My Experience of Being Confirmed an Episcopalian
We've had Megan write about why she's becoming an Episcopalian. We've had Will write about why he's still an Episcopalian. We've had Ed writing about what Episcopalians could do better. And now, at the beginning of Easter-Tide, we have Shancia writing about the spiritual experience of her confirmation in the Episcopal Church. She has chosen to write one piece in two distinct halves: the first deals with what has led her to the Episcopal Church, the second explores how this has impacted her way of reflecting on God.
Shancia was confirmed as an Episcopalian this weekend, at the Episcopal Church at Yale's Easter Vigil.
Approximately two weeks ago, people started asking me this question, “How does it feel to become an Episcopalian?” At times, I respond with frank statements such as: “It is wonderful to be a Christian who converts to Christianity” or “I’m glad you noticed a change in me.” I love responding like this to my fellow Christian brethren who are non-Episcopalians. Sometimes their pupils dilate and their noses flare as they start giving me the stare of doom (I laugh it off). Shocked by my responses, my close friends passionately defend their denominations. As a means of calming any tensions, I redirect the conversation to something funny and request their forgiveness, saying I was being facetious. The reality is more complicated: it is impossible for me to find the right words to describe my experience of becoming an Episcopalian (especially during Holy Week).
My biggest fear is that, by engaging in this discussion, I will bring about feelings of disgruntlement. I'm afraid my friends will envision any response as one that affirms a form of religious superiority, or a dismissal of truly intimate dialogue about my confirmation within the Episcopal Christian.
The truth is quite the contrary. When I profess, “it is wonderful to be a Christian who converts to Christianity,” I'm trying to say that through my faith as a Christian I am transformed into the Body of Christ, and that it is a wonderful feeling to choose the Episcopal Church’s Anglican traditions as my medium of worship. It bewilders me to think that people can desire concrete and intimate answers towards one’s profession of faith other than this. With all my heart, I adore all the churches of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Anyone who knows me can confirm this statement. But the historical and the sacred traditions of the Anglican liturgy capture a special place in within my heart. I am a praying woman who believes in unity and order, disciplines I find within the Episcopal Church. The Anglican liturgy calls me to into a state of holy submission, which I sometimes think of as the gift of self-control.
'But why would this matter?', my friends might ask. And I might say: prior to Saint Hilda’s House, my naïve faith led me to believe that simply professing Jesus Christ as our saviour was sufficient, without being in fellowship. But it is NOT, especially if we have the liberty to worship without persecution! When we as Christians do not make the compelling walk of faith to participate in fellowship with the brethren, it makes our faith stagnant. When we deprive ourselves of fellowship, we subconsciously reject the blessings of the Holy Spirit, the mercy of Christ, and humanity’s obedience to the Word of the Lord. But we cannot accomplish these things on our own; instead we need the church to serve as a symbol of humanity’s efforts to sacrificial praise and worship to the Lord.
While reading Luke 22 on Holy Thursday, I made certain to memorize Jesus’ intercessory prayer for Peter, the leader of His Church- “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” As I read that verse, I fell on my knees and began to pray. There are many Christians who struggle with despair, loneliness, and other sources of hardships. But we don’t have to struggle alone: within the church, we rejoice and mourn together. Christ created an order of leaders just waiting to encourage those in need (though of course you gotta step out in faith and enter the church so that you can be strengthened by its leaders and congregation!). God saw that it was good for humanity to not be alone. And if we say we love Him, if we try to worship Him in spirit and truth, then the truth of our worship is not only witnessed in our speech but in our actions of fellowship as a church. By becoming an Episcopalian, I publicly declare my submission to the Lord, making a vow to His Church by joining this church.
An Episcopalian Moment of Mediation: A Brethren Strengthened
While preparing to become an Episcopalian, I sought God through theological works, testimonies, and my conviction of faith in believing the unseen and seen promises of God. As Holy Week transpired, I spiritually and physically prepared through praying and fasting. Within this time, there were many questions I had to ask of God:
Is Jesus Christ truly a friend?
Can anyone prove that they have seen Him, today?
Why do so many people rise up against His Name?
Why did He not defend Himself as the accusers testified against Him and shamed Him to death?
Is He there with you when the accusers rise up against you and discredit your testimony as they aspire to diminish your self-esteem and divine image?
Are we not divine images?
I boldly profess that we are the divine images created by a sovereign God. I believe in the written and spoken Word received unto to men of the glory of God. In loving the creations of God, Jesus Christ humbled Himself and endured the jealousy and hatred of those who rejected the Word. Then, I asked myself;
“If I were Jesus, placed with this strenuous burden, preserving or advocating on the behalf of those who sought my death, what would I do? Would I remain obedient to God’s will and love? Or would I refuse to defend those who sought my death?”
During Holy Week, my mind was plagued with these questions. In an attempt to consolidate my thoughts, I sorted them into two lines of inquiry: “how do I love those who despise me” and “how do I love those who I despise?” Let’s be honest: as followers Christ, we too fall into the futile predicament of having our emotions driven by vanity. I have no intention of diminishing or ignoring the feelings of others and my own feelings. But I do want to pose that we should try and challenge these feelings of hatred which can manifest into the physical.
For six days, I dressed in black as a symbolic representation of mourning. It was necessary for me to remember the Passion of Christ outside the walls of the church. While Face Timing my dad on Holy Thursday, he bluntly asked, “What are you doing in all black? Do they make you wear all black?” In a sassy tone, I responded, “Dad! No! I chose to wear black. It’s a personal choice.” He simply chuckled and proclaimed, “Listen to me, for this very reason Jesus was born. He was incarnated for this very reason, Shancia. To die for us so that the world may love and witness the Resurrection, you can never walk the road that Jesus walked and never impose such sorrow upon yourself.”
Consciously, I was quite jovial. I imagined how sorrowful others perceived my appearance to be. But contrary to my father’s comments, I experienced a novel spiritual tranquility as I consecutively prepared my black apparel. Most importantly, my black attire centered our conversation on Christ without verbalizing Jesus. My father and I spoke about the Gospels for at least forty-five minutes. Normally, we only discuss the Scriptures vaguely: most of daily conversations are about boxing events and travel plans. Yet without having to verbally proclaim Christ, we found that our dialogue that day centered in Him.
Of course, I finished that dialogue by challenging my father with those questions: “how do you love those who despise you” and “how do you love those who you despise?” With a grin on His face, my father recited John 8:7 '…let him that is without sin cast the first stone'. In his Jamaican baritone voice, he made certain to remind me that we are all sinners, and Christians can never hold such staunch feelings of hatred towards anyone, for in doing so we reject the forgiveness of sin. If I allow hate to control me, I might be unworthy or incapable of calling on the Name of Jesus Christ as our savior and redeemer in my deeds, for in Him only is there forgiveness.
I would like to end this reflection with a prayer;
I’m grateful to God for placing me in the Episcopal Church; this has been the best year of life, for I have come to know the thoughts of peace in which the Lord has towards me. And I am at peace in His Word. Through Christ's love and mercy, I will seek to strengthen my brethren and direct all to the tabernacle of Our Lord and Savior.
My conversation of the Gospels with my dad is just a beginning.