How the Eucharist Brought me Back to God
I sat across the table from Jennifer, the priest I had wanted to meet and suss out before coming back to church. I wanted to get a feel for the vibe of the church, to feel out if we would be welcome there, as fucked up as we were. So far it was going well, as she had not shown any shock or disgust or anything else when she had seen me with my bright pink hair and shirt with a skull on it. Although I had worn the shirt because it was clean, my son’s home health worker thought I had worn it just to see what the priest’s reaction would be. Although that would totally be something I would do, that wasn’t the case here.
“We moved out here twelve weeks ago, and I should have come to church then,” I explained to her, “but I thought that I was a badass and walked away from Christianity altogether. I came out here and claimed I was Pagan, I was practicing witchcraft but in the last few weeks have been too lazy and exhausted to actually practice anything. I truly did identify as Pagan. But, the Eucharist and the liturgy brought me back. They have fundamentally changed me, and I cannot go back.” Jennifer smiled. (And yes, I did use the word “badass” to see how she would respond to that).
“Yes, the liturgy changes us.” She said. “So, I’m not surprised you are coming back.”
“I do have several theological I guess you’d call them, or possibly Biblical reasons I walked away,” I told her, “but I guess I’m just going to have to work through those because I can’t stay away.”
“Can I ask you what those reasons were, if you’re comfortable sharing?” She asked. Damn, this priest was really respectful.
“Sure.” I said to her. “The first issue for me is the Old Testament. I mean, it’s full of commands like women must marry their rapists, women must be submissive, women are property, and all those wars that God apparently got God’s people to start. Also, I’m struggling with the fact that God would be such an abusive parent to kill God’s son for a problem that it feels like God created in the first place.”
“Well, we can work on getting you to love the Old Testament,” she said. “It’s not as cut and dried as it seems.” I nodded politely. “As far as atonement theories, there are many of those, and I don’t subscribe to that one.” She said. This woman was already blowing my mind. I’d never even considered that there were other atonement theories. In fact, although I was almost done with a Master’s Degree, I wasn’t even smart enough to know what the hell she actually meant by atonement theories, although I could have a good guess. I didn’t want to seem ignorant, however, in front a woman who had studied theology, and so I kept my mouth shut.
Thankfully, Jennifer didn’t seem horrified or judgmental about the Pagan stuff, which made me feel more comfortable in talking to her. It wasn’t something that I was proud of, but it was part of my story, and I had a policy that honesty was best when it came to telling my story. I had made a confession to Father James, the priest at the church where I still had my membership, telling him what my spiritual life had been like the last twelve weeks. I had gone to the new church the very next day, determined to get back on track immediately.
I nervously walked up to the church office, where I was met by a sweet secretary named Faye.
“Hi, I was wondering if I could make an appointment to see the priest,” I said. “Don’t worry, I’m not seeking assistance, I’m actually an Episcopalian that just moved here.”
“You just missed her,” Faye said. “She just left for a meeting.”
“That’s ok,” I said.
“Here, why don’t you call her and leave a message for her,” Faye said, writing down a phone number.
“Thank-you” I said.
That probably should have been the end of the conversation, but I guess a mixture of being lonely and the desire to be fully absolved of my Pagan involvement, I kept the conversation going, in part because Faye was easy to talk to.
“I just know that we are spiritually starving right now and we need the Eucharist.” I’m sure, if she hadn’t already figured it out, that this was the point at which Faye figured out I was completely nuts. “When we moved out here, I began telling people I was Pagan. I’ve since had to contact those people and tell them that what I really am is a terrible Episcopalian.” At this point, Faye laughed.
I figured that this church must be all right because Faye was not judgmental about anything that I told her.
Jennifer didn’t condone what I had done, but she was very kind about it.
“Coming from such a strict fundamentalist background, it’s possible that you needed to walk away for a little while to figure out what you really believed.” She said.
I started to long for the Eucharist after twelve weeks. It took a while to admit to myself that I had made a mistake, though. I need communion. I think I made a huge mistake. I deliberately chose to walk away from God. I can’t believe I did that. What a fool I am. I need to reconcile to God and to the Church.
I sent a message on Facebook to my friend Leah, who was also in a liturgical church.
I think I may have been wrong to get involved with all this Pagan stuff. I miss the communion and I miss the liturgy and I miss the church. I wrote to Leah. I knew that Leah had been praying for me to return to God and to the Church. Leah was, of course, excited that I was even considering this.
I’m so glad to hear this, Katy. She wrote back.
I did not want to make this confession to Father James, because I knew that he would be greatly disappointed. I could get a priest here to hear the confession. I thought to myself. That way Father James would never know. That’s a cop-out, he’s still your priest and he deserves to know. And so here I was, sitting in a chair behind the altar rail, with The Book of Common Prayer in my hand, open to the appropriate page.
“Let’s sit in silence for a few minutes first.” Father James said. After the silence, he spoke again. “Let’s say the Lord’s Prayer, and then you can begin.”
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.” We recited together.
I made my confession, and we moved onto the baptismal vows, which I felt in this circumstance was appropriate, as I had broken them.
“Do you believe in God the Father?” Father James asked.
“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth…”