Ok, so my students to read my blogs from time to time. One of my kids told me he read my blog on why I bother with religion. (I call them my kids, because the one child in my life is in Vancouver, WA. I haven't seen him but twice in his life; a regret of mine. So, the only kids I have are my students). I'll just start this little entry by saying that my life seems to be a big mess. Much of it my own doing, but I realize that I haven't the power to fix it.
Suffice it to say among other things, my anxiety levels are at an all time high. THat coupled with a recent diagnosis of severe PTSD, and one can imagine my life. I want it all to stop, to be free of that which binds me. Nothing I have done works, whether positive or negative. And I've done a lot of negative things in my adult life to only make everything worse.
So, I go to support groups to talk about what is going on in my life. I've met a few people who "get it." But everywhere I go, there is the reminder: only God can deliver. Freedom from bondage, from idols, from self comes from being faithful and yielding. My score card is Adversary 100, Kevin 10 in the yielding factor.
I have had, perhaps, the greatest joys at Old Town Fellowship, the meeting I helped to start about 4 years ago. Right now, though, we are struggling. The seasoned CHristian Friends who helped us begin years ago have all but quit coming. Some have moved away, others retired and the rest are just busy Quakers whose lives and callings take them away from home so much that they cannot give extra time to a new meeting. We are left with four struggling souls, none of whom are mature enough in the Life. We need ministers and elders who know Christ and who have experienced baptism and rebirth, who have lived through the arduous process of yielding and being faithful and who have come out transformed.
Unfortunately, those Friends are either not numerous enough in the Baltimore area or do not feel called to tend to us. My call to gospel ministry, which as waxed and waned since I was 16 years old, seems to me to be inconsequential. It's in the recesses of my mind. I remember the feeling of being called fondly, but any more I question the memory as a wish. I know better than to declare a gift being called back by God. And yet it is clear to me that I have the hard road of sanctification, of learning to live the Life, before I can ever, EVER truly entertain the idea of ministry.
And so it is, that I finally made myself walk through the doors of Grace & St Peters Parish just a few blocks from my house. I've been twice before for high mass: once with Russell who as I recall hated it and had horrible allergies. Again with CW who was all but annoyed due to his unfamiliarity with the rituals. I had hoped to be among a few worshipers today. Alas, as I walked through the heavy doors into the 19th century church, filled with tiles, wood, stained glass and statues all imported from England, I was greeted by the priest who seemed to be somewhat surprised that anyone was present. I told him I was visiting. He said that we'd be in the chapel. "Over there?" I pointed to my left, guessing. "Yes, in the chapel." Ohhhhkay..... so I meandered over and realized that I would be the only one present for mass. I felt the need to warn him: I'm a Quaker. I'm here on a leading. He smiled and said "Ah, thee has the Inner Light." "Of Christ," I added. I feel the need to do so, so as not to confuse people with some vague individual sense of my own light as opposed to anyone else's personal light. "From the 16th chapter of John, I think it is" he said. "John 15:15" I corrected. "You would know better than me," he smiled.
If there's one thing I can say with my experience of Anglican priests, it's that they can be uber formal one minute, almost as cold as a Quaker, and then as relaxed as pie on things like a Bible verse. I find it refreshing in a way. I'm familiar with the stodgy British-ness of Quakerism, so going to an Anglican church is just a fancied up Quaker church. ha ha ha. Oh, I know, there are different congregations in both traditions, some warmer than others, but culturally... we seem to be quite similar.
Anywho, he was polite and helpful and guided me through the mass. Thankfully we skipped the Nicene Creed. But the prayers for repentance, for forgiveness, for remission of sins struck home hard. I needed Christ's forgiveness, and I needed someone to pray over, for and with me for that forgiveness. There is such a power in that action. We commonly confess that we have sinned, and we ask for Divine mercy for each other and ourselves. It is a sharing of love and a prayer for more love. It's humbling. It's missing in many Quaker meetings.
Then came communion. Part of me hoped he'd let me take it, but I wasn't Baptized. HE asked me if I wanted it; but I told him I'm not baptized, and he didn't press the issue. I realize some Episcopal priests don't care. BUt I don't want to offend, and frankly, while I know it's mass and for these Christians it's central to why they come, for me it wasn't. I knew Christ was with the priest and me. Christ was softening my heart. Christ was alive in that mass.
We prayed the Lord's Prayer, something I pray from time to time with other groups I'm a part of. Within 30 minutes, mass was over. The priest said "This concludes mass." and walked out of the chapel like he was late for a date. That was the last I saw of him. A BIG X on pastoral care, I might add. But maybe that's their way.
I'll be going back though. IF for any other reason than it helps me keep my mind on Christ. It felt good and I feel good. Temptation is lessened when we gather together as Christians and invoke the Holy Spirit to heal, forgive, instruct and renew us. The power is raised up in us.
In any event, I need the Christian community in a deep way, and right now I have to step out of Quakerism to get what I need. I'll keep going to Old Town. I love that little group. I hope that more people start coming and feel the friendship that is there. I hope even more that those who God has already called to ministry (through preaching, music, pastoral care, etc) will find themselves being led to tend to this fragile flock in downtown Baltimore. Who cares if they are Quakers? As long as they are truly called to us, then we are blessed to have them.