people to ask hard questions, to interrogate their inherited understanding, to see if it really stands up or is in need of revision. Other times people simply desire to live their life more intentionally, infused with greater meaning and clarity of purpose.
Why are you in the Episcopal tradition? Why are you a Christian? What grounds you in what is important, and also what inspires you to be your best self? Bishop Andy Doyle, of the Diocese of Texas, recently published a book entitled Unabashedly Episcopalian: Proclaiming the Good News of the Episcopal Church. In it he offers this challenge:
The world needs people of faith who listen first and speak later, who are willing to come out of their comfortable houses of prayer and hear the cries of God’s people on the streets. If we are the answer to Jesus’ prayer, then we are also the answer to the prayers of the world; those who come to us and those waiting to be found and heard and held. And Jesus is clear: the only way we will find them is if we walk outside, unabashedly living our faith. Lift up your eyes and see the world is in need of Jesus and those who love and follow him.
Our newly forged St. Simon’s identity statement encourages and invites us to do just that, as we commit ourselves to celebrating God’s love for all; seeking to embody Christ in the world. Perhaps you find yourself ready for some engagement with your faith this spring. I encourage you to take some steps to respond to Jesus’ invitation to follow him by participating in our Episcopal 101 series starting April 5 or by making a commitment to read or listen to something that will support growth and transformation within you and within your life.
Hope to see you Sunday,