Becoming an Anglican

Okay, so, on to significant spiritual shifts in New Zealand.

I suppose that the first thing I should discuss is the shift in the outward form of the faith that I practice--that is, my change from an evangelical protestant faith to a mainline Anglican faith. People are frequently asking why I decided to become an Anglican/Episcopalian, and a large part of the answer lies in my experience of the Anglican Communion in New Zealand.

As I mentioned in a previous entry, since college I'd had the idea in the back of my mind that I might like to consider whether the Anglican Church might be a good fit for me spiritually. In the year I spent feeling mostly disengaged from the institutional church, I had begun to investigate that idea in my normal protracted manner, by finding information in books and on the internet which would help me to make an educated decision. Our trip to New Zealand was a chance to finally take the plunge, and actually visit an Anglican Church.

Like most things in my life, the internet aided in this, because before Angel and I left for Dunedin, I was able to find a parish on the web (St. Matthew's) which looked like it might be a good fit for us. It seemed like a relatively youthful church in an old, attractive, very English, building, and it obviously had a vibrant congregation with a lot of mission involvement. When I told Angel that I'd found a church that I thought we should attend when we arrived in NZ, her initial reaction was, I think, "Oh, that's nice". Then she said something along the lines of, "Oh, it's Anglican. Aren't they pretty boring, like Catholics?" (Angel, being raised Catholic, was of course only suggesting this in the most positive of ways). I generally take a long time to make decisions, but I also think that I usually make the right ones. Here this was definitely true, because both St. Matthew's and the Anglican Church proved to be an excellent fit for both Angel and I, whatever the general level of boringness present across the denomination.

In arriving in New Zealand, our first goal was to quickly find a place to live, and within two business days we had accomplished that: we found an expensive little two bedroom apartment at the top of a steep hill, with holes in the hideous carpet, wallpaper that clashed offensively with the rest of the decor, and no heating. There was almost nothing good about it, but it was (unbeknownst to us at the time) located about five blocks from St. Matt's.

Thus, the first Sunday we were there, we stumbled down the frost-covered hill to the church, which, we found, also didn't have much in the way of heating. However, it was populated by a great group of people. As an example of their friendliness, in a way I suppose we were initially bribed into staying around because one of the members offered to allow us usage of their automobile while they were away for the week. (This was amazingly hospitable, but also horrifying. It isn't exactly comfortable learning to drive on the opposite side of the road, in a country whose driving laws you don't know, in the car of a person who you have just met. No crashes, but we did manage to kill the battery twice.) We would have come back anyway, because St. Matt's immediately seemed like a comfortable place to be. Probably in part that was because it was/is generally an evangelical Church, similar in style to what we were both used to. However, for me at least, St. Matt's NZ Evangelical Anglicanism represented a significant enough departure from what I was used to that I could there begin an involvement with the institutional Church that would be different from the involvement I had had in the past.

Within six months, I was employed by the Anglican Church (in part to help support my university study habit) as a diocesan youth worker, and by the end of the 20ish months that I worked for the diocese, I was convinced that the Anglican Communion was a Church that I could worship within. There is a lot that could be said as to why I came to that conclusion, but some primary draws included: 1) The theological breadth of Anglicanism 2) Its rich tradition 3) Its general, historically established attitude of tolerance and inclusion 4) It's commitment to social justice and 5) Its international character. I experienced Anglicanism as a movement that was bigger than me, which was able to unite people across time and geography based upon a commitment to Christian principles of love and hope. I also saw that it was generally an anti-dogmatic church, which would allow me (and whoever) room to believe what I actually believe about God without too much anxiety.It was primarily that experience of Anglicanism that led me to pursue confirmation when Angel and I returned to the US, and I see my experience of the Church there as a standard to be lived up to in my involvement with the ECUSA.