First and foremost here is a more logistical update:
I will be departing for Liverpool around September 10th-12th. Once I am there I will be working with the Diocese, Cathedral, and St. Luke’s Church with a focus on social justice, church in an urban context, leading small groups, families and children in a parish, and fundraising. These updates are so exciting and as my departure date gets closer and closer the reality of the amazing work I will be doing sinks in even more.
On a totally different note, I have been trying to figure out what to say for my next blog post. I’ve worked on one for a while but it still doesn’t feel quite ready. So while that post simmers on the back burner I’ll turn to something else that I think plays an important part in my decision to go on this journey.
Our personal history does not define us but it it does have a lasting effect. Middle school religion class is not something that most people might identify as a game changer.
In my case it was. As a child I was always religious and like a good Cradle Episcopalian had Rite II just about memorized and knew my bible stories. Then came 6th grade religion class at the Episcopal School of Knoxville. After getting over the initial period of shock and horror that was a man twice my height with a booming voice and what us 11 year olds thought were unreasonable expectations, I realized that I was interested in the subject matter.
*also, he was a coach for the school soccer team, so it was a double whammy!
Religion class was only once a week and there were times when I was doing my homework in the class before but once the teacher started to talk about the subject matter I was hooked. I would have the same teacher all three years of middle school and boy was that a blessing. We went from Judaism and Christianity in 6th grade, to World Religions in 7th, and then in 8th grade our teacher handed the reigns over to us and we, a gaggle of 13 and 14 years olds, discussed what was going on in the world and how it was connected to the religions we had previously studied. We were able to figure out how they all are connected and form informed opinions about what had happened in the big bad adult world three days before. We were encouraged to be strong in what we believed and to recognize when we were wrong.
Of course, like any teenager, I took all of this for granted and thought that this was how all adults functioned. My world was rattled when I went to Catholic school for high school. It took some time for me to adjust my view of religion class. I had to start looking at it as an academic study of the Catholic faith and not a commentary on what I had been taught for the previous three years. I am thankful that I have an understanding of Catholicism because it has helped to form my understanding of those around me and ask questions about my own tradition and faith.
I was blessed enough to get to spend part of yesterday with that awesome middle school teacher. Now, he is a priest on Lookout Mountain, is still taller than me and I call him Mac instead of Mr. Brown. We see each other every once in awhile and everytime it is a blessing. Now, 8 years after our last class he still inspires and pushes me to ask questions and then find the answers.
So how does this all connect back to me spending a year away as a missionary in a foreign country? Well, it was these religion classes that made me realize how much I wanted to learn about not just my faith, but the faith of others. My time in Catholic school and later as an “adult” showed me how important it was that I had studied beyond my own religion. Understanding allows for discussion, which opens the door to communion. This reach towards communion is something, that I think, fuels me. I want to go and love and serve and be with others because it’s what I have decided is right for me. I studied, then I thought, then I prayed, then I talked, and prayed again, until I realized that this was my call and I am ready to answer it.
So, Mr. Brown, in case you wondered, we did listen in class all those years ago. We listened while you taught and then we grew, because you gave us the chance to do more than simply spew answers back onto a piece of paper; all while only having us for one hour a week. So, on the chance that I never actually said the words, Thank You.
I think I’ve covered what I want to say, that other post is still simmering and hopefully I will get it out soon. Please, sign up to receive updates whenever I post a new blog and continue to keep me in your prayers!