11 things I love about the Episcopal Church


My faith was saved in a gutted-out shopping mall.

I had reached a point where I no longer believed in God’s love—or rather, I didn’t believe it was meant for me. I thought it was something reserved for God’s “chosen ones,” and I just couldn’t imagine myself as one of the lucky few.

It was a trendy church with a famous pastor and a hip worship band that helped me reassemble the pieces of my faith. I will always be thankful for that church.

At that time, I had no idea my journey would lead from that gutted-out shopping mall to an old red door. But it did. Today it’s the Eucharist, the stained glass windows, and the liturgies of the Episcopal Church that are breathing new life into my faith.


I’m not alone, either. Lately I’ve been sifting through the stories of fellow travelers like Rachel Held Evans, Jonathan Martin, and Lindsey Harts. We’ve all found something meaningful in the Episcopal Church, something disorienting and comforting all at once, something that feels vaguely like… home.

That’s not a term disaffected evangelicals like me are quick to use. But that’s what the Episcopal Church has become for me: a new spiritual home. Here are some of the reasons for that…

1.  The way the liturgy soaks into your being.

The first few times I walked through those big red doors, I didn’t know the code. I didn’t know when to sit or stand. I didn’t know how to use the prayer book. I didn’t know how to cross myself.

While others have sought to make Christianity as accessible as possible, the liturgy of the Episcopal Church feels other, like a strange artifact calling us into a different and slightly foreign reality. Learning the liturgy was like learning a new language.

These days, I’m having to rely less on the prayer book. After months (and now years) of repetition, the words and movements come more naturally from within. Rachel Held Evans described it like this:

At first, the liturgy of the Episcopal Church captured me with its novelty… But we’ve been showing up for nearly six months now, and so it is a different sort of beauty I encounter on Sunday mornings these days—the beauty of familiarity, of sweet routine. I know the order of service now. I know it well enough to have favorite parts, to skim ahead when I’m hungry or restless, to get the songs stuck in my head.

We are products of a culture that demands everything is new and fresh. We frown on repetition and ritual. But these ancient patterns have a way of soaking into your bones. The prayers and songs stay with me throughout the week in a way no sermon ever has.

2. The way the liturgy invites me to worship with my whole being, bridging the false divide between body and soul.

Genuflecting in the aisle. Crossing yourself. Kneeling. Episcopalians worship not just with their hearts or their voices but with their bodies.

Not that it didn’t take some getting used to. It was a few years before I could bring myself to make the sign of the cross. Now I appreciate it for what is: a prayer. It just happens to be one you pray with your body.

And why not? God made us whole persons. We are not disembodied souls stuffed into human shells. We should worship with our whole being. Our heart and soul and flesh should cry out together, as the Psalmist wrote.

It should be said we’re not the only ones who embrace the notion of embodied worship, and our way is not the only way to do so. Pentecostals practice embodied worship when they lift their hands in praise or dance in the aisles. Whole-person worship, as I’ve learned from the Episcopal Church, can be faith-deepening. That’s because, as Elisabeth Grunert once commented, “We learn with our bodies.”

3. The way it anchors my faith when no act of will on my part can.

I don’t always believe the words of the Nicene Creed. But I say them anyway. Sometimes they’re more a confession of desire than conviction, a statement of what I desperately hope to be true.

When I struggle to believe, the rhythms and patterns and prayers of the liturgy are like an anchor. It’s as if the rest of the community—those around me and those who came before me—are saying, “It’s OK. We’ll carry you through this part.”

Faith is no longer dependent on me willing it into being. As Jonathan Martin writes:

With my own world feeling disordered and untethered, I am quite happy to be told when to kneel and when to sit and when to stand. I love that there is almost no space in the worship experience to spectate, because almost every moment invites (but not demands) participation. I have been in no position to tell my heart what to do. But because the Church told my body what to do in worship, my heart has been able to follow—sometimes. And that is enough for now.

4. The way it embraces orthodoxy without rigidity.

The other day my priest (who takes Scripture and theology about as seriously as anyone I’ve ever heard preach), referred in passing to Adam and Eve as our “mythic forbearers.”

No one broke out the pitchforks. There were no murmurs or protests. No angry blog posts. No one accused him of “getting the gospel wrong.”

For many of us, it’s a refreshing change. As Lindsey Harts wrote after hearing an Episcopal homily on God’s sovereignty in relation to the Big Bang, “It was the first time I hadn’t heard the Big Bang being bashed in a church setting.”


Anglicanism has long been known as the via media, the “middle way” between two traditions. The Episcopal Church has also helped me navigate the middle way between unbelief and dogmatism. Ours is a faith handed down from the apostles, but not one so fragile that it cannot cope with science, with new findings about the origins of the universe, ourselves, or whatever else we might discover.

