I was raised in the Presbyterian Church but made the choice in college to be confirmed in the Episcopal Church. I was an active Episcopalian for 40 years, singing in choirs, serving on vestries and altar guilds, making hospital visits, studying in the Education for Ministry program, tending the parish library. I was a member of a search committee to find a cathedral dean in Maine where I also chaired the Stewardship Committee. In short, I did more than just sit in the pew.
That changed when I moved to Texas in 2015 to live with my father. He was a life-long Presbyterian but was no longer happy with his church in Tyler or the time required to get in and out of town for church and events. After my mom died in 2014, he was ready for a change but didn’t make one until I got here. I never had a chance to try another church and was in fact invited to my first choir rehearsal at my current church even before the moving van arrived.
This current church is very different from my experience in the Episcopal Church. Although independent and non-denominational, it’s very heavily Baptist in almost every way. Southern Baptist services are much less formal than the liturgical, structured services I was used to for so many years in the Episcopal Church, and I’ve learned many hymns I’ve never heard before, with lots of singing about the blood of Jesus. Episcopalians sing a zillion verses of every hymn and blood isn’t usually included. Sermons now are more teaching and less scholarly and theological. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed being here. The people are friendly, the choir is tight-knit with a wonderful director, and I haven’t heard any heretical teachings.
But it’s not home. Added to that, my worship church is also my work church, and I’m at the building six days a week at 8:00 a.m. – or I was until Covid-19 came and everything closed down. In practical ways, though, I’ve used that time to think and pray about what I want and need, and watched live-streamed services from Episcopal churches in Tyler and Boston. The familiar liturgy of Morning Prayer and Holy Eucharist Rite II just settle my soul. I’ve been happier doing this from my living room than going to current worship church, which told me a lot.
So I’ve made the decision to separate Work Church and Worship Church. I need liturgical worship and I need to be able to worship without also being asked work questions or worrying that I hadn’t done something I was supposed to do with logistics. My pastor, who is also my boss, was very gracious and told me he was proud of me for knowing what I needed and taking steps to get it.
Finding a new church while they’re all returning to a new normal in a pandemic is a little weird. But I’m pretty sure I know which church will draw me and have worshiped there before now. It’s very contemporary in architecture, with words projected on walls instead of using prayerbooks and hymnals. And there isn’t a choir or even an organ, although there is definitely music. The liturgy is the same, though. And the people are friendly with a multi-ethnic and multi-generational congregation. I’m also impressed with how new Worship Church has managed plans and communications during Covid-shutdown time, which is when I really began looking there.
Baptist and Episcopal churches put their money in different places. Baptist churches, and my Work Church, strongly support evangelical missionaries around the world. Episcopal churches, at least the ones I’ve been associated with, focused more on social justice assistance and issues. Right now, especially, this feels where I am called to be.
I may not stay at new Worship Church forever, but making this change is something I need to do. Maybe when I leave the job at Work Church I will come back for worship. For now, I will have two churches for two purposes. God is present in both.