I went to The Magnetic Church Conference because when I first read about it in our diocesan communication, it struck me as interesting, something important. Our priests were willing to send me, and I ended up making the solo trip, the alone time not unwelcome.
The conference is about evangelism. I’m Episcopalian. The two E-words usually do not go together in casual conversation, not without a shudder, anyway. The Episcopal Church is about welcoming, but we’re not so much into going out and collecting. Apparently, we’re not great fishers.
But this is what the conference told us. Re-think the way we view evangelism. It’s not some salesman on t.v. with a bad comb-over, promising everything your heart desires if only you choose to live his path . . . and send him money. For Christianity, our evangelism is in loving one another, “inviting people along the path and sharing the feast.” It is best exemplified in radical hospitality and compassion. And we went on to spend many hours talking about how a church might do this. There were many laughs at our own and at our Church’s expense.
My personal test, however, lies within the principle of “inviting” others along the path. I have an “all paths lead to God” kind of mentality, spirituality, whatever you want to call it. What our speaker called “ecumenical mush” with apparent distaste, I don’t so much have a problem with. Some people need more tradition than others, more frame work to make sense of the great Mystery. I like the traditions, the liturgy, but I don’t have to have them. It’s like having a beautifully illustrated book. One doesn’t have to have the pictures. Indeed, we don’t have to have a book at all.* The Mystery exists whether we name it or not. But it helps us, we mere humans, to work at this Mystery, to share what we have discovered on our way. Each of us — whether unchurched, lay, or ordained — has insights to the Truth of the Mystery. Our lives are enriched in the sharing of these Truths. Of course, we are human in our own right. We only have one perspective in any given lifetime, and our understanding is thus limited.
My test? Keeping my focus on what I feel is True. I have to keep in mind that my view of God through the colored glass is different from others’, whether they be across the street or on the other side of the world. My evangelism isn’t so much limited to the Episcopal religion as it is to the experience of the Divine. I choose the Anglican Church as home for my spirit because it feeds me deeply and encourages my walk in faith, constantly providing nourishment for my journey. But daily life is the test. How do I embody Christ’s love to others. How do I embody God to others? How do I embody Spirit to others? Is this not the cross that Christians bear?
Our free will tells us that we choose how we live our lives. Sometimes, though, I feel more chosen than the chooser. Truly, I don’t have to take up the cross. For me, though, that’s like not smiling at a stranger, not comforting the crying child, not loving those in pain. When you have a gift, it’s best enjoyed when shared.
Perhaps one of my greatest gifts is Love, and I choose to share that with you, no matter what you call it or how you experience it. You choose whether or not to receive, but that doesn’t change the presence of the Love that is there, patient, kind, and never-ending.
*I’m not saying we don’t have to have the Bible. I am saying that Christ lived and practiced what we call “Christianity” without a name, without a Bible.