The first 13 years of my life were spent worshiping in a non-liturgical church. In fact most of that time was actually spent in Sunday School or the Tuesday afternoon youth group, kids were not invited into the corporate worship.
The first time I remember being in church with adults was one Easter morning when we went to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing at Temple Square. I must have been 4 years old, and like everyone else, dressed in my new frilly dress Easter dress, white gloves and hat. The second memory I have of corporate worship is many years later at a church outside of Madison, Wisconsin. I remember a dais with a podium and someone speaking. It is my first memory of receiving communion – people passing trays with little white paper cups, one cup with broken pieces of crustless white bread and the other cup with water.
A year or two after this memory my family and I stopped going to church. It was 1970 and the landscape of the world had changed. MS magazine was published. Racial riots had burned towns and killed people. Vietnam war protests and hippies. I was 14 and left the church to enter into a world just waiting for me to explore. And explore it I did. In high school I argued that there was no God. In college I went looking for enlightenment along the path of Carlos Castaneda. After college I looked for nirvana through Yoga, and sought to find harmony with the universe through Buddhist chanting. I read Shirley Maclaine and yearned for out of body travel and deep spirituality. I investigated crystals and new age spirituality.
And then, it seems to me, I woke up one day and thought: “I really like Christmas and Easter. And I really like Christmas and Easter in a deeper way than just the secular holiday. I like them because they celebrate life, celebrate Christ, celebrate God. I guess I must be a Christian. So. Now maybe I need to find a Christian church to worship in.” It may not have actually happened in that simplistic “duh” way…but that is how I think of that moment, that Epiphany. As it happens I was also engaged and about to be married. We knew that we wanted to be married in a church. But he, a divorced and lapsed Roman Catholic and I, well, I was a lot of loose threads.
Following the counsel of the minister who married us we landed in a small local Episcopal Church on a crisp October morning. Our first child was 14 months old and one of several young children in the church. We found friends and community. And I had my first experience of liturgy and the liturgical year when Advent hit a few months later. Soon I was immersed in Ash Wednesday and the traditional fish fry supper followed by imposition of ashes, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. Then we hit Pentecost and I remember the priest reminding us to all wear red. That was the strangest thing I had ever heard of, an entire congregation all dressed in red?
My husband and I attended this church for ten years. It was this church, three priests later, and this congregation, that sponsored me in the ordination process. I was the first person, in their 150 year history, to be ordained in that church.
Fast forward ten years after that ordination and here I am, living 1800 miles away from that church and reminding the congregation I now lead and serve, to wear red on Pentecost. I’ve come to love Pentecost as a celebration of the birthday of the church. This year we’ll celebrate with hot dogs, coleslaw and chips, and birthday cake. And, we’ll wear red.
My life, once a bunch of loose threads from various strands of world religions and cultural spirituality, has been woven into a beautiful piece of fabric, a life filled with solid examples of the Holy Spirit at work. This fabric of faith now rests like a mantle upon my shoulders.