"Send out Your light and Your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling." Psalm 43:3

Sunday, November 25, 2012

An Anecdote

Not too long ago, my parish was in the process of searching for a rector.  One of the individuals who we invited to come for an interview and introduction to the church and community was a middle aged, single man.  To be honest, he struck me as kind of weird.  He was socially awkward, not in a shy way, but in a forthright, not especially tactful sort of way.  His mannerisms were unusual, and he seemed to have some slight "ticks" (for lack of a better word).  He also held, in my opinion, some rather unconventional views about religion and society generally.  I'm sure all that sounds horribly judgmental, and I think probably most people who live lives of great devotion to God don't come across as "normal"; nevertheless, such was my perception of him.  A number of parishioners had gathered at the church for dinner and introductions, with a formal interview to follow the meal.  During the course of the evening, he related to us a period in which he had experienced something of a crisis of faith.  He had felt unsure of his vocation as a priest, and so he went and spoke with his bishop.  He told his bishop that he felt he was "part Christian, part Buddhist, and part agnostic" or something like that.  His bishop's response was, "Well, that sounds Episcopalian to me."

The next morning, I was one of several parishioners who met with our guest at a local diner for breakfast.  I happened to sit next to him, and he inquired about my background.  I told him that I grew up in the Episcopal Church, in a generally conservative atmosphere.  My parents, as well as many members of the parish in which I was raised, are fairly evangelical.  His quick response was, "Wow.  That's really unusual" or words to that effect.  Needless to say, I was a little piqued, but I didn't say anything.  Inwardly, I was defensively thinking, "Well, you obviously don't know what you're talking about.  The Episcopal Church is a very diverse body.  You've just spent too much time on the West Coast (a native Californian).  You need to get out more."  That was my thought at the time.  Now, over a year later, well ... I don't know.  I feel I've learned quite a bit since then (as I've been actively seeking to learn) about TEC, and it's self-proclaimed diversity.  Certainly my reaction to his comment was presumptuous for a twenty-something whose firsthand experience of the Episcopal Church has been almost entirely confined to a single Midwestern diocese.  Maybe the circumstances in which I was raised were, in fact, unusual.  Maybe I'm the one who needs to get out more.


  1. Hi, Rob--

    Thanks for this; glad I ran across your blog! I'm about to be ordained next month, and I've wrestled with these issues myself. You might like this post if you haven't already read it:


    Alas, I think your sense is correct: the priest you encountered is, so far as I can tell, rather more the norm than your great church back home might have led you to expect. But that said, there's a lot of good out there, and dedicated networks, movements, and places. So long as I have that, I feel hopeful.

    Glad to talk more, Rob!


    1. Jordan,

      Thanks so much for your thoughts, and for referring me to the blog post. I discovered The Curate's Desk a while back, but had not previously read this post. I am encouraged by Fr. Hendrickson, and the many others (like yourself) who are a witness of those good "dedicated networks, movements, and places." I'm discouraged though, by others who, instead of being allies, are content to write TEC off as "a crumbling institution" or a church that won't even exist anymore in 20 years. I'll confess to entertaining such fears myself in occasional desperate moments, but it seems to me a hopeless, and consequently unchristian, attitude. I consciously choose, rather, to live in hope. I've been trying to figure out for a while now if such an attitude is grounded in my trust in God and the hope of the Gospel, or if it's just my own self-deluded wishful thinking. I expect I'll continue to get a better sense of things as I continue to launch out to where I feel God is calling me, but your own hope gives me hope. Thank you.

      Congratulations on your upcoming ordination. If you don't mind my asking, where did you attend seminary? I'm just beginning the ordination process with my diocese, and so I'm starting to seriously look at my options for education.