Sep 28, 2014 - Spirituality    35 Comments

I’ve taken up with the Anglicans

Chalices

Photo credit: http://morguefile.com/creative/jclk8888

Dear Pope Francis,

I’ve taken up with the Anglicans. I know. I don’t really understand it, either. It just kind of happened.

Except that it didn’t just happen, and I do understand it.

You see, I’ve been searching for a long, long time for a new faith community. Eight years ago, when I moved to where I live now, I tried out several local Catholic parishes, and was sorely disappointed. Actually, that’s putting it mildly. I left nearly every Sunday Mass feeling angry. I went to the cathedral one Sunday. The Gospel reading was the passage where Jesus steps in when an adulterous woman is about to be stoned and asks the crowd if any among them hadn’t committed a sin. It’s a Gospel rich in meaning and revelation about who Jesus was, and who we are as the people who follow him. The sermon, however, was all about sin. Sin. Sin. Sin. Oh, and not crossing the Magisterium. I wanted to leave after the sermon and shake the dust from my shoes as I went. But I stayed, and stewed. I tried a few more parishes after that, but it was more of the same. And I was rarely welcomed as a newcomer. Nobody went out of their way to say hi. Mind you, if they caught me after that cathedral sermon, or those like it, I was probably radiating anger.

In my mind, you shouldn’t leave Mass angry. Confused, maybe. Challenged, yes. But angry? No.

Over the last year I started to orbit around a local Anglican parish. I began attending a contemplative prayer group hosted there twice a month. I made friends with their new rector, who I met on Twitter. We had coffee several times. During one of those chats, he mentioned that the Anglican Eucharist is an open table, and that, as a baptized Catholic, I could receive communion. To my Catholic hindbrain this sounded revolutionary. My whole lifetime in the Catholic Church was spent hearing about the seemingly many things that could cut one off from receiving the Eucharist. An open table? Who were these people? I’m also a little embarrassed to admit that I went home after coffee with my priest friend and googled whether or not I would be excommunicated for receiving Eucharist at an Anglican mass. Turns out I wouldn’t. The fact that I hadn’t actually been to a Catholic Eucharist in ages kind of made that moot, but, still, old habits die hard.

It was still several months before I attended my first Anglican Mass. Part of the issue was I’ve gotten very used to having no schedule on the weekend, and the idea of showing up somewhere at 10 a.m. on a Sunday seemed a little problematic. A week ago, though, I ran out of excuses and there I was, in the pew. And it felt good. Really good.

First, I was welcomed. Not just by the greeter at the door, but by almost everyone, at every turn. People seemed genuinely glad to see me. I already knew a few people from the parish, and they came over to say hello. But there were others, complete strangers, who welcomed me and said they were glad I chose to visit.

The next amazing thing was that a woman read the Gospel and gave the sermon. I know. Imagine that. And, apparently this happens often! It’s not just a one-time thing. A woman. Speaking in church. Preaching. It took me a bit to even wrap my head around that it was so awesome.

The liturgy was easy to follow, and there were even leaflets in the pews advising newcomers on the basic logistics: how to follow along, how Communion worked, etc… And, to be honest, nobody around me seemed to care if I made a misstep or two. Try doing that in a Catholic Mass. Eyes will shoot daggers at you.

There was coffee after Mass and, again, people went out of their way to welcome me and engage in conversation. It was truly lovely.

I went home absolutely full, and a little tired. I’m an introvert and so that many new people is a little overwhelming. I’m not ashamed to say that, driving home, I got a little misty eyed. It had been so long since I’d felt welcomed into a Eucharist celebration. The only other time recently where I’ve felt such a sense of welcome and belonging was at the Mass held at the end of the Sophia Summer Institute, where I did my M.A. program. That is also a truly inclusive celebration.

And that was at the heart of it for me. Inclusivity. This is a community that welcomes everyone. In fact, the prayer after communion even has the line “We celebrate Christ. By including everyone!”. I think that pretty much says it all.

I went back today for Sunday Communion and had the same welcoming experience. This week, the parish was holding a special meeting after Mass about developing a response on officially recognizing same sex unions in the Anglican Church of Canada’s marriage rite. Imagine that. Parishioners actually meeting to share their thoughts with those in higher authority. (And the group agreed overwhelmingly to recommend expanding the marriage rite to include same sex couples.)

