Wednesday, July 13, 2005

let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start

i went to catholic elementary school in nyc and studied cathechism, did confession in the second grade, took my first holy communion with my class in the church attached to the school, and then never went to church. my father was baptised presbyterian. my mother was a roman catholic. no one attended church when i was growing up.
when i was 12, the school gave us a form for our parents to fill out at the beginning of the year. it included parents' daytime contact info., home address, etc. i was old enough to fill it out. one line on the form asked for the name of the church i was baptised in. despite not being a regular church-goer, i did know the answer to that. i was baptised at st. peter's in chelsea. i wrote that down (in bad, palmer method penmanship) and handed it in to my teacher.
a few days later, sr. helen, the principal, took me aside. she asked if i was indeed baptised at st. peter's and when i said yes she told me that st. peter's is not a roman catholic church. i told her there had to be some kind of mistake and i'd ask my mom when i got home.
which i did. my mother confirmed that indeed, st. pete's is not r.c. and indeed, i was not baptised r.c.
this is like finding out you're adopted, or, not black.
i asked what religion i was baptised in and she told me episcopalian. i asked what's that? by now i was starting to panic because i knew that everyone who was not catholic ate their babies and were going to hell more or less. mom said that episcopalian is a lot like catholic, but without the guilt. this is why she chose to have me baptised episcopalian, not r.c. like her. this started to sound better than baby eating, spit turning.
i asked, where's the nearest episcopalian church. suddenly, going to church with all the pomp and circumstance and none of the guilt sounded good. she told me of one a few blocks away, next door to my summer camp. Church of the Holy Trinity
i went. by myself. i was 12. two things happened that sunday. one, a homeless woman came into the church after the service was well underway. she shuffled up the center aisle with her bags, looking pretty scruffy. i held my breath, wondering what people would do. i guess i thought they would throw her out. everyone else looked pretty smart. instead of throwing her out, a woman in the pew ahead of this woman turned around. she was tall, thin, wearing a nice dress, pearls, coiffed hair - really, a classic wasp. i remember watching all this agog. she turned to face the bag lady and her face lit up! she smiled and threw her arms around this homeless woman and hugged her as if she were an old friend she hadn't seen in years.
i was hooked from that moment on. i couldn't have articulated it at the time, but i was watching the very essence of christ in both these women. it was absolutely compelling.
the liturgy was so familiar and comfortable. i felt really at home.
then, the other thing happened. we got to the lord's prayer and i was chiming in by heart, as you do. i finished but THE REST OF THE CONGREGATION KEPT GOING. "for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever."
PROTESTANTS! i had heard that this was how prods. finished the lord's prayer. oh my god, i'm among protestants! luther and calvin could be lurking behind a pillar, waiting to get me!
i actually panicked so much that i left the church before the eucharist. it took me a week or so to calm down and accept that, not r.c. generally means protestant. i later learned about all the inbetween.
but i came back. and it's almost 25 years that i've been going to holy trinity. it's my spiritual home. i'm so blessed.


King of Peace said...

Sister M-A,

I hope you don't mind. I quoted this post at


King of peace Episcopal Church

Monk-in-Training said...

Sister M-A,
I just ran accross your blog, and will be watching you on your journey. Perhaps we can walk together.