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  • Writer's pictureEmily Echols

Not-So-Secret Episcopalians

Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

We’re Episcopalians. Whoa. It feels good to say that. We were secretly, even to us, Episcopalians for many years. When we first got married and were both pastors at different churches, we attended a mid-week Eucharist service at a local Episcopal church so we could worship together. In Washington, we realized it had been months since we’d received communion, so we went to an Episcopal church that Sunday. Eventually we decided to go where we felt nourished every week. If communion was that important to us, why weren’t we going somewhere we could receive it every week?

We started going to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. Washington was hard for us. There were some great things about Washington. When it wasn’t drizzling the weather was glorious. When the mountain was out, it looked like a postcard. The hiking was great. I spent six days a week at the Lakewood YMCA and I loved St. Mary’s in a way beyond words. But that’s about it. Most everything else was really, really hard.

In the midst of that hard, lonely season, we found St. Mary’s and decided to stop flirting with the Episcopal Church and just become Episcopalians. This is all a little more complicated because Steve is an Army chaplain. He needed to be confirmed as an Episcopalian. Then he had to work with a formator for his Episcopal formation. Then he got ordained as a deacon and changed endorsers. In about six months, he’ll be ordained an Episcopal priest.

We were confirmed as Episcopalians December 2017 with a large group of teenagers and a few other adults. The bishop put his hand on my head and said, “Strengthen, O Lord, your servant Emily, with your Holy Spirit; empower her for your service and sustain her all the days of her life. Amen.” Then the entire congregation stood in silence for what felt like forever while the bishop kept his hand heavy on my head. The curate at St. Mary’s had recently changed his ordination to the Episcopal church and he told me that he’d felt different after confirmation, like he could feel the Holy Spirit’s presence, recognize it better. In that long, still, silence, I felt it, too. We’ve been keeping this a secret since before our confirmation because of the sensitive nature and timing of changing endorsers and ordination. It feels so good to tell people.

We’re Episcopalian. And I’m sure people want to know why. Is it because of General Conference? Well, yes but we were already in the process of leaving before that. It’s a lot of reasons. One is that Steve will be able to fully serve all of his soldiers now. For me, the biggest reason is worship. In seminary, I became convinced that the central act of worship was communion and I knew I needed it every week. Episcopal worship makes it easy for me to meet God there. I am falling in love with the prayer book. It knows all the things I meant to say in my heart but didn’t have the words to say. It has all the prayers I forgot.

It’s wonderful to be so excited about faith again. There was some excitement in seminary. I did learn a lot, but it was eclipsed by dread. It was hard to get too excited about something that was maybe killing me.

I feel like the Episcopal Church is helping put me back together again. Oh, you thought I did that after I left the ordination process? Not by half. My soul was shattered and scattered to the four winds. I purposely distanced myself from the church, not wanting to give too much of myself, not wanting to be too open to God. There was a limit to what I was willing to offer to God. I wasn’t going through all that again. So I closed parts of myself off.

But you know what? That’s no way to live. I’m already doing things I never thought I would do. Who am I to tell God where I should be serving or what I should be giving?

The Episcopal Church is helping to heal the hole I carried around inside my chest for, I don’t know, twenty years. To be clear, the hole wasn’t the United Methodist Church’s fault. But the Episcopal Church is giving me new tools, new words, new practices, new ways of thinking that keep the wind from whistling through the hole in my chest.

We’re just publicly admitting where we’ve been for quite a while now. So far, the Episcopal Church is a really good place to be.

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