To spill a secret: my family goes back six generations in the Episcopal Church — and before that, to the Church of England. I don’t talk about it much; it sounds a bit elitist, but underneath, I’m proud of it. The church has been both a bridge and a beacon for me, one that both stretches back and shines forward.
There’s an old saying that goes, “Faith can’t be taught; it has to be caught.” I caught that faith when growing up; not because all was right with the world, but probably because things were wrong.
My mother struggled with cancer, my father with alcoholism. And our parish church, St. David’s in Minnetonka, Minnesota, was there for them in their stuggles: warm and welcoming, always providing a structure and a place of enduring hope. They had their church. They had their Prayer Books, handed down; they had their faith, passed on by previous generations.
We went to church every Sunday, even in difficult times. We went to bake sales and parish fairs and church was a fun and positive place, despite the craziness at home. I found I was not alone. I knew the presence of God; I knew the love of a parish family; I knew my way around the great stories of the Bible because someone had bothered to teach them to me.
There were “junior” choir rehearsals (not yet called “youth” choir). There was confirmation in the seventh grade (which worked out fine; I was glad it was then instead of later). There were potluck dinners and youth groups and retreats. There was a sense of normalcy.
Church was a place of strength and respite. It was a place where the larger questions about life and death and faith were answered. No one was perfect. But there was love: God’s love. I knew I belonged; I knew the ground on which I stood.
That love carried me through college and seminary and into parish life as a priest. I don’t expect the church to be perfect; it never is. But I do call it home, and love it dearly.
A priest of 26 years, the Reverend Lindsay Hardin Freeman lives and works in the Episcopal Church of Minnesota. She is the author of The Scarlet Cord: Conversations with God’s Chosen Women and the editor of Wisdom Found: Stories of Women Transfigured by Faith. For more info, seewww.scarletcordbook.com