Sunday, January 20, 2013


Why do people belong to the church?  That is the question.

I'm here because of what seems in retrospect to be a really strange series of events.   In approximately chronological order:
  • My years of membership in A.A., which encourages members to return to - or, as in my case, begin - religious practice;
  • 9-11.  I was one of the thousands of people who returned to church, and one of the dozens (maybe?) who stayed there;
  • A feeling of "being called" because of a conversion experience;
  • Experiencing some of the really beautiful things worship has to offer:  music, rites, ceremonies, readings.  Sung Rite I Morning Prayer; monotone chanting of the Creed; the Lumen Christi at the Easter Vigil; All Saints' Day, and its beautiful readings and themes; Anglo-Catholic ceremonial (at which, the first time I saw it, I was rendered literally speechless); etc.
  • The pure enjoyment of learning more about the church and the faith, and their history;
  • Realizing that religion was far more interesting than I ever thought - and also more beneficial in a variety of ways;
  • Learning still more through writing about church music and liturgy; 
  • Coming to realize that there's nothing more beautiful or true than the Christian story, and more or less "falling in love," permanently.  (Also called "being hooked.")
So, at this point I feel like I won't ever leave - even if I stop attending.  I did stop, for about a year - although while not going I did break down and attend now and then so I could celebrate some of my favorite days:  Ash Wednesday,  Palm Sunday, All Saints, Advent.  I never stopped reading and studying and writing, though - and those things carried me through that time.

I remembered how to pray again - and have not yet forgotten again.  (It's much easier to remember when you get into serious trouble, or have difficult or unfamiliar things to face!)  So actually I really am still here for the original reason I came - the simplest reason of all:  to keep myself together and spiritually balanced.  It's much easier to live that way, and less painful.

All that has taught me that I really do need the church to be about faith - and rather deeply so.  I'm definitely not here for political reasons; I had no trouble at all doing politics in all those 35+ years I spent outside  the church.  I'm not here for friendship, although spiritual friends can be a wonderful benefit.  (I have run into trouble with churchpeople from the beginning, actually - on many occasions about the gay thing but also in other ways - and am frankly a little leery of getting involved with anybody in the church at the moment, at least in my area.  Maybe that will go away at some point.).  I'm not here for "good works"; I've done volunteer work all my life, participating as part of the very wide variety of nonprofits that exist out there - although I do admit the urge to do this came out of the Methodist tradition my parents grew up in.  I like the music - but I could live without it if I had to.   I like the pretty buildings, but again:  could live without.

I'm really here strictly for the spiritual benefits - and the deep beauty - of the faith itself.  I've found the Great Church Year to be a treasure; as the seasons pass I learn more and more and feel more and more at home in their rhythms and moods.  I don't find most of what happens in the world of much interest by itself - but in the light of the faith I find the world itself fascinating.  I've become familiar - in a really lovely way - with the liturgy itself, and look forward to finding more substance in it every year.

I don't know why anybody else belongs - but most people don't get a chance to experience the glories of the Great Church Year.  I only do, really, because I write about it and because I make an effort to attend the feasts in person when I can; you have to make such an effort, because they are simply not celebrated in most parishes.

I also don't know anybody else personally who's an A.A. member trying to "stay in conscious contact with God as we understand Him."  I do know some people from online who are in this situation, though.  And I do know people who've returned to church after a personal crisis or who live lives of regular spiritual crisis, and I assume this is the same sort of situation.

I don't know how many people experience the real enjoyment I have in learning about the church and about Anglicanism; I've learned a lot of this stuff online and from outside reading.

I don't know anybody else who had the kind of conversion experience I did, either.

I had an idea of what I wanted to say when I started this, but at this point it looks like I'm just thinking out loud here.  I'm finding it very helpful lately to try to get to the source of causes and original motives for actions and ways of thinking that seem very complicated; I'm trying to break these things down to the very most basic facts.

Maybe I'll come back to my original idea in another post, but at the moment it escapes me....

No comments: