Many of the people who come to Christ Episcopal Church as visitors find us via our web site, http://www.christepiscopalchurch.com/. Before they arrive and sometimes after they visit, they write me with questions about the Anglican tradition and the Episcopal Church. I enjoy responding to their queries, because doing so makes me stop and consider what drew me from the Roman Catholic Church into the Anglican Communion and what keeps me here.
Today, a man emailed me and told me a little about his search for a church home. He had tried other Christian traditions and said he was wondering about mine and what it was about.
In the gospel of John, Jesus says there are many rooms in His Father's house. He's speaking of eternal life, of heaven, of our future as Christians, but I'll borrow His words and apply them to this world and to our search for a room of our own within the Christian home.
My favorite room is our family room, for it's there that I can relax and read the newspaper or a novel or short story, where I can watch a good film or TV show (Masterpiece is my favorite), where I can play with my grandaughter June Elizabeth. It's the place that feels most comfortable to me, but more than that, it's the place where I can be renewed physically, mentally, even spiritually.
Spiritually speaking, the Episcopal Church is my room within the Christian home in this world. I've tried other rooms; I spent my growing up years and adolescence in the Roman Catholic Church, attending both primary and secondary Catholic schools. I spent two years in a Presbyterian seminary and served in a small African-American congregation in downtown Louisville. I preached in Christian Church, Disciples of Christ congregations. My wife and I spent two years as members of an ecumenical house church.
I have a broad, rich experience of some of the other rooms within the Christian home, and I value my time in each of them. That time and the Christians I met in each of those rooms helped form me into the person I am. I am thankful.
But when I found my way into the Episcopal Church, I knew I was home. I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit at Christ Church Cathedral, Louisville, and after a couple of years of worshiping there, learning there, praying there, getting to know people there, I made my commitment to membership and was received on Trinity Sunday, June 1, 1980.
What appeals to me about this Anglican or Episcopal room? In my email to the man who wrote me with questions about the Episcopal Church, I quoted one of my favorite Anglicans, the late Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, who once observed: "Anglicanism is Catholicism with freedom."
In my email to this seeker, I wrote:
For our understanding of God and ourselves and our world, we rely upon the Holy Scriptures, which we interpret with the aid of reason and tradition, or the Church's understanding and teaching throughout the ages. We believe that God speaks His fresh, living word through the Holy Scriptures.
We are incarnational, sacramental, and Trinitarian in our theology; liturgical, reverent, but open in our worship, democratic and non-authoritarian in our church governance (that is, power is shared between the laity and the ordained, with many checks and balances), compassionate and accepting and non-condemnatory in our pastoral care, seeing Christ in the other; Christ-centered and prayer book-guided and enriched in our spirituality.
Although it creates some turmoil at times and generates some scintilating headlines, Episcopalians, generally, seek to relate our faith in Christ to the issues of the day, like the environment, human sexuality, war and peace, poverty, and a range of other ones.
As a church, we embrace wide diversity. We are, if you will, a big tent church, where Republicans and Democrats, gays and straights, rich and poor, black and white, and many others can come together as one worshiping, loving, caring, serving community with God as our Father, Christ at the center, the Holy Spirit our guide into all truth.
I have found my spiritual home here in the famous Anglican via media, the middle way between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. This is where I live deeper into Christ through daily prayer and spiritual study, through weekly Eucharistic worship and fellowship, and through loving service to my fellow humans.
And this is the room where I will remain while I am in this world.