Ours is not a fear-filled faith.

5. How it makes room for those who’ve been burned out, worn out, or otherwise cast out.

I love how one of my favorite preachers, Jonathan Martin, describes what drew him to an Episcopal church:

I went out of sheer, bold-faced desperation for someone to preach the gospel to me, someone to lay hands on me, and someone to offer me the Lord’s Supper. There was no motivation more noble than hoping to not starve.

A lot of us have burned out on our faith at some point—or been cast out. Maybe it’s because we grew tired of always having to pretend we have it all together. Or maybe someone’s gender or some other part of their identity excluded them from service. Maybe we were told we had to choose between science and faith. Or maybe we were just beaten down by the relentless drum of condemnation.

The Episcopal Church is a refuge, a respite, a place where we can come as we are and learn to receive grace again.

6. The way you can simply be, if that’s all you can do.

You feel it sometimes when you visit a new church. The hungry looks, sizing you up as another potential cog in the church wheel. The pressure to join this program, sign up for that group, volunteer at this event… all before anyone’s even learned your name.

I’ve been part of two Episcopal churches now, and neither one has been like that. They’ve given me space to just be. They’ve let me move at my own pace. To quote Jonathan Martin again, they’ve been places where “I can love and be loved as a human being, without my gifts or my life being commodified in any way.” Or as Lindsey Harts put it, “It’s the only place I’ve ever stepped foot into that didn’t seem to expect something of you.”

It’s not that the Episcopal Church won’t invite you to become more deeply connected. They will. But they seem to get that each person is different—and, more importantly, that people are not commodities.

(That said, if you hang around long enough, watch out. They might ask you to join the vestry when you least expect it.)

7. The way their worship can be deeply moving without resorting to emotional manipulation.

When a church tells me how I should feel (“Clap if you’re excited about Jesus!”), it smacks of inauthenticity. Sometimes I don’t feel like clapping. Sometimes I need to worship in the midst of my brokenness and confusion—not in spite of it and certainly not in denial of it.

In contrast to the standard worship formula of so many churches, “the liturgy does not try to coerce everyone into the same emotional experience,” as Jonathan Martin writes, “but in its corporate unity strangely creates space for us all to have a very personal experience of God.”

Sometimes when you stop trying to manufacture a particular emotion, you stumble into something even more profound and beautiful than you could have imagined.

8. How the “shared cup” matters more than “shared dogma.”

I have spent a lot of my life trying to get my theology right. I’ve spent years believing all the “right things” in order that I might belong. So it was jarring when a good friend explained to me that the sermon (the meat!) was not the center of Anglican worship. It’s the Eucharist, the common table around which we all gather.

We belong so that we might find a common faith together, not the other way around.

Jonathan Martin writes:

The problem in Protestantism in general, historically but much more profoundly now, is that have we far too much emphasis on getting the beliefs right. No wonder we now have over 40,000 denominations—the search for perfect doctrine is endless… At St. Peter’s, we recite the Nicene creed every week. But the practice of the liturgy… and the shared experience of the Eucharist is what holds us together. Beyond that, there is plenty of room for difference. The emphasis is not on sharing dogma so much as it is sharing the cup.

9. The way everyone is welcome as a full participant, even children.

My 4-year-old is welcome at the table every week. She is able to receive the bread and the cup even before she’s made a profession of faith. This sends a powerful message: God’s grace is for her, too. She is no less a part of the body of Christ just because she doesn’t fully understand yet what that means.

One Sunday shortly after our daughter began receiving communion, we were milling about during coffee hour. (If there was a number 12 on this list, it might be coffee hour.) As we were talking with our priest, our daughter began solemnly placing a goldfish cracker into each of our hands. Our priest picked up on what she was doing, and he played along. She was reenacting what she’d just been part of in the sanctuary.

The Episcopal Church is a place that nurtures those first small, occasionally faltering steps of faith—and welcomes the full participation of those who take them.

10. How it reminds me that I’m part of something bigger.

My first real experience of liturgy was in the UK. We lived for a short time in a village an hour north of London, and we began attending the parish church. Every Sunday on our way into the 700-year-old building, we’d walk through the churchyard, past the weatherworn graves of long-dead parishioners who’d prayed in the same pews, whispered the same prayers, and sang the same songs for centuries.


I need to be reminded that my faith does not begin or end with me—that, to quote a comment from Rachel’s blog, it’s “something that you don’t really own.”

