Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Blessed Easter

Christ Church Cathedral

I went to Church this morning and the earth didn’t swallow me or the roof didn’t fall in. I do not regularly attend church and have not done so in some years. This being Easter I wanted to attend. Without young children to hide Easter eggs for if you don’t go to church, Easter is just another day. For the last few years on those rare occasions when I do go to church, I attend Christ Church Cathedral, an Episcopal church in downtown Nashville.

My spiritual journey has been all over the map. I was raised in a small country Baptist church where the minister and church leaders were uneducated if not ignorant men. I was taught a very legalistic, literal, fundamentalist brand of Christianity. The King James Bible was the only acceptable version, alcoholic beverages were absolutely forbidden, the earth was only six thousand years old, and evolution was an evil theory.

My father was a gospel singer and I often had the opportunity to travel with him. His ministry was non-denominational and I was also exposed to a lot of charismatic and Pentecostal churches in addition to Baptist. In our home, we had regular prayer and Bible reading. Despite being immersed in religion, I started doubting my faith about the time I turned 16 or so.

As a young adult, while in Vietnam and especially afterward while in Thailand, I was exposed to Buddhism and began studying Buddhism and began to doubt that Christianity had the exclusive claim to the truth. I never became a Buddhist but admired and respected the religion. I simply could not believe that all of those kind devout Buddhist I came to know in Thailand were destined to hell.

For a few short years I considered myself agnostic. For a very short period of time, actually only a few months, I called myself an atheist. This was about the same period in which I also called myself a libertarian.

Later, after getting married I drifted back into church and for about eight years or more became quite religious. I attended, in succession, two charismatic, modern, non-denominational, Pentecostal-type churches. I still had my doubts, but simply chose not to try to reconcile my doubts. I lived by faith and ignored reason. These churches believed in the “gifts of the spirit” and I experienced religious joy which some might dismiss as mere emotionalism.

When my marriage ended, I found it difficult to live a life that conformed to what I thought was an acceptable standard of moral purity. As a single guy with a sex drive I got tired of going to church and feeling guilty, so I again found myself unchurched.

If I had to describe my religious faith now, I would say that I am simply secular. I would not call myself an atheist or even an agnostic. I don’t reject that part of my culture and heritage. I don’t object to displays of religious faith. I am not angry with God. I like the ceremonial aspect of religion. I like the religious component of Christmas even if I do think it is myth. I like public prayer at important occasions. I think it adds a solemnity and seriousness to the occasion. I don’t mind if someone wants to start a meeting with prayer or have prayer prior to a meal. I am respectful of the faith of other and not offended by expression of religious faith. If I am experiencing some struggle or hardship and someone says they will pray for me, I appreciate it. I myself just ignore religion and don’t think about it very much. I would say that I am a generic liberal Christian who simply chooses, for the most part, to ignore religion.

When I do attend Christ Church, I really enjoy it. I love the incense, the beautiful pipe organ, the robes, the choir, the special music, the responsive reading, the kneeling and standing, the ceremony, and the structure and formality. I like it that no one tries to convert me. Most of all, I love the beautiful building. Christ Church is, I think, my favorite building in all of Nashville. I feel like I am in the presence of God just walking in the door. The beauty of the building ministers to my soul and makes me feel blessed and awed.

The building build in 1894 is built of sandstone and is of gothic design. It has gargoyles and beautiful stained glass windows. Inside there is a rich dark wood ceiling and ornamentation and polished granite columns. Everywhere you look there is something beautiful.

Today, I feel like I have been to church. I had a blessed Easter. I may go to church more often.

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  1. Do you know Ken Swanson? He was Curate at Grace Church in New York City years ago when I lived in the city and attended that church.

    Later, he went to be Dean of Christ Church in Nashville, although I believe he moved on from Christ Church a couple years ago.

    If so know him and see him, tell him Aldon Hynes says hello.

  2. Happy Easter! I think it's nice to find a Church that let's you be, and that does not pressure you to conform to everything they preach. It gives you freedom to find your own meaningful religion, i think :)

  3. Happy Easter Rod. The last two paragraphs really hit home for me - I'm in the same boat.

  4. Well, you have a kindred spirit with me. Your description of your attitude towards (and many of your experiences) fit me to a "t." Greetings, brother!