Women preaching. Parishioners given credit for being intelligent, thoughtful members of the Church who can be trusted with big decisions. Contrast that with the Catholic Church where 250 celibate men are about to gather and talk about family life. Stark, isn’t it?

And, for me, this is the crux of things. I know people who stay in the Catholic Church and take a guerrilla stance, hoping things will change. I admire them, and hope so too. But, I’m tired of not having a faith community of my own. I’m tired of not having a place to go on Sunday to receive the Eucharist. And, mostly I’m tired of being in a Church where the hierarchy is so badly out of sync with the real world it’s beyond a bad joke. Every time I read about a priest or bishop who has denied communion to a good and faithful Catholic based on outdated thinking and hurtful prejudices, it breaks my heart. And I don’t think I can be even a silent part of it any more.

That said, I’m not giving up my Catholic identity. In fact, there are quite a few Catholics in this Anglican parish. I haven’t met any of them yet, but I’m sure I will. Maybe we should wear badges or something. I guess I’m going to try being Catholic within a non-Catholic community for a little while and see how it goes.

Because, quite frankly Pope Francis, life’s too short. I need a faith community. I need to attend Mass and participate in the Eucharist.

I need to be home.

Your friend,

Kevin

35 Comments

  • Oh Kevin, so beautifully said. It’s what we want for the Catholic Church and I’m glad you found this wonderful community.

    • Thanks Cheryl! 🙂

  • Kevin, I am so glad you felt welcome at our church – as “the Rev'” said today, Worship isn’t just what we do on Sunday and you are proof, having “entered” via the Contemplative Prayer group. We are a welcoming church because, I believe, we are a happy church. People feel at home, safe and heard. It’s OUR church, within the framework of a strong Anglican tradition.

    • Thanks, Jennifer! Yes, I really do feel welcomed there. Rhoda, Derek, Alastair, have all been good examples of the community that exists there. I just had to get in the doors. 😀

  • Kevin, this piece moved me. Deeply. Thank you. If only Pope Francis really could read it. His hierarchical minions, though, would continue to enforce “law and order.”

    • Thanks, Tim. This means a lot coming from you. Yeah, I doubt my blog post would make it past his handlers. 🙂

  • Kevin: there are large numbers, and yes, I do mean ‘large’ numbers of disaffected Catholics moving in all sorts of directions, and, as yet, Pope Francis has failed to stop the tide. He perhaps feels that is not his role, and yet all of his actions thus far – in a significantly short period of time – have, intentionally or otherwise, been directed at change that effects the Church at large in a positive spirit. Witness the huge numbers of non-Christians who warm to him, and applaud him.
    I can understand so much of what you are saying, indeed equate with it, and my own journey reflects some of your anxiety and concern. I have found my way as a Brother to be more ecumenical, and it worries me not if one day I am in a Catholic church sharing the Mass, and the next in an Anglican church doing the same – and occasionally sharing with a non-conformist congregation, ( where one can often appreciate some dam fine preaching ).
    What matters most? Finding the right faith community. Period!

    • Graham-Michael, thanks so much for your comments. Really appreciate them. Yes, I think finding the right faith community is first and foremost.

  • Kevin – I am genuinely moved by this, as Rector of the Church which I am very pleased you attend. Plus I am glad to have you as a friend in my own journey here in Victoria, where so many things are new and interesting and challenging!

    Whilst I am extremely happy to have you as part of our community – and so glad you are sharing your journey with us, a certain sadness comes from knowing that your pilgrimage has had to move away from the spiritual community which has nurtured and formed you. I do hope and pray that the Church as a whole can grow and change and move to a place where we work together between denominations and lose those things which separate us.

    St John’s isn’t perfect, but it is working hard to be a welcoming, open, inclusive community and I am privileged to be a part of that. It’s a privilege to have you a part of that too…!

    This may even cause me to blog at fracme.blogspot.ca sometime soon too, you have inspired me! Thanks for such an articulate and moving post.

    • Thanks, Alistair. Really appreciate your words. And friendship.
      And, yes, it is a little sad to not find a home in my faith community of origin, but I’m happy to have found your parish. I do hope the boundaries keep coming down. We are all one body.

  • I was that angry Catholic too. I actually left Mass during a particularly personal offensive sermon about 20 years ago. I never went back to that church. It is the one my parents still attend.