11. How at the altar, we’re all the same.

It’s been said the ground is level at the foot of the cross. I don’t think I’ve appreciated that quite as much anywhere as in the Episcopal Church.

At the altar, we all kneel, as Lindsey Harts put it. We all receive what we cannot do for ourselves. We all confess our weakness—that even the gifts we bring were God’s gifts to us in the first place. We all receive the same body and blood.

We need to do a lot better at cultivating and embracing diversity in our midst…but the altar is as good a place as any to start.


Many of these things can, of course, be found in other traditions as well. But for me, it’s been the Episcopal Church that has nurtured my faith, breathing new life into me. May you find beauty in whatever tradition you call home. May God breathe new life into your faith—wherever you are.

Related: Four things I want for the Episcopal Church

177 thoughts on “11 things I love about the Episcopal Church

    • I’ve only recently come across the term. Id never heard of it until now. I’m trying to find a “medium” with church. May I say as youngster call me slayed type, but churches are turning into hang out places – where you go share picnics inappropriate. Why aren’t people interested in going for the faith practice for example. Secondly, I think it’s ashame in our society that people don’t appreciate hymns I think their is nothing more nice than having a “hymn book”. in hand connecting to liturgy. May we not take quiet prayer out of faith practice we underestimate how positive this is.


  1. This is beautiful and captures so much of what I love about the Episcopal church. I grew up Southern Baptist, and although I do not fit there at all anymore, there are things that I will always carry with me from my formation in that church. But the Episcopal church is where my faith has really grown and my life of faith in a community has really flourished. It is where I have had the ROOM to be me, and to be appreciated for that.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I can totally relate, having also grown up in the Southern Baptist Church but feeling alienated from that body when I felt compelled to register myself as a conscientious objector when I turned 18 and we still had the draft in effect. After marrying an Episcopalian there was no question for me in how to express my faith. Now my priest is also a former Baptist, and we sing old-time hymns from the Broadman Hymnal at our monthly PubSings.


    • Your background is almost exactly mine. I grew up Southern Baptist as well, and have found my spiritual home in TEC. It’s amazing how many people I’ve found that have made similar journeys from an Evangelical tradition to a Liturgical one. Blessings to you!


  2. I really enjoyed this. I left my church for almost 2 years because of a serious conflict with the pastor. When he was removed, I tentatively returned. And I immediately knew I was home again. Friends of mine who’d also left joined new churches. I couldn’t. I wanted to be back in my Episcopal Church and it was a blessed relief to return.

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    • The really important thing about the Episcopal Church is the Liturgy. Regardless of the personality of the priest, or conflicts, or misdeeds (read the Articles of Religion in the back of the BCP), it is the Liturgy that is important and conveys the message of the Good News, Christ and the Church. Yes, sometimes a pastor must be removed, but the Liturgy stays and I’m glad you returned.


  3. I’ve spent the past several years as a reluctant non-denominational, but a couple years ago I really started to feel like something was missing. I bought a copy of The Book of Common Prayer, and it’s a funny thing to discover something so rooted in tradition for the first time. The old prayers and confessions and traditions breathed new life into my faith. A few months ago, I moved to a city in Guatemala where the only English-speaking church is the Episcopal Church, and I’ve really connected with the traditions. I love the symbolism of confessing on my knees each week, of taking the eucharist, of going through the same motions each week, whether I “feel something” or not. There’s something deeply human and deeply divine in repetition–in doing before feeling, in opening the prayer book to the same dog-eared page each week. I’m pretty sure I was an Episcopal all along, but I just didn’t know it.

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  4. I converted to the ancient faith of the church catholic in the Episcopal Church in 1996 and I think this blogger has very beautifully captured the splendor of depth and meaning found in our rich tradition. Thank-you, Anglican Digest, for sharing this on Facebook.

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  5. I, too, found it comforting to know that our ritual, with its pure, yes, simple beauty, has passed through the centuries tying us not only to the Father of us all, but countless sojourners along the way. I try to make a practice of lingering on the words of the ritual lest I forget their essence.

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    • Raised Presbyterian, the grape juice seemed so shallows- and I was just a kid. When I accidentally found the Episcopal Church, I found the Eucharist – the Communion of Saints – coming thru the ages and worldwide. It brought me to Christ as nothing else could!

