Guest post by Traci Rhoades
I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend and Michigan-based writer Traci Rhoades. Her first book Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost releases May 17th.
We had the date set six months in advance, because that’s how camping families do things in Michigan. When preparing my list of things to pack in the camper, I added a nice shirt and a pair of jeans, church clothes. Some people see vacation time as a break from Sunday church, whereas I see it as an opportunity to visit a new church.
I did what I often do when visiting a church outside of my faith comfort zone, I emailed the church to let them know I was coming. I’d never been to an anglican Church before and if there were certain guidelines expected of guests, I wanted to be sure I respected them.
Only a few hours after sending my initial email I received a response, “We would love to have you visit!” For several years now I’ve been visiting a variety of churches. When people ask me why, I offer a variation of this response, “Learning about other traditions offers me more of Jesus.” I’m not sure what I found so enticing about visiting an anglican church that particular summer. Maybe it was the fact that I’d finally learned how to use my copy of The Book of Common Prayer. BCP for short. It’s an anglican/episcopal aid in worship liturgy and personal prayer time at home.
After reading Lauren Winner circa 2004, I purchased my own copy. It sat on my shelf for years because it is an overwhelming resource and I had no idea what to do with it. With the help of some online friends, they guided me to certain prayers I found especially powerful and meaningful. I often pray them on my blue couch to begin my morning time with God.
But to really use the BCP you need to attend church. An anglican/episcopal one that is. Christ the King is a small congregation and doesn’t have a church building of their own. The lutheran church lets them use their building on Sunday afternoons.
I’d been to an episcopal church before for a station of the cross service, and was curious how the two would be different. When I saw there was an anglican congregation just a few miles from our campground, much closer than the ones back home, I decided this would be a good time for me to visit. I didn’t take my BCP with me. It turned out OK because this church had booklets that walked you through the order of service step by step.
From the moment I entered the doors, it was obvious I was the guest. There were about twelve people in attendance, including me. I smiled to myself and thought how Jesus’s ministry on earth had started with twelve disciples. Pastor Jody came over and introduced herself. She told me a little more about their small church. There was an episcopal church in town and many of them also attended there, but they preferred the style of this church service. It was an elderly congregation, and they appreciated the shepherding heart of their pastor. Of her. She said it had seemed a strange calling at first, but she knew now that God had called her to usher the members of her flock beyond the veil when they passed away someday.
I found that really beautiful.
The service was easy to follow because the order was clearly explained in the handout. They used pre-recorded music and a few of the songs were common praise and worship songs. Although my church background was different, I didn’t have any trouble participating in Sunday afternoon worship.
The highlight of an Anglican service is always Communion, so when it came time for that, I watched for cues. Was theirs an open table for all believers? Pastor Jody instinctively knew I was wondering how to proceed. She also knew I would be the only person in the sanctuary not invited to that table if it was for Anglicans only.
She said, “This table is for all believers.” That was my cue. After the elderly who remained seated were served the bread and wine, I joined the six or seven men and women at the railing up front. The gentlemen assisting the priest placed an opaque wafer in my hand, breaking it with a single, definitive crunch as he said the words so precious to me, “Body of Christ, broken for you.” I dipped the bread into the wine and received communion with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
The entire service was filled with Scripture, reflection and praise music. Father, Son and Holy Ghost on repeat.
Praise God they included me.
I’m excited to join Traci on the launch team for her debut book, Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost. Publisher’s Weekly gave this book an early review, in which they said “She emphasizes that by listening and approaching others with an open heart, one can find new opportunities for experiencing Christ. Christians looking for community will relish this memoir of embracing differences.”