    I am discerning for the Episcopal priesthood. I have never been happier.

    • Thank you, Diana. I really appreciate your comment on my post, and the sharing of your journey. Blessings in your discernment.

  • With grateful thanks for this heartfelt post — which I will be sharing forthwith. Your story is so in alignment with those we hear over and over as folks find their way to All Saints Church here in Pasadena … and with all the challenges our own Big Fat Anglican Family faces it is such a blessing to hear that we do indeed get some things right.

    May God bless you in your journey — thank you again for your witness!

    The Reverend Canon Susan Russell
    All Saints Church, Pasadena CA

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Susan. Really appreciate it. I’ve been a follower on Twitter for a long time and really admire all you do. Very touched you took the time to comment.

  • The Anglican Church is very much Catholic. It’s just not “Roman” Catholic. So you are still in the company of Christ’s One Holy Catholic and Apostilic Church!

    • Ken: Yay! 😀

  • But Kevin, you haven’t stopped being a catholic.

    • Hi Luis. No, I guess I haven’t. 🙂

  • I hear these sentiments expressed so often by former RCs who have come to the Episcopal Church. As a former RC priest, I will say there are lots of RC parishes out there where the canon law book has not grown bigger than the Bible. There are even some RC bishops who have not abandoned the pastoral approach to canon law and who let the principle of epichia (“if it ain’t workin’ pastorally, chuck it) loose with the rumblings of the Holy Spirit. And the venue of the RCC can’t be beat. Lots of churches, lots of good works that the church does (hospitals, grammar schools, high schools, colleges, Catholic Charities). With all the people in the pews, whatta source of money to do really big things, like sending lots of missionaries to the far corners of the world — not just to teach the Word of God, but to teach the people how to feed themselves and to teach them how to take care of themselves, which is what the RCC does. We read about a lot of what I consider extravagant use of money, and that more accountability would be in order. But still a lot of good is getting done. But I can only imagine the good that COULD be done if the Pope would listen to Kevin’s letter on so many points upon which he touches. The church can no longer restrict the sacrament that is dying a not-so-slow death: the Eucharist, because of the unbiblical law that only celibate males can be priests. So few any more believe the “charism” of celibacy has any relevance. All of the greatest Protestant evangelists are married men. Marriage has not slowed them down. There are no great RC evangelists, probably since Bishop Sheen. And to restrict the diaconate, priesthood and episcopacy only to males? The “sensus Scripturae,” the “sense of Scripture,” dictates that we are ALL made in the image and likeness of God, and that we all “put on Christ” at baptism. I know what Paul says about women speaking in church, but that was his cultural “thing.” Again, the “sense of Scripture” must be what guides who can be a “minister.” With the state of the world, which desperately needs the message of Jesus, how can any church say NO to anyone who has the faith and education and calling to be a priest simply because they don’t have the right genitals! Kevin’s point about the upcoming synod on the family is right on. There will be a few non-clerical observers, but the fact that none of the laity have any voice is ludicrous. The RCC needs to include and respect the many gifts of the laity and give them a real voice in the church. The Pope should also reconsider the ban on artificial birth control, which is something that statistically almost no Catholic of child bearing age observes anyhow. Many practicing Catholics simply look the other way regarding that prohibition, but intellectually it has been one of the issues that has driven so many Catholics away from the faith completely. So…essentially, I guess I’m saying that the Episcopal/Anglican model for “church” is about as good as it gets. If the RCC could just really study and pray about the E/A model and buy into it, our prayer we say every Sunday, “that we all may be ONE,” would quickly come to pass. THEN what a powerhouse for Jesus and his Great Commission would we have on our hands. Jesus would then be really hard to resist.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Pete. Really appreciate your insights. I know there are good RC parishes out there. I just haven’t found one locally and am tired of looking. I came into this new parish organically, almost like I’ve been drawn there. So, that’s where I am. I’m also just not good at the cognitive dissonance required to attend a Catholic parish these days. Maybe things will trickle down from Francis, but I’m tired of waiting. 🙂

  • When I get home we’ll have to go to church together (the Anglican one, obvs) and sit there – the disaffected Catholic and the burned-by-brimstone Pentecostal – and see what kind of craziness ensues. I suspect none but more of the same shared worship and a warm welcome.

