Sunday, January 24, 2010

591. Religious wandering at an end

My Six Faithful Readers, and perhaps a few others of you, will know that for many years, about six and half, I've been betwixt and between church homes. Sometime in the summer of 2003, I conscientiously made a decision to leave the Roman Catholic Church and see if God would call me into a new church home or if I'd be left wandering in the wilderness for the last forty years of my life, as, apparently, he allowed some of his earlier followers to do, notably Moses.

It has been an interesting and educational journey. Almost all of it was spent in other churches here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. I wandered in and out of a few other Catholic churches. St. Boniface is an historic old church downtown in the Clarksdale neighborhood. I have worshipped there in the past at noontime. St. Williams at 13th and Oak streets is a far-left version of the Catholic church, so far left that I wasn't sure what denomination it was. I went a few times to a mega-church in northern Bullitt County, Little Flock Baptist, just to see if there was any appeal - either to a Baptist church (since I had belonged to one as a teenager) or to a mega-church. Neither aspect worked. Certain friends recommended the United Church of Christ, long before anyone knew that was the denomination to which a little-known-at-the-time Illinois State Senator named Barack Obama belonged. St. John's United Church of Christ, downtown on E. Market Street, is a beautiful old cathedral looking building and I did enjoy my visits there.

But one of my strong beliefs is the idea known in some churches as Apostolic Succession, which is the continuation of an earlier bishop laying his (and now her) hands on ordaining the next generation of bishops, down through the ages, to the current time. Such a belief pretty much tied me to the Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican churches. The truth is it is unclear if such a succession is true all the way back to Jesus' turning over the keys to the church to Peter, as written in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, Chapter 16, Verses 18 and 19. There does seem to be an unbroken and verifiable line since the 4th century, which is a pretty long time. If tradition holds that it has been thus for seventeen centuries, I can accept on faith that it was also thus for the first four.

So my guidelines were narrowed by this requirement. I had visited three different Episcopal churches - as the Anglican church in America is called - during my wandering: Calvary on 4th Street, Christ Church Cathedral downtown on 2nd Street, and Advent on Baxter Avenue at the top of Broadway. The Cathedral has been modernised in much the same way as the Catholic Cathderal on 5th Street has. Calvary remains a very traditional looking church. It is located in the immediate area of the very small Spalding University, my collegiate alma mater, and I visited there several times and had friends who were members there. But it was my visits to Advent which got my attention. The first visit was in 2004.

Advent is a very small parish in a very old church, perched at the top of the Cherokee Triangle neighborhood, adjacent to the Original Highlands, and on the very eastern edge of what one might call downtown. It is pictured below. It has also been a struggling parish on the brink of closing a few times. In my visits there, the people were always cordial and welcoming. I guess when there are only twenty-five or so at a Mass, the sight of a new face got their attention. They went through several interim rectors while I was going through several interim church homes. But I found myself always going back to that one little church where I felt welcomed and where I felt comfortable with an ancient style of worship, celebrating the Eucharist, listening to readings from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the Epistles, and the Gospels each and every Sunday. Sometime in very late 2008, I realized that this was a place I could worship not just as a visitor, but as a member. Last February, I requested to be included in whatever classes were necessary for membership and instruction. But even before my formal reception in the church, I have become an active participant. I've attended special services, participated in some outreach programs, bought a ticket to the big fundraiser (part of any church's calendar), and found myself in the rotation of reading the Prayers of the People, part of each Sunday's serivce.

Today, all the searching ends and, by an anceint and simple ceremony, I will be officially "received" into the Episcopal Church of the Advent by Bishop Ted Gulick, the Bishop of the Diocese of Kentucky. I will be joining four or five others who will become members in their own way, either "received" as I am, or confirmed. The service and mass is at 10:30 this morning with a reception to follow. I am pleased.


Anonymous said...

Jeff, it is good that you have found a welcoming church community to make your church home. It is one of the great joys in life to gather as Christ commanded to do his work. Thanks be to God for your new chapter. I agree with you regarding succession. On January 31, Second will receive its newest elders. In that beautiful service, I will participate in the laying on of hands on the ones to be ordained and will weep as I and others always do at the majesty of feeling the power flowing through our hands from ages long gone to our newest. May your work be pleasing, to you and to Our Lord. Well done.

Markus1958 said...

Well told, Jeff! I like your plain and honest style. --Mark

Anonymous said...

Jeff, thank you for sharing your story. I've been inspired to also share my story on my blog. I've had a few people ask me lately "why do you go to church?", and after Father Tim's sermon, and now reading this, I think I should share on my blog. Thank you for your witness, and for sharing in the journey, my friend!

The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.