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  6. I, too, love the Episcopal liturgy. I was raised a Methodist, and had never set foot in an Episcopal church until a few years ago (in my 40’s!) – I stayed for most of nearly 2 years.. I’m attending a United Methodist church again, but I truly do miss the Episcopal liturgy. I find myself wanting to make the sign of the cross during the service! And I miss the weekly Eucharist. I imagine I will always feel a pull toward the Episcopal church, and always feel like I have one foot in each tradition. 🙂


    • I have beenThe a Episcopalian most of my life with a 16 year stint as an American Baptist. I love the Episcopal service, the liturgy, the music as you did, but where I go and generations of my family have in western NY is like most churches here, having spent down its endowment, has few young people attending, is mostly 50 years old and above, and the congregation is 50% less than it was a decade ago. We also have a beautiful old church building that takes lots of upkeep. We are a founding member with three other churches of a community Christian project that serves people in many ways in our small town, village and town 7 thousand people. While the Liturgy is nice, there was a new liturgy that the Episcopal Church published, it in 2010, yet neither my priest or the bishop of my diocese or another very close by, its bishop, none will commment on who the 2010 one was received, or if it is even used in western NY. Also there is an alternative Episcopal hymnal with more folksy hymns that the tried and true ones in our official ‘blue’ hymnal. Does anyone have any information on this 2010 liturgy and alt. hymnal? We used to have successive generations of people attending our Episcopal Church, but now we have none. Some aren’t interested in continuing to go to church, and others, many others found jobs in other states after graduation from hs or college and are not here to carry on. Few people completely new to the Episcopal Church visit or stay? What are other Episcopal Churches doing in a similar situation to mine? Would this 2010 liturgy and more use of this alternative hymnal and a Facebook page for our church to get the word out, our doing a more modern service every fourth Sunday help bring new people in? There was ‘Rejoice,’ an Episcopal alternative, more modern, more simple liturgy and service in the Episcopal Church in the 60s and 70s, but then it ended. It used to be one Sunday a month. Any suggestions for us, nearly a 200 year old church in western, NY? Thanks


      • The alternative hymnal you mention is probably Lift Every Voice and Sing, aka LEVAS. It’s available from Church Publishing and maybe elsewhere as well. https://www.churchpublishing.org/products/index.cfm?fuseaction=add&productID=104

        I haven’t heard of a specific liturgy from 2010, though there is committee that is continually looking at updating the prayer book and hymnal and that approves alternative liturgies. Enriching Our Worship 1 has some of the alternative liturgies. There are also some wonderful ones in the New Zealand Prayer Book. Google hat – parts are available online, I believe. And Eucharistic Prayer D in the BCP allows you to pretty much construct your own services from approved resources.

        As to how to attract young adults, that’s something every church is struggling with these days. Overwhelmingly studies have shown that young adults are most interested in churches they see as living out the Gospel in everyday life. Let your town know what outreach you are doing. It’s hard to do because it feels like the Pharisee praying on the corner, but people need to know what you are about. Let the word get out about which churches support the organization you helped found A good way is newspaper articles about the organization. Also look for other unmet needs in the community that your parish can address and encourage write-ups about those efforts in the paper. (For example, our parish started doing Laundry Love last summer. Google it – a needed effort inmost towns!)


      • My church, Trinity in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has a contemporary service called Morning Glory between Rite I 7:30 a.m. and Rite II at 10:45 a.m. – both very traditional most of the time. The Morning Glory service has a small guitar and keyboard group with singers rather than an organ and choir. Often there is percussion and flute, and a piano when wanted. The songs are a mix of modern and traditional with the words projected on the wall behind the small altar for the worshipers to sing along (no written song book), prayers as well as the readings can be found there. The liturgy is from the prayer book. This very up beat service draws young and old and family groups where the children are welcome. When the Peace is proclaimed, people do not just wish their neighbor peace, but some walk around sharing the Peace with friends and strangers alike. Chairs rather than pews make this possible. The service is not held in the main church so that is can be made ready for the 10:45 service. Good luck finding a way to enliven your church and God Bless.


      • Thanks so much Jan. We have to add something to draw new people to our church for them to receive the gifts we’re so richly blessed with on the Trinity, and to survive. It is not enough for a church to have money to spend, it needs people, people who are the church. Thanks, Doug


  7. Let’s see. 11 things I “love” about the Episcopal Church
    1. Being left homeless and destitute.
    2. Loosing thousands of dollars worth of property that I was forced to leave behind after being left homeless.
    3. Being discriminated against for being different.
    4. Being ignored by my Bishop and numerous others. Even as I begged for help for being wronged by an Episcopal seminary.
    5. Being treated unjustly and with cruelty by clergy and staff at GTS.
    6. Being bullied by fellow students And then being blamed for it by staff.
    7. Having my trust completely betrayed by and promises broken by clergy.
    8. Being left emotionally and mentally shattered.
    9. Being made to feel unwelcome for being a victim. They take advantage of me then throw me out.
    10. Lying to me.
    11. Hurting my cat.

