I came to St. Oswald’s last year, having spent my life as a Christian in mostly Evangelical churches. The ways of the Scottish Episcopalian Church could not have been more opposite to what was familiar to me. There at the front of church, was a woman and she was the Priest in charge! …there was no loud worship band, no talking in tongues, no hands waving in the air. This is not a criticism of Evangelical worship, just a simple observation of the differences I encountered.
At first it was very strange, I was apprehensive in this strange new world. I had so many questions. Would I encounter the Holy Spirit? Would I feel part of a ‘family’? Would I feel at ‘home’? I knew I had to stay, but I didn’t know why. There was no doubt, that events leading up to visiting St. Oswald’s for the first time, were God inspired (a story for another time) and I clung onto this as I waited to hear what God was saying.
Almost 6 months later, I can look back and reflect on what has been a breathtaking journey. For the first time in over 20 years of knowing Christ I met God as my Father…Abba father. I encountered Jesus, who is teaching me daily to be a daughter of Christ. And the Holy Spirit? Well she has been busy – very, very busy. I have rediscovered the power of prayer, in everything. I have been on my knees and wept, I have felt a depth of Joy, previously unknown to me, I am learning to relate, to know what it is to be a member of a church family and to know who I am, to learn, perhaps for the first time, my identity in Christ.
I have my own family, I am part of a household. I am married to Stuart and have 2 children. I am blessed to still have both my parents, despite their mature years. I know what it’s like to be a wife, a mother, a daughter, to work hard and somehow manage a household and all that involves. Yet do I really? It is so very easy to become who we are labeled on earth – our professions, our jobs, our identity in our family and never really relate. Sure, as a family, as a household we have good times, we have bad, we have happy times and of course sad. We laugh, we cry, we fight, we get angry with one another – that is life. Should it be different for my church family? God is teaching me, through His Holy Spirit, that by growing in church family, He can teach so much, bless so abundantly my earthly family, my household. He wants me / us to have ‘the eyes to see’; ‘the ears to hear’, He wants to ‘renew our minds’ – and that is quite frankly amazing. When He does, when we allow Him to, then we truly understand ‘family’, then we really learn what it truly means to ‘relate’.
Day by day I am learning to see (really see) others as Christ would want me to. I see the rich talents people at St. Oswald’s have been blessed with. I see the rich talents my husband and my children have been blessed with. At the most unexpected moments – the most ordinary times, I am whacked by the Holy Spirit and tears leak out. Sitting with 4 other women at one of the Lenten reflections on an ordinary Monday evening, I paused and stilled my mind and almost wept at what God was doing. We were there, 5 very different women, sharing stories and a cup of tea, laughing, identifying with one another, loving each other, seeing each other as Christ would have it – and it was good – very good. What a blessing each are. How very grateful I am. Then taking that blessing home and with those who I know well, who have shared so much of me and with me and seeing them with the eyes of Christ in me.
As with all families, there is responsibility. For me this is true as a member of the children’s team and as part of the Vestry. As a very new member of the Vestry, I have a lot to learn, but God is guiding me, showing me what His Will is. Agreeing to become part of the Vestry was an important step, one that I didn’t take lightly, but I did take it ‘in faith’ – obeying Gods call. For me, being a vestry member is an expression of my relationship with God. It is about offering up the God given gifts I have, adding prayer, discernment and reflection. I have to be grounded in the Holy Spirit and explicitly seek God’s guidance in this new role. I have to work in partnership with all Vestry members, and of course Lesley –Anne, as Priest in Charge. I have to be ‘responsible to and accountable for’. But what a privilege to be part of this community – this family who get to intercede and hold up Lesley – Anne and Ashley and all members of St. Oswald’s. Who collectively seek to discern Gods will for St. Oswald’s. Who collectively seek how to serve and wash the feet of others.
As I grow in knowledge and faith, as part of the St. Oswald’s family, my newly found Abba Father is pouring out His blessing, not only on me, but also on my household. As I grow deeper in my identity as His daughter, I learn to relate to my church family and earthly family through new eyes, through new ears, through a deeper sense of His Holy Spirit. For this I am very grateful, to God, to Lesley-Anne and to each and every member of my new family at St. Oswald’s. Thank you all.