Choosing to Stay

I met God on the flat prairie of central Saskatchewan. As a teenager, I would ride my bike from my parent’s farm to the top of the nearest “hill” at sunset and view three hundred and sixty unbroken degrees of prairie landscape. My instinctive response was an awareness of God in this beautiful world – God’s world.

When I was a teenager, I joined the United Church in our town and sang in the choir. I remained with the United Church until my early thirties, strongly influenced by its emphasis on social justice and the church’s place in the world. I would later return to the United Church.

However, during a time when I experienced the combined hardships of divorce, illness, and single parenthood, I turned to the Salvation Army for support. As a soldier of the Army, I was led to Bible study and more active prayer life. These are practices I continue to this day.  I will always be grateful to the Army for these spiritual gifts and for the many ways they supported my children and me. That said, I became aware that I was not in agreement with parts of the Army’s theology.

My children and I moved to Winnipeg and, following this move, I returned to the United Church. There, I was blessed with the musical direction of Lottie Enns Braun, and through her, to the rich musical community of this city. Worshipping through choral music became a major part of my spiritual life.

Unfortunately, our church closed, resulting in the loss of a worship experience with which I had become familiar and loss of contact with people who had become important friends.
It was because of the decision of two of these friends to worship at St. Peter’s Anglican Church that I also began to attend this parish. Attending St. Peter’s allowed me to retain my contact with these friends, and once again worship as a choir member.

In retrospect, I see my decision to attend St. Peter’s as a life-changing event in my spiritual journey.
I had always struggled with the concept or reality of Jesus. However, my participation in the Anglican tradition of celebrating a weekly Eucharist encouraged me to face this question and wrestle with my own understanding of Jesus as God’s son.

There were two significant developments that helped me with this. One was the decision of the rector at that time to conduct a confirmation class for adults. This provided a door to learning about the theology of the Anglican Church and the way the church understands and worships the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These classes revealed what I would later come to understand as the underpinnings of Anglican theology – scripture, tradition, and intellect. My brain and my heart both had a place in this theology.

The second development was becoming a member of our parish’s Worship Planning Team. Under the leadership of our rector but also with a membership of retired clergy and other laypersons, I came to realize the role and development of liturgy in worship. As we planned for each season of services, I learned how the thoughtful integration of prayer, scripture, and music led to a worship experience that was a “continuous prayer” reflecting the story of God in the scriptures, the fulfillment of God’s plan through the coming of Jesus and the opportunity for us to hear, praise, repent and rejoice in a celebration of God’s love.

There are important ways the Anglican Church has allowed me to continue my desire to be a part of the church in the world. Concerns for social issues such as poverty and injustice that I brought from the United Church are addressed through the work of our Outreach Ministry Team and especially its support of St. Matthews-Maryland Community Ministry. Recently, diocesan leadership has required we learn more about our responsibility in reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. This directive has added another dimension to my understanding of the role the church must play in addressing the world beyond our doors. Our parish’s desire to support creation care brings me back to my original ties to the land and the natural world of my childhood.

In recent years, our parish explored the idea of spiritual gifts and the discernment of these gifts in ourselves and others. This has resulted in many of us discovering gifts that we were not aware we had and then being given an opportunity to express these gifts not only through the act of worship but in serving the community beyond our building. This has been an exciting chapter in my spiritual growth and continues to be a source of joy and spiritual confirmation.

Then came the test. During Holy Week in 2020, our church, like all others, closed its doors due to the COVID 19 pandemic. However, despite the pandemic, the church remained “open”. With remarkable leadership, our clergy, musical director, and lay leaders planned a Good Friday service on Zoom. To add to the miracle, most of our congregation learned how to access the service on Zoom.  What followed has been a reminder that the church is not a building but the people of God. Not only have we been able to continue a participatory worship experience with clergy, lay leaders, and our versatile music director in the following months, but we have chosen as a community to come early to chat and catch up on each other’s lives.

Through this practice, we have celebrated the birth of grandchildren, supported each other in mourning, and continued praying for each other’s needs. The sad part of this story is that not every member of our parish has been able to join us on Zoom. To partially address this issue, members of the Caring Ministry Committee made a commitment that every member of the parish would be contacted at least once a month until we could return to communal worship. We continue to be a strong community supported with an awareness that God’s love is with us regardless of the way we come together in God’s name.

The kid on the bike on the prairies has been led a long way in her growing awareness of and relationship with God. The Anglican Church, as she experiences it in her parish, has played a pivotal role in her journey towards realizing her call to serve God’s kingdom on earth. She’s going to stay.

Lynda Wolf is a retired occupational therapist. Her clinical and research activities were focused on promoting communication strategies for persons with severe dementia and their caregivers. In recent years, she has been studying Old Testament Scripture with her mentor, Dr. Lissa Wray Beal. One of her COVID projects has been to design and paint greeting cards to share with members of her parish.

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