Wednesday, April 13, 2011

returning to the Anglican church

When we left the Episcopal church, some of our friends who left at the same time started attending an Anglican church about forty minutes away, saying, "It's not too far to travel for good Anglican worship."

At the time, thinking of trying to keep four young children happy and quiet through long car ride and formal service in an unfamiliar building and then long car ride again, I thought sarcastically, Well, maybe not for you.

It was an uncharitable reaction, which I knew even at the time, and happily I thought it and didn't say it, because this past year, as we've attended our local evangelical church, his words have continued to echo in my head - it's not too far to travel for good Anglican worship - it's not too far - and every time I remembered them, I found myself more and more inclined to agree.

Time after time, I found myself leaving our local church frustrated, angry, and sometimes even in tears. I couldn't reconcile what I'd learned - what I'd become convinced of - in Anglicanism with the way I was worshipping every Sunday. I wasn't acting in concert with my convictions and I was miserable.

After a year, my friend's statement didn't seem impossible. It didn't make me feel wistful. It made me feel convinced. In speaking to my husband, I found that we had separately come to the same realization: we knew we weren't where we should be. We knew we'd made the wrong decision. And when you make the wrong decision, you know what you should do? Repent and make the right one.

So now we're driving forty minutes every Sunday in order to take part in good Anglican worship. And I've never been happier.

I'm not altogether sorry we spent a year at our local evangelical church. We were pretty battered after our old church decided to stay Episcopal and it was good to attend a church that was geographically close and theologically sound. Their children's program was amazing and we knew our tithe was going to support the work of the gospel around the world. The people were welcoming and kind and I am still incredibly grateful to them for their ministry. I am glad they are in my city. That church is a haven.

But staying at our local evangelical church was like staying in a foreign country when I had no reason to be there. And not even a weird, unfamiliar foreign country. It was more like staying in Canada. I like Canada. I grew up in Canada. I'm happy Canadians are my neighbors. I'd visit Canada any time you gave me a chance. And if I had a job to do there, I'd happily live there again. It's a good place.

But if I don't have a reason to stay there, I'll come back to my native land, thank you. I love my neighbor, and I'm grateful for his hospitality and kindness, but I'd rather live in my home.

Staying in our local nondenominational church was like trying to be Canadian when I had no good reason to change my citizenship. When I tried to be an evangelical, I was upset and scared and unhappy. I was, simply put, homesick. I think we chose without praying about it enough or, rather, without listening patiently after we prayed. We chose the easier thing because we were scared of the harder one. But the easy thing isn't easy if it isn't right. I'm an Anglican* and I ought to be in an Anglican church if there's any way I can be.

And I hope God can help me be as good an Anglican as my friends in our local church are evangelicals. Their faith inspires me and I praise God for them.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

*Hmm. Maybe a slightly evangelical one. ;)


Katie K said...

You explained this all very well. It makes me so happy to hear that you guys are not only where God obviously wanted you but also where you really wanted to be all along.
Josh and I miss certain aspects of high church but we haven't longed for them with all our being and I think the distance has actually been good for us in some ways. It was becoming more and more obvious to us that the same was not true for you and your family though. Honestly, that was difficult to come to terms with but when I found out you guys had made the decision to drive the 40 minutes to the nearest Anglican church, it kind of just made sense. I miss seeing you guys on Sundays but it gives me joy that you are at a church where I know you will thrive spiritually, emotionally, mentally.
Peace be with you!
-Katie =)

MelBoe said...

Good Evening. This is a beautifully written post. I am the wife of an Anglican Priest - one who is not a cradle Anglican. I understand what you mean about the local church, and it's import in your life during a difficult time. I believe the liturgery always draws people in. I know we are told in Evangelical circles that the ligurgery are "rote" prayers that are meaningless to those who say them. But for most of us, they become a part of us, like breathing - it's what we do to live. And it always calls us home. I'm glad you all are where God has called you. Your family will be in my prayers.

Thanks for writing your blog - I visit often.


Jessica said...

Aw, Katie, thank you. I'm sorry our bad decision-making made anything harder for you and Josh. And I'm so happy that you found your church home; it really is a good place and I'm glad that you fit in so well there. It's not the way I'd ever choose to have it happen, but I'm glad that both of our families have learned so much about ourselves through this! At least we got something out of it!

Jessica said...

MelBoe, thank you for your kind comment. I resonate with your comparison of praying the church's prayers to breathing. It is like that. Just because you do it over and over again, you don't get tired of breathing! It's always refreshing, always good, always just what you need. Much like prayer.

sarah marie said...

Since Nathan quit his job at a nearby congregational church we've been attending an Anglican church... we've never been happier!! We sort of ached for that kind of worship until we just couldn't spend another Sunday having his last magnificent chord on the organ interrupted by the words, "before you go, everybody, just a couple of announcements... don't forget to pick up your kids!" Haha.

Ann said...

In Chicago, we drove an hour each way (with 2 kids under 4) and felt it was worth it... and now we drive 30 minutes. It's not too far, and yet I long for a local church to which I can bring my friends in the neighborhood-- it feels to far for them. Kinda like driving to Canada. =)