Jumping in with Both Feet: A View from the Middle

“Before the workday starts, before any phone calls were made or email was checked, we started the day surrendering ourselves to God in prayer. Whoever showed up was the right group; whenever you got there was the right time.”         ~ CDSP Middler Ernest Morrow

This past winter the vestry of St. Philip’s Anglican church in my diocese (British Columbia) asked me to fill in for their rector, who was going to be on sabbatical for the summer. The understanding was that I would be able to help with everything but the Eucharistic consecration. Bishop James Cowan gave a thumbs up, Nancy Eswein, the field education supervisor at CDSP encouraged me, and I jumped with both feet!

It is actually only in hindsight that some sense of the jumping has emerged. At the time it felt good and right and in the flow, and this sense was with me all summer. I am so tremendously grateful to St. Philip’s for allowing me the space to preach and teach and lead and learn, as well as to CDSP for being so supportive of this slightly out-of-the-box opportunity for an MDiv student now in his “middler” year.

A few things struck me in particular during this my middler summer at St. Phillips. First, the parish itself has a wonderful model of implicit Christian formation. Each weekday morning at 8:30 people who work at the church, a few parishioners and a few people not from the church at all gather for twenty minutes of silent prayer. Before the workday, before any phone calls were made or email was checked, we started the day surrendering ourselves to God in prayer. Whoever showed up was the right group; whenever you got there was the right time. The bell rang at 8:30 and again at 8:50, and we all greeted each other and went off to our days. It is so simple and so easy and so profound to have this rhythm each day, each week, each month, each year.  It is hard to imagine this practice having anything but positive effects on the life of a parish.

This atmosphere of ministry flowing out of right relationship with God really inspired my work. Much of what I did revolved around trying to empower the baptismal ministry of the congregation. One of the richest developments was a spiritual formation group intentionally comprised of lay people who met to explore different ways of making Christianity a way of life rather than just a system of belief. The group was formed with the explicit intention of the participants themselves facilitating future groups in the parish. I really felt that it was very helpful that I was able to relate to this group as a fellow lay person. It brought up a lot of questions about how we think of priesthood and our roles in community.

CDSP Middler Ernest Morrow and his wife Jeannie surrounded by the love of the St. Philip's community

CDSP Middler Ernest Morrow and his wife Jeannie surrounded by the love of the St. Philip's community

Adding to the fullness of the summer was the fact that I got engaged to my wife Jeannie on May 29th and married on August 16th. We were married during a Sunday morning Eucharis service at St. Philip’s. It felt for us like the real fullness of the sacrament of marriage. It was such an moving thing to have the congregation with whom we worshiped and whom we loved hold us in prayer and sacred space as we made our vows. It seemed to us fitting that the part of the Body of Christ that was our home would be witnesses and creators of the day along with us and that, like a baptism, the sacrament would be part of the regular, full weekly celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

I will certainly remember this past summer as the summer I truly jumped in with both feet. And I am so grateful.

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