What the Stranger at the Episcopal Church Gave Me

Saturday nights on James Street can be a bit lively.

This weekend we were in bed and it was just about midnight when we heard a long SCREEEEEEECH followed by a loud BANG! Accident. The sirens wailed into action, screaming into the neighborhood. My sister sent me a text from where she works at a sports bar down the street.


I told her there was an accident and soon fell back to sleep. Then, around 2am I heard a loud explosion from the neighboring street, loud enough that the sound wave it made set off a few car alarms. It sounded like an electric transformer exploded, but we never got an official word on that one.

We must be turning into city slickers though, because this time none of the kids came running into our room. They slept right through it.

* * * * *

Earlier on Saturday the six of us walked to St. James Episcopal Church on the corner of Duke and Orange. It’s a truly breathtaking church, and the services are nothing like what this kid, raised in the Evangelical world, is used to, but I’ve found it to be a refreshing change. At Saturday evening mass they sprinkle in the songs of a secular musician, a different one each week, and this week’s was James Taylor.

Even the old folks never knew why they call it like they do.
I was wondering since the age of two, down on Copperline.

After the opening song our four kids went out to spend time with the other children in the garden where they do their children’s class, tending the plants that will later be given to families in need or used for the daily breakfast the church serves to the homeless community. While they were out, the readings were given, the first from Genesis 28, and this sentence stuck out to me:

And God heard the voice of the boy…

And from Psalm 86:

Turn to me and have mercy upon me;
Give your strength to your servant;
and save the child of your handmaid.

And from Romans 6:

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

What a promise that is. We’ve all felt that union with Christ in his death – we’ve seen loved ones fade under illness; we’ve walked with friends who lose more than they ever thought they could survive losing; we’ve felt the heavy weight of it all. But to be united with Christ in not just his death but also his resurrection?

Sometimes that seems too good to be true.

* * * * *

IMG_2208.JPGAfter the service, a man came up to me and said he couldn’t resist taking a photo of Sammy, nearly asleep on my shoulder (the other three children apparently looking for an escape) as we prepared to take communion. He asked if I would like him to text me a copy before he deleted it.

I said of course, and then we prepared to take the bread and the wine. The body and the blood. The death.

And the resurrection?

Here is the picture of Sam and I, just before the six of us walked home through a beautiful summer evening, the words of the post-communion prayer still ringing in my ears:

…send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord.

And of course the lingering memory of those James Taylor songs took us home as well.

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.
But I always thought that I’d see you again

10 Replies to “What the Stranger at the Episcopal Church Gave Me”

  1. Love St. James.
    Looking at the Anglican Tradition and their discussion of the middle way is quite refreshing.

  2. Love you “City Slicker” series. Takes me back to living at the corner of Prince and King while my hubby went to college. Gives you a whole new perspective, my friend.

  3. thank you so much for sharing this story about visiting, Shawn. the commissioning nature of those last words of the post-communion prayer really hit me around this time last summer. thank you for reminding me.

  4. Love this reverie, Shawn. So glad you’re finding home, you’re making home. How lovely to walk to church and to take communion with a sleeping Sam on your shoulder. Sigh.

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