Out of Death, New Life
Jay Hildebrand wrote a column for Episcopal Life Out of Death, New Life in which he describes being baptized 51 weeks after the death of his wife of 26 years. He writes in part talking about going to church after her death and what transpired following,
I had no idea what went on in church. In fact, I had only been to church for weddings and funerals. Having been raised Jewish, I had very little contact with Christianity. As the organ started playing, colored light streamed through the stained glass window and I felt a strange sensation. The smell of incense wafted through the air and the congregation started singing.The full text of his reflection is online here: Out of Death, New Life.
Things seemed to be different this time. There was no impatience, no feeling like I wanted to run out the door. It was replaced by a peaceful calm feeling. After five months of purgatory, it was almost intoxicating. I still had no idea what was going on, but I didn't care. I just closed my eyes and absorbed the feeling. Maybe it was the words being spoken, maybe it was the hymns, I didn't know. Or, as I have come to feel, maybe it was my wife's spirit. All I knew was I was supposed to be there. I just drank in the feeling.
Some members of the congregation showed me the hymnal and Book of Common Prayer. I must have looked like a fish out of water. In all of this, I realized that I had come home and found a piece of my heart in the church. Maybe it was something that was always missing. I knew I had to find that out.
I went to see Nora afterwards and we talked for about a half an hour. I started going up on Thursday mornings and going to church on Sundays. I felt connected. It was a totally new feeling, but the Sunday part was difficult. Even though I had abandoned Judaism long ago, it was still very difficult to accept that I was going to church.
Since my youth, I had always believed in God, but I always thought religion was for other people, not me. As I started reading the services, I couldn't believe how much Judaism was in them. It made me feel connected to the readings and the church. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. Nora recommended the Rev. Jerry Keucher as a tutor, to help me read and understand the Bible.
When I started reading the Bible, I began with the Old Testament and moved to the New Testament. I started to learn Judaism. In fact, I learned more Judaism than I ever knew. When I began to read the gospels, I was amazed. Jesus' teachings and philosophy were things I already knew. I had accepted these principles a long time ago. I began to feel a sense of rebirth and purpose. I wasn't happy, but I was peaceful. Whatever had directed me there had given me a purpose and I knew what it was.
I would be baptized and accept all the things I learned and realized. I knew I was changing. I could also put away the Vicodin. It no longer held any meaning.
Labels: Episcopal Life