    I haven’t been to St. John’s, but I spoke at several Anglican churches in my last job, including the Cathedral (in the coffee room) and had a similar experience in them all. They may be challenged as traditional churches, but they still have a warm heart.

    • Hi Shannon. Thanks for your comment all the way from Jamaica! 🙂

  • My heart resonates deeply with Kevin’s sentiments, which have many of the features of my own spiritual journey.. After 11 years
    in the RC monastic life, i ended up in the Orthodox Church. I needed
    the patristic theology, spirituality, liturgy, liturgical practice and chant of the Christian East.
    After several years as a college chaplain, using my seminary education and my advance degree in Orthodox Spirituality, i was called to the Orthodox clerical tonture and ordination to the lectorate and and then the subdeaconate, At age 54, i finally discovered and accepted that i was really gay. Had things been different, i would have been been better off as an Anglican. Had i listened more close to the Angel that had been sent to me (a good friend who is an Episcopal Bishop, who begged me to come into the Anglican Contingent of the Church) things might have been different. I trust i am in the Good God’s care, and He Leads Me towards my final repose..”.for the King of Love My Shepherd is, and He will lead me home..”.

    • Thanks for your beautiful share.

  • You have expressed beautifully my own experience. I was a faithful member of the RC Church for almost 50 years. I finally found the courage to follow my call to ordained ministry and am now rector of a wonderful Anglican parish in Australia. My former RC Bishop’s comment when he found out was that as an apostate I had “put myself outside salvation” .

    • James. Wow. A comment all the way from Austealia! Thanks so much for sharing your story.

  • Kevin: hello! “Kevin” here! Totally get your post. I and my wife left the RCC well over ten years ago, and joined TEC (The Episcopal Church). I will be ordained to the diaconate next month. I have often had coffee with people who have decided to “swim the Thames”. They are tired of trying to breathe underwater in the RCC. Blessings on your journey!

    • Hi Kevin! 🙂
      Thanks so much for your comment. Really appreciate you sharing your story. Congrats on your ordination!

  • It should be TIME for loosing boundaries on Faith communities that worship the same Lord and share similar practices more than they differ! Good for Kevin and others who “were led organically” and eventually! But experiencing other “households of Faith in the One Body of Christ” should happen more naturally and in fact be expected. Most often it is NOT the parish but the leadership’s interpretation and exercise that could be restrictive and exclusive too. Thanks for sharing.

    • Tony, thanks so much for your comment and thoughts. Very much appreciated.

  • Thank you for your thoughtful blog, Kevin. As a member of your new parish, welcome. I hope that you find growth, comfort, inspiration and, most of all, Jesus in our midst.

    • Thanks, Mark!

  • […] in June 2013. Unfortunately there has been a hiatus since he wrote to Pope Francis that he had taken up with the Anglicans, a post which received an overwhelming […]

  • There are so many wonderful aspects of the anglican, orthodox and roman “c”atholic traditions with which I resonate and that invite my “multiple participation” and there are also some unfortunate aspects that invite, sometimes, my prophetic protest, more often, “omnia videre, multa dissimulare, et pauca corrigere” (see everything, turn a blind eye to much, correct a little). When my longing to participate more fully grows deep, the Anglican table’s where I commune.

    While some would pejoratively describe my approach as that of a cafeteria catholic, I would characterize my experience more so as that of a banquet hall catholic. Many who say they are SBNR, spiritual but not religious, don’t fully understand the relationship between spirituality and religion and are, instead, RBNI, religious but not institutional.

    So, when pressed to self-identify, I tell them that I’m CBNI, catholic but not institutional. And that does NOT mean cultural catholic or non-practicing, in my experience and view. If pressed to explain, I just say that I’m a religious mutt, a mixed breed, a cross between what many might call a Bad Catholic (I was formed in the roman tradition) and a Good Episcopalian (where Eucharistic hospitality consoles me further). Those are labels to satisfy others’ insatiable need to pigeonhole me and others.

    By the way, I suspect that CBNIs are the largest religious demographic in the USA today.

    Carry on, my brother. Your voice of prophetic protest rings true and your affections and reflections are beautiful and good. Thanks for your generous personal sharing and witness to God’s presence amongst us.

    • Thanks! Really appreciate your thoughtful comment.

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