Can I call you mine?

  When we walked into Grace Cathedral for Joel’s confirmation and my reception into the  Episcopal church, I did not feel received, I felt swallowed up.  Grace is a beautiful cavernous  place, and I do feel a holy spirit there, but it is not the one that knows my name.  In a sea of suburban tweens in clothes I could never afford, their parents buzzing around them for their big presentation before God, I became certain we were making a terrible mistake.  All of my doubts about organized religion, and the Episcopal church in particular, came to the fore.   Why on earth was I yoking myself to an institution steeped in hierarchy, patriarchy, and wealth?  I didn’t just have cold feet.  I was in complete panic, seriously thinking of backing out, listening to the voice within that was shouting, “Run!  Run!  Take the baby and go find your people!”

Instead, I went down to the gym, stood with the other candidates, and, lo and behold, some of my people came to me.  I knew everything was going to be okay when a person we know from our sister church, St. John’s, came in to the gymnasium.  I rushed over to him, never so happy to see one of the oddest and most intelligent people I have ever met.  A person of fluid gender, our friend was not wearing the usual garb of women’s underwear over his clothes, but did have a silk blouse on and was swathed in crystal jewelry.  He told me he comes to all the confirmations, and I thought to myself, “If there is a place in the Episcopal church for him, there is a place for me.”  A few folks we knew from Holy Innocents came in as well, and I stopped hyperventilating.

I was reminded of a quote from Joan Chittester, a Benedictine nun who is quickly becoming my new spiritual mama.  She wrote in her journal, “Delight in the God I have found to be within gives me strength to hold out against any Church and its heresies about God, about women, about ordination.  The God within is a raging cry in me.  And no other voice is strong enough to drown it out.  It is the only voice I have heard for years.”  So I tapped into that voice, and we processed in, my husband, baby, and our other friend from St. John’s making up the few spots of brown skin tone in the place.  I struggled with my bitterness, feeling more freaked out with every passing moment.

The psalm we recited was so perfect it was shocking: Psalm 42:1-7

As the deer longs for the water-brooks,

so longs my soul for you, O God.

My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the Living God;

when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?

My tears have been my food day and night,

while all day long they say to me, “Where now is your God?”

I pour out my soul when I think on these things;

how I went with the multitude

and led them into the house of God,

With the voice of praise and thanksgiving,

among those who keep holy-day.

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?

and why are you so disquieted within me?

Put your trust in God;

for I will yet give thanks to the One

who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

The Bishop’s message was very helpful as well.  He told us that we commit to what we know, and then stay open to transformation.  I can do that.  The whole reason I decided to get received, to formally join the Episcopal church, is that I have been so blessed by the community at Holy Innocents, and I have so much to be grateful for.  I wanted to do something to make a statement to God, receiving those gifts and opening the door to be changed further in this way.  In my Master’s program at CIIS, they continually told us to pick a spiritual practice, any spiritual practice, and stick with it.  They believed that this was a very important part of psychological development, and imperative especially for those in the healing professions.  I put this off as long as I could, because I had done this and gotten burned time and again.  But then there I was in front of the Bishop, his hands on my head, blessing me and receiving me into the Episcopal tradition.  So I guess I am jumping in, bringing along all my doubt and fear, clutching it like a security blanket, trying to make space for it in the liturgy as much as possible.

All weekend I struggled with my choice.  This morning I knew I couldn’t handle more church and needed to get grounded in my body, so I went back to what used to be church to me, dance class.  One of the routines was to the song July Flame, which has a refrain that goes, “Can I call you mine?” over and over.  I felt that it was God’s voice singing to me, and as I leapt around the room with my fellow dancers, my heart stretched out to whisper a wary but definite, “yes.”

8 thoughts on “Can I call you mine?

  1. You continue to be one of the most spiritual and honest person I know. I love this blog. I have felt that same way many times. Especially when I was studying for the priesthood and was the only women in Colorado doing so. I really wasn’t wanted at gatherings in public. I wanted to do a different kind of ministry. The only one I knew was to open my arms wide and welcome people in and to be God’s love in action. The organized church does get in the way but those people there yesterday only know their way and i imagine are longing to find their people too—the tweens, I mean. love you Rhea. Genie

  2. Sweet reece, i am so grateful to read your writings….to know you better, and to just plain be entertained. it is a joy. The verse they had you recite is one of my absolute favorites-in both recitation and song. i love that as i read your blog, i am sitting above you and watching the whole event unfold. it is marvelous fun, and deeply moving. i love you

  3. we went to church yesterday for the first time in i don’t know how many years, partly because you guys reminded us that there are normal people out there who go to church. but this is a hard thing to come back to, after abandoning organized religion for all the right reasons. that there might be reasons for not abandoning it is definitely counter intuitive at this point. your post is really resonating with me. i love your blog! its a good companion to me now, when i’m beginning to dip my toes back into the waters.

    • I LOVE that we were a reminder that “there are normal people out there who go to church.” YES! I totally understand that sentiment and why that is so easy to forget, especially when the churches making headlines these days are the crazies, for sure. I’d love to hear more about your spiritual journey — maybe at Crab Fest? Thank you so much for your kind feedback, so glad you’re loving the blog!

  4. so glad to hear you are embracing the episcopal church. I really find it to be a place of deep thoughtful tradition and living breathing spirituality… It is full of amazing people- my dear friend calls it the island of misfit toys- of many generations, and that whole list of kinds of humans that people like to say when they feel the need to be overly inclusive.

    I am constantly learning and experiencing its depth of teaching and traditions of liturgy and worship- undoing the hideousness self centered nature american evangelical “piety.” It is sweet to read about your journey along the way!

  5. I’m so glad I get to reconnect with you via this blog. I’ve known you for 20 years but just now feel like I’m beginning to know you. I appreciate your vulnerability shown with every post. You are far more mature and courageous than you give yourself credit for.

    • 20 years! Wow. Your feedback means so much to me. Thank you so much for your kindness. It is fun to share this journey with you, now that we are all grown up, with kids of our own.

  6. Pingback: My Blogiversary: One Year of Thirty Threadbare Mercies! « thirty threadbare mercies

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