An Episcopal Testimony

The TV is turned off. The sky is clouding-up as twilight approaches. The wind is swirling, and there is a possibility of rain, which we need. My mind is going round and round like a hamster in a cage about what I must write about tonight. I have thought of untangling some thoughts about the humanity of God, but I found Barth had written a series of lectures on the topic, so I cancelled my musings until I had had time to read and hopefully digest Barth. 

Then I thought I might discuss a quiz I found on Facebook. (Please, don’t quit reading yet, these are just my passing thoughts!). They asked, “What kind of Anglican are you?” The questions were more thoughtful than the usual Facebook drivel. The first was about what type of vestments I prefer with a litany.  Ten choices were offered, starting with “Alb/surplice, cincture, stole, and chasuble,” and continued with liturgical garments worn in the typical English church, something about vestments over justice, preaching bands, no vestments at all, and some other possible responses.  The quiz continued, throwing in questions about theological issues (including tossing in some theological big-wigs) and the like. It kept me occupied with for at least half an hour.

I had to laugh at my answers. My son’s godmother, with whom I had been friends since her younger son and I were in elementary school together, once gave me a pithy but memorable response to what kind of Episcopalian I was.  Was I “High and crazy, low and lazy, or broad and hazy?” I was delighted that my initial thoughts about my place in the Anglican/Episcopal church fit Granny’s categories. The result was Broad church. My self-diagnosis was dead on.

All of this brought me to consider Granny’s trio of categories of Episcopalian. She was a cradle-palian, so I felt that qualified her to know which type was which. I do not necessarily agree with “crazy” or “lazy.” I do not think it is crazy to have incense flying left and right at the slightest inspiration (“Smoky Mary’s” comes to mind) or to build churches that are more like Baptist ones with no crucifixes, altar, communion at the rail with a chalice and paten, etc. I would not say folks that like a “lower” kind of worship are lazy, just people who respond to a bare minimum of action and distraction. 

I knew from the moment I walked into All Souls’ Church in Washington DC, Granny’s home parish, that I felt at home. The music was sublime (no Victorian heart-rending poetry or melody), the language was that of the King James version, and one stood for worship, knelt for prayer, and sat for instruction. Kneeling was a new but welcome and very fitting position, especially when confessing my sins or other prayers. I did not take communion at first, but watching people go to the altar and drink from a common cup and receive a host (taking the Body and Blood of Christ under both species, as the church puts it) brought the idea of true communion, not only with God, Jesus, and the Spirit, but with those who shared in the ritual. I knew everybody in my Baptist church, I only knew Granny at this one, yet I felt closer to them than during a worship service back home. 

I waited until my first year of college to be formally welcomed into the Episcopal Church. I knew my family would be shocked, but Daddy did not seem to mind and gave me his permission and blessing. I would not have done it otherwise. Like a true Episcopalian, after I was confirmed, I took a long sabbatical from church, finally returning to it on a Christmas Eve two decades later. It was again like coming home, although I only knew a few people in the overflowing nave. I have left the church several times after that, but on my return, it felt like God was saying very firmly, “SIT! STAY!” 

I am still an Episcopalian even though I do not attend church with any regularity. I used to be able to walk across the street to my parish church, but now I live further away and without transportation. I still believe in it and believe in God and the things the church taught me. I found myself to be more “Broad and hazy” than I did years ago because I learned I did not have to have hard and fast answers to everything. Ambiguity was fine with me, and I could say things like “Born of the Virgin Mary” and “Rose from the Dead” without crossing my fingers behind me. Did they happen as the Bible says? I do not have a clue, but it does not matter. I believe it anyway. 

I love my Episcopal church even if I really wish they would not be so slow or wishy-washy about some things people feel strongly about. I believe if Jesus invites someone to the altar rail, even without baptism or formal reception into the church, they should be able to take the sacrament and let Jesus work within them. I believe that LGBTQ+ people, people of other races, nationalities, and cultures, mentally and physically handicapped or ill folks, and all people, from infants to older people, should be treated with respect and love. Jesus taught us to love our neighbors, including a much larger number than possibly Jesus could have imagined, having come from a small town. 

I guess I have fallen into doing what the Baptists call a “testimony,” but I do not regret what I said here. Maybe it will spur someone to look at their life similarly. An examination is always a good thing.

God bless.

Image: Swift, Testimony of Conscience, pre-1800. Found at Wikimedia Commons.

Linda Ryan is an Education for Ministry mentor, an avid reader, a Baroque and Renaissance music lover, and a fumbling knitter. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter and lives near Phoenix, Arizona.

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