Tuesday, June 28, 2005

"priest voice"

I went to a noon Eucharist at the National Cathedral recently, and would have enjoyed the service, were it not for the visiting celebrant's "priest voice". You know, the tone of "I am taking this all very very seriously, as should you." It's all very well-intentioned-- they want to share their enthusiasm for God with you and/or ensure that you have a spiritual experience during this particular service, but boy, does it backfire!

Priests with "priest voice" will helpfully stress any word they find important, often in a crescendo as if they're shoving you towards God. "Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you NO SECRETS ARE HID..." At which point, I think "then it's no secret from God that I seriously need to giggle."

Chill, people. I'm not going to have a mountaintop experience if you're trying to push me uphill all the way. Just speak the prayers and blessings as you'd speak them in a serious conversation, not facetiously and not pretentiously. They'll open the doors of the heart all on their own.

Friday, June 24, 2005

About me

I'm an almost-cradle Episcopalian. I was born in North Carolina and moved to Wheaton, Illinois when I was eight. Wheaton has been called the Vatican City of evangelical Protestantism, and I spent most of my formative years there (for good and ill!) with the exception of a year abroad in Bucharest, Romania when I was ten. As you'd imagine, I remember that year more vividly than any other in my childhood. I went to the Anglican Church in Bucharest with my family, where I heard lessons from "I-Zy-Ah" not "I-Zay-Ah", giggled at the lyrics for God Save the Queen-- "confound their politics, frustrate their knavish tricks-- and drank nasty-but-oh-so-good-to-a-10-year-old Tang that was served after each service.

Back to Wheaton after Romania, where my family went (and still go) to an evangelical, moderately high-church Episcopal parish. I sang in the choir under an Anglophile choirmaster-- he called England the Holy Land. Not surprisingly, I became a church music snob. None of this happy clappy stuff for me! I'm only now getting better about it. Most of my friends went to non-denominational churches with huge youth groups. I didn't care for what seemed like pre-packaged "cool" worship, devotions, and activities, but not participating in praise bands and pasta-throwing food fights meant not participating in any ongoing program of Christian formation. My church certainly didn't have anything to offer. So I remember my adolescence as mostly muddling along spiritually on my own. I picked up all sorts of intended and unintended lessons from parents, friends, priests, and peer groups that I really only started working through in college.

I got the hell out of Dodge for college and went to Swarthmore, where I studied comparative religion (mostly Eastern) and comparative politics (mostly Western). While there, I stopped going to church regularly, just because I could. I studied in Prague for a semester and went to church regularly then, both to worship and to be part of an English-speaking community.

At college, I wrestled with what I thought I was supposed to believe about God from having grown up in Wheaton, and what I wanted to believe about God from personal reflection and academic study. I still wrestle with that. I was attracted to other religions, which seemed uniformly fascinating and full of potential. But I knew that was because I wasn't living in those traditions, and I never seriously thought about converting. Christianity may be a hard slog sometimes, but it's my hard slog.

I worked on Capitol Hill for a couple of years after graduation. I really didn't like my job or my boss, although my colleagues were great. That experience helped me realize that for most people, their job isn't their identity. When I was a student, that was my occupation and my calling. It was never my calling to be a legislative correspondent for a self-important backbencher. And I couldn't divorce myself from my job that way. I hated not being able to feel proud and excited about my work.

So now I work in Washington for a reconciliation organization and have ties with several Episcopal and Anglican communities. Much better! I'm absolutely in the right place, doing the right work, with the right people, even if it isn't all rainbows and happy trees all the time. What job is? My work is quite a blessing. I won't be talking about it on this blog, but what I do shapes my beliefs and affects how I think about my spiritual life, my membership in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, and a host of other issues.

And I'm a member of St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, a church I love because it's warm and welcoming and completely unpretentious. Day to day, week to week, it just gets on with the messy business of being a community of God's people.

More soon.