A few years ago, I bought a plaque at the Pacific Northwest Shop in Proctor that reads “Bidden or Not Bidden, God is Present.” I believed it when I bought it, and I believe it even more now. I am no theologian and do not pretend to be. My spiritual journey is more like a stroll down a well-worn path than a path in an adventure story, but it is my story and helps to explain how it was that I came to St. Andrews and become a vestry member.

I was raised Roman Catholic, but this past January, I was received into the Episcopal Church. My mother died when I was an infant and I never really embraced the idea that God had my best interests at heart. In college, I referred to myself as agnostic. I could never say that there was not God, but I was comfortable straddling the fence of “maybe.” Many years later, when I found myself on my knees praying to be relieved of an obsession, I felt that my prayer had been answered by a God. This was why I bought that plaque. Some say they give their lives up to the care of a God of their understanding. I used to say that I gave my life up to the care of God whom I did not understand.

I asked to be received into the Episcopalian church to formalize my commitment to the church. Because I was already confirmed as Catholic, I could not be confirmed as Episcopalian. In being received into the Episcopal Church, I did not renounce my Catholic confirmation, as one must do when becoming a naturalized citizen. I am not certain what the spiritual implications of this are, nor do I care. Does it mean that, if I get a far as the Pearly Gates, I will be considered a dual national of Catholic and Episcopalian faiths? Possibly. Does it matter? Some, if not most, religious mysteries should remain mysterious.

A few years ago, I was in my hometown in Iowa and my sister suggested we attend mass together. Prior to communion, the priest was animated in his words and gestures that by the power granted to him, the wine was no longer wine but the blood of Christ. I certainly admired his certitude of faith but questioned his understanding of chemistry and passed on communion.

At a funeral, when it came time for communion, the priest made a point of stating that those who were not Catholic could not go forward for communion or for a blessing. He went so far as to add that if a person was Catholic but had not been to communion in the past two years, then they should also stay in their seats.

Not long after this funeral, I attended mass at St. Andrews. As usual, Father Martin began the sermon with an introduction about how some were drawn to the church for reasons unknown to us, and so on. I liked that as I could not tell you why I had dropped in, but I sincerely enjoyed the service and the similarities to the Catholic mass.

When Father Martin said that all were welcome to receive standard communion, a gluten-free wafer, wine or juice, or just a blessing, I liked that a lot. At the end of the service, Father Martin enthusiastically welcomed me. Over the next few years, I sporadically returned to St. Andrews. One day, Father Martin mentioned to me that services were held every Sunday. This got me thinking and I made it a New Year resolution to attend weekly services, which I continue to do as best I can.

Even though I had begun attending on a regular basis, I still harbored questions about the level of my faith. One Sunday, while we were reading the Nicene Creed, I asked myself “why are you saying this out loud if you do not believe it?” In a flash, the answer came to me as simple as it was sudden: I do believe that Christ died and that He was risen and that He will come again. I do believe in the Apostolic Church.

My early religious training was based on Baltimore Catechism in which for every mystery of faith, there is an answer.

The following are excerpts from the Wikipedia article on Transubstantiation: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that in the Eucharistic offering, bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ. The affirmation of this doctrine was expressed, using the word “transubstantiate,” by the Fourth Council of the Lateran in1215. It was later challenged by various 14th-century reformers, John Wycliffe in particular… As with all Anglicans, Anglo-Catholics and other High Church Anglicans historically held belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist but were “hostile to the doctrine of transubstantiation.”

As often as I can, I come to the Wednesday noon service to take communion and to listen to the sermons that tend to be more informal, often focusing on the life of the Saint whose feast day it may be. It is a small group, even smaller than the 8am service. I truly enjoy being able to great everyone with the peace of the Lord.

I enjoy knowing that I am in a church where priests can marry, where women can be priests, and where sexual orientations are not matters of sin. I do believe that “Bidden or Not Bidden, God is Present,” but God seems just a tad closer when I take communion. The power of communion cannot be underestimated. I recommend the book The Priest Barracks by Guillaume Zeller. It is a powerful depiction of faith, the power of forgiveness, and the importance of communion.

Some spiritual experiences come as sudden as a flash of light, such as with Saul on the road to Damascus. Other spiritual experiences are gradual and are considered spiritual experiences of the educational variety. I think that whether or not we recognize it, everything we do is a spiritual experience – consider the simple act of pausing to help someone rather than moving past. Not all spiritual experiences must have a positive outcome; some experiences draw us closer to a loving God while others may be backward steps taking us away from a loving God; just like good diet and exer- cise, all of these experiences shape who we are.

I have no quarrel with my Catholic upbringing, any more than I dispute the majesty of the Cologne Cathedral, Dante’s Comedy, or the beauty of the Sistine Chapel. I do not believe that these and many other works – for example, the work of Martin Luther and the writings of C.S. Lewis – could have been created by secular inspiration alone.

I have trust in a faith, such as ours, that allows for unresolved mysteries. I was raised in one faith, but believe I was born to be an Episcopalian. I searched for years without even knowing that I was on a quest and now I have come home to a faith that works for me. I am very glad to be on the vestry and grateful for the opportunities to serve and, in some small way, help other understand the power and grace of our faith.

Adopted from John’s article in the May Tartan

Vestry Viewpoint by John Cain