This is a time of year to look back (yech! skip that) and ahead. For the Episcopal Church, there are many challenges before us, many of which have been discussed on this site – because they aren’t new challenges – but one that we must not ignore are empty pews at too many services in too many Episcopal churches.
We can’t keep the pews filled with “cradle Episcopalians” unless we start breeding a lot faster. We need converts from other denominations, other religions, or from no religion.
Here’s a story about how one Episcopal priest responded to an opportunity to rope in a potential convert:
Given my spiritual longing, I decided it was time to explore places of worship. Being a secular Jew, my first step should have been a temple. However, the synagogues around here are practically recruitment stations for Obama (aside from the Orthodox ones, but I don't speak a word of Hebrew). So I decided to experience church on Christmas Eve.
Checking out churches online, I found almost none that offered political neutrality. Most heralded their progressive credentials, welcoming the transgendered, but not conservatives.
I was pleased to find an Episcopal church whose website focused on religion, not ObamaCare. I left a message for the priest that I was looking for a church that didn't press a political agenda because I wasn't a liberal.
I received an icy reply from the priest, the Reverend Lucy, who said with barely-contained disgust, "I don't think you should check us out."
You can read the whole article here.
There is a happy ending (of sorts) to this story. The writer did find a church where she felt welcomed:
Beyond the music and pageantry, what moved me the most was being with hundreds of people who loved God. Maybe some were questioning his presence or feeling abandoned. But they showed up, and that's half of life.
It was a stirring night for this wandering Jew who has traveled from east to west, from Left to Right. As the Sufi poet Hafiz wrote, "This moment in time God has carved a place for you," and sitting in the sanctuary, I felt that place.
Even though I didn't know the right words, or the hymns, or how to pray, it didn't matter. All the differences among people -- race, class, politics, even religion -- vanished. Faith, I realized, is the ultimate uniter.
And in a heartbeat, I understood why leaders from Marx to Mao try to keep people away from God, and why they will always fail. I flashed to an image of those mothers who somehow find the superhuman strength to lift up a car and free their children.
On Christmas Eve, I learned that this same unstoppable power exists inside all of us, especially when we stand together. As Jesus himself taught, faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain.
The whole article is here.
I’m saddened a little that she found this welcome in a Roman Catholic church, not an Episcopal one. Aren’t you?
Happy New Year from the Godfather.