You know that moment where you look inside your own head and wonder “when the *%@# did that happen?” Well, I’ve been having one of those ever since I asked Rev. Winnie at St Mark’s if I could be confirmed this academic year.
I’m just going to warn you now, this post is going to be LONG.
I’m getting confirmed in the spring. I know a lot of people go through confirmation a lot younger than 20, but my parents left confirmation up to me. It is my decision. My commitment. So I left it for a while. Then I kind of got wrapped up in university and enjoying my last three years of being a teenager. It wasn’t something I thought of much.
Faith is… difficult, for me. I’ve grown up in it. It is a huge part of my life. However, for a lot of my life I have been too deep on the inside to be able to keep faith, and the inner workings of a parish, or the church at large separate. The only time in my life when I actual gave something up to God was when I finally admitted to wanting the prayers of my community the day before I went in for major surgery. This admission came WHILE the entire community had their hands on me, giving me their strength. I’d agreed to the prayers, the laying on of hands, because my parents were terrified and I wanted to give them that reassurance. Then I stood in front of the altar, and felt hands on my shoulders and people holding my hand and I just stood there and tried not to cry. I kept my eyes closed, but apparently the people who couldn’t reach me put their hands on the ones who could, and so on until the entire parish was connected to me. I couldn’t see it, all I knew was that I had never felt so supported. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life.
Then I had my surgery, spent a week in a morphine haze, started grade 11, and went back to keeping my personal life and my life at church separate. It was habit. Religion wasn’t a big topic at school, and priests’ children were expected to be perfect, quiet, bible thumping extremists, so I kept quiet.
Do I feel a bit like I’m shoving my faith at you right now? Kind of. This isn’t normal for me.
This summer I spent six weeks traveling by myself, dealing with emotional backlash from being alone in foreign countries, and all the horrific teenager things that I had refused to deal with and suddenly couldn’t run away (have you noticed that? When you’re by yourself, you actually have to deal with YOURSELF). Where does an emotional Sophia go? To a church. To sit in a pew and mutter a prayer that more resembles the format of one of these blogs in the meandering thoughts and random comments than anything out of the Anglican Book of Prayer. But that’s where I went. In every country. Churches were where I was safe.
Then I got back to Victoria, where my personal and spiritual life are separated by a big thick line… mostly. My friends know I’m religious. They don’t question it. They also don’t ask me about it. It’s just a thing that goes in the file. Sophia’s 20, vegetarian, Christian, and dyes her hair regularly.
Then I went to the Sorrento Centre which was full of people fully immersed in Christianity who were very pro-church. It was weird for me. Have you met my generation? The upper middle-class academics of my generation? You may have noticed a severe trend of dissing organized religion. I get it. I REALLY do. I just happen to have gotten lucky and found two parishes that I actually feel safe in, and now that I’m older, I have felt safe enough to actually explore my own spirituality. The point is – talking about church? Not a part of my daily life.
I spend a week there. I actually engage in spiritual projects and thought and meditation and by the end of it my personal life and my religious life weren’t seeming so separate.
While I was at this retreat, the masterful speaker The Rev. Dr. Herb O’Driscoll talked about how the church is changing. He talked about how the church is ALWAYS changing. That was a fun thing to think about. So many people are up in arms about how the old ways are being lost and the younger generations will lose faith entirely. Well, when you think about it, every single generation has changed how the world perceives religion in some way. How faith is practiced is always changing. O’Driscoll pointed out four things that remained the same throughout these changes. Only four things.
And the Story.
I was thinking about this a few days ago. I had just talked to Rev. Winnie about getting confirmed in my NYC church. I was feeling empowered. New apartment. Final year of university. Confirmation of my commitment to live my life in Christ.
The absolute terrifying enormity of the myriad of things that can go wrong in my life at any point.
My internet may have also died on me. I was looking for something to do. So I started writing. Then I rewrote. And rewrote. Then I sent the resulting poem to my mother, who liked it and got my permission to send it to a parishoner who write faith poetry. Apparently they liked it.
I have never written something like this.
Cue the opening sentence of this post. I’m looking at what I’ve written and I’m thinking: When did I become this person? When did I become the person who talks about their faith and doesn’t feel ashamed of the lack of scientific fact? When did God become an entity greater than a tool held in my back pocket for when things got bad?
When did I admit that I do not have complete control over my life? I am very good at convincing myself that I am fine without any help whatsoever.
When did this happen? When did lack of control stop being so terrifying?
The poem below is the result of these thoughts.
Between definitions and understanding
Through history and future plans
All bundled up in today.
I am grasping with all my strength
My ancestors are distant memories;
Their traditions lost to passing days,
But we are fed the same,
By bread and wine
Body and blood.
In a vast highland field
In a smoke choked city,
In a bare walled apartment,
We are fed.
Fed through a ritual
As the Lord has taught us,
To be passed down mother to child
Neighbor, to passersby.
Wherever we break the bread;
We find lineage
Footsteps are washed away by varied evening tides.
Pushing and pulling at regrets,
Till I am forced to let them go,
And hold on tighter to the straw.
Dirtied hands are washed clean
By the water
Connecting every coast
Stone connected to stone
By the simple flow of current.
I am here
You are there.
Never truly alone;
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
In bread and wine and water,
In the story.
The story carries me.
I adjust to each new step,
Drawn on by the rhythms
Of the story told year by year.
From hushed catacombs
It’s beats lead to Grand Cathedrals
Vast halls to be ravaged, pillaged by change
Only to be returned to golden glory,
With new regimes.
Year by year the cadence changes.
Location, race, all change as the story is told
Again and again.
I hear it through ears filled
By all that my age entails.
I hear it told in my language.
The story carries on,
From age to age.
Always, more time to listen.
I am grasping at straws.
Straws we have sewn together
To be bent into a crosses on a Sunday
Their ashes spread on a Wednesday.
Year to year.
Forever and ever,