Witchcraft to Liturgy

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Sometimes our colossal screw ups can show us the direction we need to go, and that’s how it happened for me after messing around with witchcraft and paganism earlier this year. I really liked the structure and the rituals, it was exciting to light each candle in the correct order, each candle symbolizing something else. When I began exploring witchcraft, I had no desire to ditch Jesus and being able to do spells sounded cool but that really wasn’t what I was in it for. My spirit craved the beauty of the rituals.

As I started realizing that all that was amazing but wasn’t really what I was looking for, my counselor asked me to explore the idea of what it really was that I was craving if witchcraft was close in some aspects but didn’t really fulfill the need I felt inside of me. It was around this time that some things began to click and I decided to look into some older forms of Christianity. I’d always been taught to eschew anything that reeked of Catholicism, and there are a few major issues for me with Catholicism which is why ultimately I chose not to explore the Roman Catholic Church although I know and love several good people in that church and would still attend mass with them, it wouldn’t work as a permanent home for my faith.

However I was drawn to the ancient faith of the Roman Catholic Church, the liturgies, the Eucharist, but knowing that the social policies of the Roman Catholic Church were far too conservative for me. That led me to look for some of the same elements, the things that appealed to me such as the liturgy and Eucharist, and look elsewhere, which eventually lead me to the Episcopal Church. I researched for several months. My line of thinking was that maybe some of the older forms of Christianity were more likely to have some things right seeing as they were closer to the time of Christ in their beginnings than was modern fundamentalism and evangelicalism.

I’m learning that the aspects that drew me initially to witchcraft are right here in Christianity. The rich meanings, the symbols, the structure, the liturgy, the contemplative prayer. I can meditate and ground myself, both of which fall under contemplative prayer which I never really knew much about and still don’t but am beginning to explore. I’m learning that prayer is so much richer and deeper than I ever imagined, which means I might actually be able to pray again.

I screwed up, but that screw up is leading me home.

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.

Here’s my heart oh take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”

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In the Storm

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When tragedy struck, people surrounded me almost immediately, offering prayer, hugs, and their shoulders to cry on. They gave me advice to help me navigate my way through this horrible situation. People eventually got tired of my crises and moved on to other things, which is the nature of humanity. But when that happened, and I was left alone to process stuff all by myself, I lost my faith, and I’ve been trying to rebuild it ever since.

Loneliness enveloped me like a dark stormy night while I tried to dodge the thunder and the rain just for me to finally realize that I had to keep walking in the dark through this storm until it eventually passed. The storm has let up a little, but it’s still raining and I’m still having trouble seeing. I felt like God had abandoned me, and well there were several times I cursed God out in my anger and my frustration, many times I was on my face before God begging God to get me through this storm, and many more times that I wasn’t sure I even believed in God anymore.

There came a time when I could no longer hear the messages of the praise and worship songs, or the hymns or even the Sunday school choruses I had learned growing up. Bible verses that were supposed to comfort and encourage me didn’t fulfill that purpose. The prayers I were praying seemed dead before they even left my mouth. The Psalms that I was encouraged to read meant nothing. I told God this was all a huge crock of shit and I couldn’t do it anymore, and that if there was any way to salvage my faith now was the time because I was done with it.

I cried on Ash Wednesday because I craved the ashes, but wasn’t aware of any place where I could get them, because I didn’t belong to whatever church might be giving out ashes. I longed to go deeper with my faith knowing that if I didn’t, it would be too late and it would all be gone. That lead me to start searching for reasons why that meant so much to me, and I started exploring the liturgy, following along with the Lectionary, and following the Christian year. But even that wasn’t enough as I was craving Christian community to do this with. For a long time I ignored this, thinking I was crazy, but God has been insistent and eventually I got up and went for the first time this past Sunday. Like David Crowder sings: “my faith is dead, I need resurrection somehow”, and that’s what I’m trying to do as I explore the liturgy.

Beautiful Liturgy

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The service had already started when I quietly slipped through the door, trying to be undetected but not succeeding seeing as I evidently entered through the wrong door. So I quickly rushed into the back, worried that I wouldn’t belong here, and wondering if jeans were the wrong choice of things to wear. I found a spot in the back and looked around, taking in all the beauty of the stained glass windows, the lovely atmosphere pointing me to Christ and focusing on the Eucharist as the central part of the worship.

Even though I had done a lot of research, it couldn’t possibly prepare me for the actual experience, and it didn’t. They could tell I was a newbie because when people started surrounding me and shaking my hand saying “peace to you”, I froze, and then, realizing I should say something, came out with “hi” or “thanks”. I very obviously hadn’t done this before. I wish I had known because the peace is so beautiful. Imagine being upset with a brother or sister and then wishing them peace. Obviously the liturgy promotes unity.

Right before the communion the lady in front of me turned around and explained it to me. Knowing I wasn’t Episcopal, she still told me that I was welcome to the altar with the rest of them. If I was baptized (in any denomination by immersion or christening) I was welcome to receive communion, and if not I could still receive a blessing. But I hesitated, even though they clearly were welcoming me to the Eucharist, me, an outsider, someone they didn’t know but they could tell wasn’t Episcopal, so essentially telling me that I wasn’t an outsider and that they and God welcomed me at the altar.

And still I hesitated, although I wanted to join this community of Christians who were clearly trying to include me. Then the priest, knowing by what he could see that I evidently hadn’t done this before (the usher took me to communion and told me what to do when), served me communion. After the lovely service the priest came and introduced himself.

I had met this priest, once before, when I was acting in a manner that was not becoming of the Jesus that I claim. I was standing outside my ex-husband’s house one Sunday morning after church, cussing him out because he had told me to come by for some money for the kids and yet he was asleep and not answering the door. This priest came to this house to see one of the other people that lived there, and was met by me, a woman very obviously angry, and who had made him feel awkward. Instead of calling the church to apologize, I just never said anything, figuring he wouldn’t remember me anyway. I emailed him a month ago to ask about church, and to let him know I wanted to visit at some point and told him who I was. He was very gracious.

On Sunday, that priest welcomed a young woman who was very obviously an outsider, a young woman who had sinned directly in front of him, putting him in an awkward situation. That priest leaned down to that kneeling woman and broke bread, and served it to her. On All Saints Sunday, the Episcopal Church welcomed a stranger and showed love, and a jaded young woman saw Christ. This is what it is all about. I’ll be returning.