People say the one constant in life is change. This is apparent in the seasons, in our own life experiences, and as we transition from one stage of life to another. I think one of my most difficult transitions (one that I am still working on) is the transition from adolescence into adulthood, aka “being a grown up.” I have learned over the years that when change comes we need to be flexible and allow the Creator to work…in us, with us, and through us.
Throughout my life the Episcopal Church has been my spiritual home. Growing up on an Indian reservation the Church was there and the people in the parish were my family and my community. For people in my community, the Church was there to help, support, and empower us. Later, while living in Seattle, I found myself homeless after coming out; the Church was there too, playing an important role in helping me to find my way out of the darkness.
When I moved and began college I looked around and found, surprisingly, that the Church wasn’t there. This changed however when a few of us brought the Church to the school by creating a campus ministry at our university. For many people who were feeling oppressed by other campus ministries that spouted messages of hate we became their spiritual home, a home of acceptance and love. In this way, I think campus ministry helps people who are questioning their faith, the Creator’s love, and having feelings of isolation find acceptance, fellowship, and a renewing relationship with the Creator.
I think we need to also help with the transition out of campus ministry and into the workforce. When I graduated, I found a job in another state and needed to leave. I am sure this fits the stories of other people as well. As I was leaving I found that people were very congratulatory and wished me well on my journey. However, they didn’t really help connect me with the churches, or in my case church, in the area I was moving to. I also didn’t get any contact after the move. I think maybe a few contacts a month or two after graduation would be beneficial.
I moved to my new rural town and felt a lot like an outsider in that church. I think this may have been because the average age of the congregation was 60 or because there were no people of color in the congregation unless I was sitting in a pew. During this time I didn’t feel like the church was my “home.”
However, I maintained my connection with the church through larger national events and activities in the young adult, American Indian, and other areas of ministry. I truly believe that every diocese needs to have regular young adult gatherings for people in situations like that who may feel isolated and need to build networks.
Last summer, I attended the Young Adult Festival during General Convention. This was a very important part of my sense of connection to the Church and feelings of being “home.” I was able to find people like me and connect with others in a profound way. Many of us maintain our connections via telephone, facebook, and other social networks. Then, even though there may not be many people my age in my local parish, I am able feel less isolated because my newfound friends are just a few clicks away. On a different level, while attending general convention I had many, “moments of clarity” when things seemed to all come together. At some points I could see all the various parts and how everything fits together in this lovely Church of ours. It was as if you could see all the parts working together creating a mosaic of the Body of Christ.
Recently, a job has brought me to Kansas City. When I arrived, I realized I had the luxury of having several Episcopal churches to choose from. I visited several of them trying to find the one that felt most like, “home.” I want to say that the Church I chose stood out from the others for several reasons. This church was diverse in age, ethnicity, and family type. This church has a strong commitment to social justice and community outreach/involvement evidenced not just by words or a checkbook but by true “getting in and getting your hands dirty” action. Also, whether it was the greeter recognizing I was new and welcoming me, the rector calling me after my first attendance to invite me over to visit, or the fact they remembered my name, I felt truly welcomed.
I would hardly call myself, “grown up” but I definitely believe I am on that journey. The Episcopal Church and the some very special people in it, encourage and help me strive to walk that journey in a good way. This Church is my home and when I think of home my heart is always happy.