Who we are

Right, here is a little verbatim to get you thinking.

The scene is a concert given by a famous jazz musician a few weeks ago in an American cathedral. I’ve been nudged to the front to sit with the bigwigs. As we sit waiting for the music, I hear this conversation going on somewhere behind me.

Person 1: Wow, isn’t this space amazing. I never knew it was so beautiful.

Person 2: I know, I’ve never been in here before either.

Person 1: What is it anyway? What kind of church?

Person 2: It is the Episcopals

Person 1: Well, it is really special, the building and all. Which ones are the Episcopals again? Are they the ones that have divorce?

Person 2: Yes, they do. And women priests. They’ve got one here!

Person 1: Really? Wow! All this, and divorce and women priests. Maybe I should give them a try…

Now, how does that exchange make you feel? Does it lift the soul or not?  Can you flesh out your feelings with some further thoughts?

Guest Post: Why I am an Episcopalian – Christine McIntosh

In this Guest Post, Christine McIntosh reflects on why she is an Episcopalian. Chris lives in Dunoon, doon the watter from Glasgow and blogs at www.blethers.blogspot.com

“Oh, so you’ve said goodbye to reason, then?” Maybe I had. At the age of 27 I had just informed my father that I was going to be confirmed in the Cathedral of The Isles – not, I add, because I thought my parents might want to be there, but to explain why I would not be celebrating my 28th birthday on the actual day. Nominally Presbyterian, but not having had any truck with church since the age of 10, I had encountered the beauty, the mystery and the music of the Piskie church on Cumbrae, where I had met the old Dean, George James Cosmo Douglas, while singing Evensong for a week with our quartet. When he died at the age of 84, we sang the Kontakion for the departed over his coffin – and that was it. I was clobbered. That’s what it felt like – an explosion of certainty, followed by consternation. Suddenly it was all true, this stuff I’d been singing and chanting, and I didn’t know what to do next. The only person I could discuss it with was dead. I was lost before I’d begun. (I ended up being prepared for confirmation by Iain MacKenzie, the Rector of Holy Trinity, Dunoon, and the rest is history – why else would I have moved there from Glasgow?)

Now, all that reflects the emotional state of someone who has just lost a friend for the first time – for friends are different from family. I was at my first funeral, ever. I was singing wonderful music in a state of emptiness, in a numinous place. I reckon God took a chance while the barricades were down. But the manner of my conversion gives the clue to why I’m a Pisky rather than anything else. In that early experience, back in the late 60s and early 70s, I found the mysterious element that still makes belief possible – the silence that allows the other to take over, the refusal to pin things down and thereby diminish them. That is why, for all the joy of an exuberant Cursillo service or the happiness children can bring to a church, I still need time to be silent, space to avoid distraction.

Music, then, and liturgy with all its poetic possibilities, and room for questioning and unknowing, and open-ness to change – these keep me the Piskie I became in 1973. And as my entire Piskie life has been lived in the Diocese of Argyll and The Isles, I’ll add one more thing. In Argyll, there is always a sense of life lived on the edge – the edge of Scotland, the edge of Europe, but also the edge of a precarious journey, a ridgewalk through faith with the winds of God blowing round my head. There is no room for complacency in the church I know and love. And that suits me just fine.