It has been a year since I told you I was going to share about my experiences with the Anglican church vs. my Presbyterian background. I would apologize for taking so long to actually write about these things, but I think this passing of time has allowed me to gain perspective so that I can tell the stories with light-hearted humor instead of homesick disdain.
We have been attending this church for over two years now and the first 15 months were filled with loneliness, insecurity, and blunder after blunder. I grew up as the preacher’s daughter, knowing everyone, going to church, finding my seat and staying in it. . . quietly. Everything during the service was done in the foot of space my body took up on the pew. In this new environment I knew no one and was basically doing squats for an hour and a half each Sunday, what with all the standing and sitting and being forced to worship AMONGST/WITH strangers. If you talked with me during those 15 months, the ONLY nice thing I ever said was that the teaching was very good and theologically sound.
It may sound silly, but going into this different denomination was as dramatic for me as going to church in a foreign land. For the first time I was introduced to the liturgical calendar which meant that for a solid year I never knew what to expect at church. Just when I got the hang of something it seemed we changed “seasons”; the learning curve was sharp. My brain was in constant translation mode – folks were talking about familiar concepts but using strange words (Vestry = Session [sort of, but not really, but sort of]; Eucharist = Communion;)
Let’s just talk a minute about Communion; at our little Anglican church it is VERY different from anything I have experienced before. We come to the table every week and it looks a little something like this: the priest tells us that it is not an Anglican table only but the table of the Lord; all who have been baptized and long to follow Christ are welcome. We dismiss row by row and form one line down the center aisle. You get bread from the priest in the middle and then you can sip from a cup filled with wine on either side or dip your bread into the cup of non-alcoholic wine. If what the priest mentioned doesn’t describe you, you may still come forward and just cross your arms over your chest so that he knows to pray a blessing over you instead of giving you bread. It sounds straight forward but was VERY problematic for me until VERY recently.
The thing is, you have to walk up and stand a foot from the priest and look him in the face as he breaks off bread and puts it in your hand saying, “Christ’s body, broken for you.” And he often says your name too. It is very personal and this southern girl always feels like she needs to say something in response. “Thank you,” perhaps?
Early in our time at this church, one of the ladies, Fawn, a deaconess, took me for coffee and asked how I was adjusting. I shared with her about not knowing what to say and she giggled and suggested that many say, “Amen.” So the next week I had a new problem. I went up for communion and there was Fawn standing behind the Priest – watching me. Our eyes locked and she started smiling and I didn’t know what to do. I choked on my bread. . . and excused myself.
Then there was the Sunday I winked at a Priest. A young man at the church was studying for ordination and finally passed his exams. This one Sunday was his first to administer communion and, sweet friendly gal that I am, when I went up to the table I wanted to encourage Dan – let him know he was doing a good job. How did I choose to show that support? I winked. His eyes bugged out. And then I just died. I considered never taking communion again – the pressure was just too great.
What has happened since? I have landed on the “hick-nod” as my go-to when partaking in communion. You know, just the slight tilt of the head acknowledging that I heard the man but not necessitating a verbal response.
I must admit that I am still mostly distracted during communion. It is hard for me to pray and be contemplative when I am herding cats (my three kiddos) toward the front of the sanctuary. I will also admit that I now treasure walking up in the midst of our (now) church family to “do this in remembrance,” and in the midst of the Kicklighter family confusion and my sin have our pastor look me in the eye and say “broken FOR YOU.” So personal. So powerful.
Will I attend an Anglican church forever? I’m mature enough now to let that question hang and not pretend to know the answer. But I am finally okay with going to one now. . . and I no longer think my daddy would “roll over in his grave” at the thought. I think if I told him what I’ve just told you his first response would be to ask if the priest winked back!