It began early one spring morning. In the dawn of the day we pushed and shoved and crammed crosses, torches, banners and vestments into our priest’s little station wagon. Three sleepy hours later we arrived at a busy, bustling monstrosity of a building. There were other cars all around us, packed with the same religious gear and young people.
My mood quickly shifted from early morning crankiness to awe and wonder as I realized that this towering building was the Cathedral and this hoard of kids were the other young Episcopalians I had heard so much about. This was my first Acolyte Festival. This was my first experience of the larger Church.
Two year laters, I loaded up in that same small station wagon with that same priest who took me on my first trip to camp. A place and experience that transformed me in so many ways, not the least of which was my newfound connectedness to the larger Church.
A decade later, I found myself crossing the country in a rail car filled with young people and their adult sponsors from all over the west coast. The destination? The first gathering of the Episcopal Youth Event (EYE). In one week, my sense of the depth and breadth of the Episcopal Church grew exponentially. Dioceses, Provinces and now young people not only from the United States, but also from other countries!
Over thirty years later, I find myself again this week surrounded by young people and their adult sponsors from across ECMN and from across the Episcopal Church, all gathered for EYE. I have been blessed between these two EYE’s to have attended this triennial gathering multiple times, and there have been countless other occasions where I have been able to gather in community with Episcopalians from all walks of life. Provincial Synods, General Conventions, Church Pension Group and so many others where I have had the privilege of experiencing how incredible the Episcopal Church is.
Paul writes to the faith community in Corinth saying, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” Living in community with Episcopalians from across a diocese, a province, the larger Church has helped me have a deeper understanding of Paul’s words, “the body is one and has many members.” It has also deepened my understanding of what it means to be Episcopalian and Anglican. We are all a part of a faith community with its particular culture and context. Yet, as importantly, we are all a part of a globe-spanning denomination that encompasses an incredibly wide array of cultures and contexts. And in the end, what is most important is knowing that we are blessed to be one body with many members.