This particular weekend is a challenging one in terms of the church search. Summer Sundays aren’t the best reflection of most parishes here in Virginia, and adding holiday weekend on top of that doesn’t help. And the cherry on top? It was pouring rain this morning. We figured that wherever we ended up, we’d be about 10% of the congregation.
Thankfully, that was not our experience at all!
Today we worshipped at Christ and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Norfolk. The beautiful building is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is filled with amazing detail. There are so many stained glass windows and statues in the worship space, and it would take hours to give attention to each element. It’s funny, because my heart finds peace more in a simple worship space, with natural light and fewer ornaments and decorations. But each carving or painting or window holds a story–or many!–for us, and they make a wonderful thing to do while walking around the church with a fussy toddler. My own children are no longer toddlers, but I’ve done a lot of formation work with toddlers over the last few years. I’m one of those people who will, when your toddler is fussy, offer to take them off your hands for a while so that you can worship.
We arrived quite early, and entered the quiet worship space to prepare minds and hearts. Because Christ & St. Luke’s sends an email with the appointed readings and the hymns selected for the day, I had already bookmarked our hymns in my Kindle. We witnessed the brief choir rehearsal, watched the acolytes light candles and retrieve the items they would carry in the procession, and even were greeted by a parishioner who sat a couple rows in front of us. Kristin was recognized by a number of people (Welcome back!), which touched me.
Today’s sermon was much more like what I’ve needed: deeply related to the texts, somewhat scholarly, and with a clear call to action. (Yeah, I work on websites. I probably end up saying call to action several times each week. Dammit.) I wanted to stand up and cheer at the conclusion!
The liturgy was every bit as beautiful as I’d expected… because I’ve worshipped at Christ and St. Luke’s before. This is the church where my children were baptized, which was a key event in triggering my conversion experience. It felt weird to be a cradle Episcopalian undergoing a conversion experience… but that’s actually what happened. This church also took care of me when I was severely depressed, one of the priests visiting me in the mental hospital after my suicide attempt, for sacramental confession and reconciliation. I would not be who and what I am, if not for this parish.
In this series of blog posts, I’ve talked about the wonderful feeling of coming home, when you arrive at the church that is the place for your heart to rest. When we visited Old Donation a few weeks ago, it had very much the feeling of going back home, as at Thanksgiving or Christmas, but it no longer felt like home now.
And the truth is, Christ and St. Luke’s didn’t have that immediate Aah, I’m home! sense that I’d felt so powerfully at Old Donation, when I first joined them in 2007. But it had something very similar. This morning, I felt like I was at my new house on moving day, that I’m not quite used to where the furniture is yet, that there are surprises and delights (and pitfalls, if I’m honest with myself) that I haven’t yet discovered. So even though they have children’s formation during worship (Pleh!), this may be Home.
Even before this morning, we had planned to worship with Christ and St. Luke’s next Sunday, when a rabbi and biblical scholar will lead a special adult forum and serve as our guest preacher. Over the last several years, I have uncovered a deep well of love and honor for our Jewish brothers and sisters–who wait, as we do, the coming of the Messiah in glory–and I am excited for this opportunity.
So. We will ponder this experience in our hearts, chew over it over the next couple of weeks, and possibly bring our search to an end… or not. Please pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us to the right community for this next time in our lives.