Monday, November 2, 2015
Stewardship Witness: the whole family
Like many of you, I was raised Roman Catholic and have only recently come to call myself an Episcopalian. I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky far away from any extended family and over time many members of my home church became my family. They taught me Christian values such as kindness, charity, and humility through their actions and I grew to love them as my own flesh and blood. But as I grew older and began to learn more about the doctrines and teachings of the greater church community, I started to feel conflicted. I felt that I was often told what to believe, but very rarely was I told why and when I asked questions, the answers were never very satisfying. I worked hard at first to compartmentalize my faith and my social justice concerns, convincing myself that I could believe in God and the message of Jesus Christ without adhering to the dogma of Roman Catholicism. But remaining silent was often not an option for me.
I remember the moment that I decided to leave the Catholic Church very vividly. It’s going to sound incredibly silly and childish at first, but hear me out. I was in Sunday school in 8th grade, preparing for Confirmation when the topic of heaven came up. I can’t remember who started the argument or exactly what was said, but I remember the class ending with the director of the Sunday school program and I fighting, voices raised, over whether or not chickens had souls. He had told me that because chickens, and in fact all animals, did not have souls they could not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven and therefore my cat, Elvis, would not be there to greet me at the pearly gates. I found this to be profoundly unfair and frankly absurd, because really what is the point of getting into heaven if you can’t even bring your pets with you? Keep your white robes and harps, I want my cat!
So last year when I met Bishop Mathes for the first time in one of the Wednesday night Episcopal Way classes, I was a little anxious. St. Paul’s had been a warm and welcoming home to me and I was ready to commit myself to finally being confirmed as an Episcopalian, but I still had one burning question that had to be answered. And so, at the very end of the class, I asked. “Do animals have souls?” The bishop pulled out his phone, walked over to me and showed me the lock screen on his phone: a picture of his black Labrador. And he asked me with a smile “What do you think?”
Last year’s Living Water campaign was the first time I made any substantial contribution to a church. I did it because this congregation has become my family and it has been a wonderful place to grow and learn. My contribution is a way to say thank you to all of you for your love and support, as well as a way to make sure there are opportunities here for the next new person to walk through those doors. Thank you.