Today I am grateful for the blessing of community. After a day of worship with my parish, St Thomas, Amenia Union, watching the youth take part in the family service, sharing laughs and good conversation at coffee hour, doing great work at our vestry meeting with the most dedicated vestry members I have ever met, my cup is overflowing with gratitude. I am inspired by the people I see each day who give so much to bring God’s kingdom into this world. I couldn’t ask for more from this wonderful community.
I don’t know where I would be without the support of a faith community. People have all different reasons for going or not going to church. For me, being part of a church community has always been a lifeline. It is in community that I not only sorted out who God was for me. It is also where I discovered who I am. It is where I discovered my gifts. It’s where I sat at the feet of people older and wiser than I and learned how to live this way of Jesus, especially through difficult times.
My first experience of community was in the Roman Catholic Church, in the vibrant parish of St Brigid in Westbury, New York. St Brigid was life changing for me. It’s where I learned to develop a daily prayer life. It’s where I met my husband and my best friend, Chrissie and so many other of my oldest and dearest friends. It’s where I observed my parents live out their faith, which was an amazing thing to behold. I am forever forever grateful for my years at St Brigid’s.
But the greatest gift of my faith life has been the Episcopal Church. It is the various Episcopal parishes where we have been members and I have worked —
St Peter’s, Peekskill
Church of the Holy Innocents, Highland Falls,
Grace Church, Millbrook,
Church of the Messiah , Rhinebeck,
St Matthew’s, Bedford,
For the past seven wonderful years, St Thomas, Amenia Union
And, of course, the good people of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts
— it’s these communities that have helped me discover and live out my call to priesthood. They have embraced and loved my children and shown them the importance of being part of a community. And all of them helped me see Christ alive in the world. I always tell people I didn’t join the Episcopal Church. I was loved into the Episcopal Church. Each one of these communities were instrumental in that loving.
It hasn’t all been perfect. There have been ups and downs, disappointments and frustrations. They are all human organizations run by imperfect humans. That’s who Christ left in charge of the kingdom — humans. You and me — imperfect, flawed, well intentioned but prone to failures of loving now and then.
Community living is messy. And I really love the mess! The mess is where I have found God to be most powerful, and I am grateful for it. If you are reading this and do not belong to a church community, for whatever reason, I urge you read the link below. It’s great.
And I hope you will give a faith community another chance. Don’t worry if you don’t know what you believe. You are exactly the kind of person who should be sitting in those pews. Church is where we ask the big questions, and meet others grappling with their own big questions. Church is where we venture into the mess of our doubts. And amazing things happen. If you are local, come experience St Thomas in Amenia. We are a community of radical hospitality. Everyone is welcome. We mean it. Everyone.
What has been your experience of faith communities?