Kirk and I visited a new church last night, called All Saints, in downtown Winter Park. It's an Episcopal Church that we've felt drawn to visit for a while, even though neither of us is particularly interested in changing denominations.
We're so glad we went!
First of all, how can you help but fall in love with a church that looks like this?
Also, even though we were pretty lost through most of the readings in the service -- people were flipping through their Books of Common Prayer like they'd been doing it for years, which they probably had, and we sure hadn't! -- it was easy to close the book, put it back in the pew, and let the sacred and life-giving words wash over us, knowing that we affirmed them in our hearts along with all the other believers there beside us. We felt like we belonged to the body of Christ for real, even though we had no idea how the order of the service was progressing. We decided we're content to just be "learners" right now.
The biggest kicker of all is what we found out when the rector got up to speak: it was his first Sunday at All Saints, too! Apparently he was chosen after an extensive search for a new rector, and the coolest thing is that he took the transition in stride. He got up there and said right off the bat, "I've had a great day. You all have been so warm to welcome me to your community at All Saints." Kirk and I looked at each other and said (non-verbally, of course): "It's his first Sunday, too? Looks like we came at just the right time!"
About halfway through the service, Father Rob also mentioned that he'd been on a sabattical not too long ago in Scotland. What did he study? Nothing other than Celtic Christianity. And what saint did he learn most about? None other than Saint Columba, the same saint on whose feast day we were married in Ireland (because Columba was a great patron saint to both Ireland and Scotland)! When this happened, Kirk and I just looked at each other and laughed. We just couldn't stop! (Okay, okay, I admit that I'm the one who was laughing and I'm the one who couldn't stop. It was just too uncanny how at home we were made to feel in such a short span of time.)
Because the thing is, this Father Rob is all about the things we are about, too. He talked over and over about making our lives count for something greater than ourselves, about living for things that will last, about finding "the place of our resurrection" where we feel most alive because of how God created us. All of these are the same exact things Kirk and I have talked about for as long as we've known each other. We want to live for building the kingdom because it's the only thing that matters and the only thing that lasts. We want to help people rediscover their true hearts, the things that make them unique, the things they were created to do with their lives for God's glory and purposes. In other words, the things that make them come alive. And we are committed to helping each other come more fully alive in our ministry of love to one another.
So, it seems like a wonderful and mysterious thing has begun here. We have no idea what all of it means. We still aren't that interested in becoming Episcopalian. But we did love the feel of the church, the heart of the priest, the love of the body, the sanctity of the sacraments, and the legacy of the tradition. It made us feel like we were in the heart of England again, which is where we greatly desire to be placed in ministry someday soon. It made us want to learn more. It truly moved us.
In the meantime, we'll keep you posted on our progress at All Saints . . . and on the things we learn . . . and other stuff that's happening around here in Central Florida, a place that's become near and dear to my heart.