One of the things I was looking forward to as a nun was the opportunity to pray in communion several times a day – the Daily Office. I also thought it would be interesting to experiment a little with liturgy. I’ve seen orders that use the New Zealand prayer book or work out some special liturgy of their own.
I went to visit a convent in Swaziland run by the Order of the Holy Paraclete, which has its main house in England. I spent two weeks with a great sister and we talked, I asked questions, she answered, we debated theology with others – really amazing. In the course of our talking Sr. Carol said to me that as fewer women were entering religious orders they were going to eventually leave Swaziland and turn the running of the orphanage over to the local people. Makes sense that, rather than a bunch of old white ladies telling black people how to run an orphanage they should train locals and leave the raising of Swazi orphans to them. Sr. Carol told me that if I entered OHP now I’d live in England, do administrative work, and take care of old nuns. I cannot thank her enough for her honesty because all three of those were the exact opposite of what I wanted to do! I said to her at one point, if fewer and fewer women are entering the convent, then who will be there to take care of me? Or would I be the last nun standing? She replied honestly I could be the last nun standing. I envisioned myself freezing my old ass off in an NHS nursing home in northern England. No. Thank. You.
The other thing that Sr. Carol said was people bemoan the state of religious orders because they are shrinking but the work that nuns and monks used to do, governments and NGOs do that now. She said the Holy Spirit has something new in mind for the church and I believe her.
A year or so after that I started going to an emerging church called St. Lydia’s. It was in the Lower East Side at the beginning of its ministry and now is in Brooklyn. The Eucharist is set around a dinner, like the early church. People cook the meal, serve the meal, eat, talk, break bread, drink wine in remembrance of Christ. I became fairly active in that church and made a lot of new friends. St. Lydia’s moved to Brooklyn and I kept going for a year but the commute was worse than my daily work schlep and a few other factors made it less appealing for me to go.
I am now in a stage of not going to church. I don’t miss it at all which surprised me at first. I’ve been going to church my entire life. I don’t miss Eucharist, which is a big deal to Episcopalians. We take it weekly normally and daily at best. I definitely don’t miss volunteering. My job feels like a community service so I don’t need church to fill that aspect of my life. What really surprised me is that I don’t miss community. I tried a new church about six months ago and the very first thought that popped into my head as I walked in the door was, I don’t want to make new community. Huh. Maybe at this stage in my life I have enough?
They say that once you’ve seen how the sausage is made you can’t eat it anymore. That’s the institutional church for me. Institutional church so doesn’t do it for me now.
I think I’m becoming a “none” as in the box I’d check on a form that asked my religious affiliation.
I believe in God. I believe in Christ. I believe in compassion for my brothers and sisters.
I practice love, compassion, mindfulness to the best of my ability.