My parents picked The Episcopal Church for their family long before I chose to stay, and I’ve often thought that TEC ‘stuck’ better in my case than they might have wished. By the time I was the one choosing a lot more was involved than easy Sunday School registration.
The first time I chose TEC I was 14. It was because of my cousins’ non-Episcopal youth group. I had gone on a mission trip with them and came home convinced that I needed a similarly loving and supportive sort of community in my life. As an incoming High School freshman, I decided that my Church needed a youth group.
The same Church that had loved, fed, and supported my family through my mother’s cancer and death loved, encouraged, and supported me. Rides to Diocesan events, money for Provincial events, and when I wandered into someone’s office saying, “I think we should…” no one ever laughed at me. By the time I graduated High School, we had a youth group (creatively name the Grouth Youp), a young person was regularly elected to the vestry, and as a college freshman I was elected to Diocesan Council.
And a Church full of people showed me all of the broken, hurtful humanness of the Church. I saw people I love and respect behave in manners that no one anywhere should. By the time I was 18, I had seen the Church at her best and some of her worst.
So, of course, I stayed. I went to college. I got more involved. I started discernment for the priesthood. I saw more of our best and more ways we are at our worst.
My junior year of college was the year I almost left. I was too tired, too much on the outside, too weary of demanding that I be listened to, be seated at any table, not be ignored.
It was also the year I discovered that I will never leave. This is my home. This is my family.
I learned that I am not an Episcopalian because I like the liturgy or the history or because my parents didn’t pick an ELCA church. I am Episcopalian because the liturgy, our way of being The Church, best helps me be a Christian. My last service in The Episcopal Church will be my funeral. It will be lovely Rite II service with good music and, hopefully, many years from now.
I’m an Episcopal priest. I’ve been in a leadership role in this Church for my entire adulthood. I’ve been choosing The Episcopal Church for more than half my life. It is a rational decision, but even more it is a decision based on need and faith.
Because my parents didn’t pick an ELCA parish, because of the history, because of the liturgy, because of everything we (occasionally) get right. Because this is where I see Jesus.