This is hard for me to write and I don’t know why — perhaps its because I feel I don’t have anything important or interesting to say about my faith.
I’m a lifelong Episcopalian. Both my parents are lifelong Episcopalians and my mother’s father was an Episcopal priest. So being an Episcopalian is part of my upbringing and my family.
My faith is simple. I believe what is stated in the Nicence and Apostle’s Creeds — God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Jesus as the incarnate God, crucified as a substitutionary atonement for our sins and his resurrection. I view the Bible as mostly literal, wholly metaphorical and God’s inspired Word. I don’t know whether the Word is inerrant but I know man is not, so I’m not an inerrantist. Even if the Bible is without error, I imagine we humans have gotten the message jumbled here and there again and again. As to anything that doesn’t make sense or seems improbable, I simply shrug my shoulders and say “mystery of faith” and I’m satisfied with that. Perhaps I don’t view my faith critically enough, but I’ll spin that to be that I have the faith of a child.
I have had a negative view of the church since childhood as a result of attending a church that was caught up in the charismatic movement, of which my family was not part. I don’t have much to say about the substance of the charismatic movement (e.g. I don’t believe or disbelieve in the gift of tongues, I don’t know anything about it). What I do know is that my parents were treated cruelly by friends of theirs who judged them because they weren’t interested in being charasmatic. They were even told at one point that they didn’t have a Christian marriage because they weren’t interested in attending some couples Bible Study. My view of the church was that it was filled with cruel hypocrites and that church was a dangerous place. I was pulled out of Sunday School at an early age because the teacher (a former Baptist) was focussing a bit too much on resisting the devil and it was scaring the hell out of me (pun intended). Thus, I always felt I had missed out on some important religious guidance. Confirmation was a joke, we were made to buy some insipid book written by the power hungry rector — I only read the part on sex, don’t do it if you’re not married to the person. I did learn the Nicene Creed, which is handy and I think we might have looked at the 10 Commandments. My mother couldn’t believe we didn’t cover the catechism (and its pretty short).
Basically, I wasn’t interested in church. I always believed in God and Jesus and the whole shebang, but not church. I always felt one could find God more easily during a walk in the woods than in a pew. Interestingly, I had a boyfriend in college (Baptist) who made an off-hand remark that always stuck with me. He said that when you move to a new town, the best way to establish community contacts was to go to church.
I was never involved with the church while I was in school, but after I got married and moved to a new town, I joined the local Episcopal church. This was probably partly because I wanted to establish community contacts and partly because I married a lapsed Catholic and was hoping to have priority on church should he revive. We moved after a couple of years and lived in an apartment in D.C. — during the year we lived there, we did not join a church. After we bought a house and moved again, we joined a local Episcopal church. Both my children were baptized as infants and I am an active member of the church (I’m lay reader and on the Altar Guild).
The turning point for me to pay attention to my faith were the September 11, 2001 attacks. I was scared — the attacks were very salient to me because I worked in the World Trade Center for a year and I live near the Pentagon now. I feared future terrorist attacks. I was concerned that I would start having panic attacks if I didn’t do something. Interestingly, a week earlier, a friend invited me to a Bible study, which I had declined. After the attacks, I took her up on the offer and began Bible study.
I took the Bible study for 3 years and really enjoyed it. The reason I gave up this class is because its a bit conservative and fundamentalist. As a result of my interest in homeschooling, specifically unschooling, my philosophy of life was becoming more liberal. I knew I was in for an inevitable clash if I continued with the Bible study class.
Where am I now? I am still interested in Bible study, though I no longer take that particular class. I am still an Episcopalian and am comforable enough at my church. While I recognize that I may need to move on at some point, its such a part of my background that I don’t want to move on unless I have a clearer view of where I’m going. Also, I’d be taking my husband and children with me and thats no light matter to me. My husband is satisfied with our church and my daughter’s do well with the childcare and Sunday School.
[This is a long post; I don’t know if this blog has established the ability to truncate posts, but if and when it does, this should be truncated]