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,
*Hmm. Maybe a slightly evangelical one. ;)