This week I read two different reflections by well-known former pastors, both of whom reminded me of my love of Christianity as it is experienced in the Anglican tradition. One of them, Rob Bell, sparked lots of controversy in the Evangelical world with the 2011 publication of his book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (HarperOne). He was asked in a recent interview what he would do if asked to start a new congregation now, and his answer was both surprising and, at least for me, wonderfully hopeful:
I would have Eucharist a lot. And I would make it really clear to everybody that the Eucharist is our only hope. Because otherwise, there’s a thousand forces – the entropy is overwhelming…preferences and particularities…there are a thousand ways for a church to go in all these different directions – you end up just barely being able to hold it all together. But if you have the bread and the wine, and on a really regular basis, you put the bread and wine on the table, and you say, “Okay everybody – here you go: Body broken, blood poured out…
The very next morning I stumbled onto “A Baptism of Tears” by a blogger named “Pilgrim,” who is none other than Gordon Atkinson. He’s probably known more to my colleagues in the ordained ministry than to members of my congregation, but I hope that everyone will take a couple of minutes to read the rest of his story about rediscovering or reaffirming his own identity as “a believer and a disciple of Jesus Christ” after walking with his wife into an Episcopal church:
When I began blogging as Pilgrim, I shared with you that after I left the pastorate, I had a hard time feeling engaged with worship on Sunday mornings. I maintained a cerebral connection to Christianity, but I was emotionally numb. Nothing moved me. I wondered if this detachment might be a kind of penance that I had to pay for all the years I spent planning worship and, consequently, not really worshipping myself.
That hard and dry season has now passed. I feel myself opening once again to the joy and wonder of our faith. A good thing has happened to me, and I want to tell you about it.
Here are a couple of details that you should know about me: First, I was a Baptist minister, so I was part of the family of faith known as evangelicals. Second, I left my congregation in February of 2010. My family and I started attending churches all over our city. We went to many kinds of churches from various Christian traditions.
And I felt dead inside every Sunday.
For two years. . . .