    Thank you Episcopal Church for treating me so badly I have never experienced the likes of any other time in my life. Thank you for hurting me so badly I will be scared for years or even the rest of my life. There is nothing I regret more than the day I walked into one of your churches. Thank you for hurting me. Thank you for abusing me. Thank you for not giving a damn. Yes, thank you for making my life a living Hell.


    • Ash – I won’t defend the Episcopal Church or the mess that happened to you. I do hope you won’t hold it against God, Father, Son and Spirit, and that you’ll look for another church.
      I also hope that as time goes by, you’ll be able to let go of this mess and forgive whoever needs forgiving. It can take a very long time, especially given how deep this is. But being upset, angry, tres bien pissé, etc, all of which are understandable, will only hurt you. It can take a long time before even being willing to think about it. Letting go, forgiving, will lift an enormous weight from your back and help you be free again. The last thing you need is GTS/TEC around your neck.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am surprised. You did not jump up to defend them. For me all that holds me back at this time is, as cheap as it sounds, financial. I am tied to GTS and TEC by debt. I am still trying to get compensation from them. I owe GTS over $10,000 in student loans I refuse to pay, among other things. There is also my phone. I feel I am owed that money plus for the property I lost and for pain and suffering. Once I get what I am owed you will never hear from me again. It does not seem fair or right for me to spend years paying a large part of what little I make to pay debt I have from GTS. So I will post and email and post and post until I get what I am owed. My God when the very people who treated me so badly were facing ‘unjust dismissal’ as they put it, people collected thousands of dollars for them. I am treated worse and end up in a worse state . . . and what happens?
        Forgiveness. My apologies for saying so but sometimes the opposite can be better. It is a relief for me to know God will give me justice. There is nothing I or anyone else can do to equal the injustice they inflicted on me. Only God in this life and/or the next.
        Though I recently read an article and it brought forward an interesting idea. That forgiveness can also be cause for passiveness. It makes a degree of sense. Victims are told to forgive instead of doing something. Instead maybe people should get pissed off. What happened to me is reflective not just of GTS. That so many people ignored what happened, even saw it as okay. Well, there is not enough space for me to write it all. But I have seen enough. It is a business. It isn’t about right or wrong any more or the Gospels but laws and watching their back at the expense of others. I mean that so few can see this as wrong.


    • Wow… I am so sorry you are in so much pain, “Ash”, but I think it is a bit unfair to blame the entire Episcopal church for it. Just curious – are your initials J.H.? I don’t understand your situation at all, but perhaps you can feel spiritually healthy again in another of God’s houses. I will pray for you…


      • No. AH. Though that worries me. There are others. I had been told there were other GTS horror stories.
        I appreciate the prayers but actions. Maybe if people said something. Maybe if enough people said something GTS or the Bishop or the Archbishop will finally do something.


    • That sucks. I’m sorry. I don’t know why anyone would treat you like that. You got a raw deal. You are right to feel the way you do because you were wronged. I am sorry no one came forward to help you with this. Please take care.


      • I am sorry but how can people support TEC. I am not the only person who has been brutally wronged. But it is easier to ignore those random rare victims. Put them down, ignore them, use the law. You trust them, give allowences, make sacrifices you would not in other circumstances and let down your guard. Diversity is accepted if you sit in a pew but try to enter the pulpit. It is a powerful business and they will crush you if you try to fight the clergy. At least in the retail world there is HR watching your back. I was threatened for telling the truth by the people I made huge sacrifices for. I have seen more ethics and fairness working in retail than at GTS. One victim is one too many.


    • The Episcopal Church, through my father becoming ordained and serving as a parish/mission priest, destroyed our family. He was overworked, and paid a pittance. I was embarrassed to go to school in the clothes that were available to me. He eventually become over-stressed and started having extra-marital affairs, leading to my parents’ divorce, and the family being broken up. It may be different now (my brother was just ordained, and appears to be doing well), but I will never forget the indifference shown to our family when we most needed some assistance and understanding.


      • There is an emphasis on clergy wellness now, but each individual clergyperson has to cooperate with that. Most people become clergy because they want to serve and help people with their problems, but sadly many of them do not know when to say no. Delayed vocations (late in life ordinations) are generally better at that as they have worked in other fields before seeking ordination. We’ve had many experiences of a parish/ parishioners expecting my husband to be available at a moments notice 24/7/365. The most recent was the vestry voting for him to hold office hours ON HIS DAYS OFF, in violation of the contract previously signed by vestry, priest and diocese. He told them it would not happen, but I know many clergy who would feel they should go along with such a decision to serve their parishioners. You do need to have a bishop who will support you in such conflicts, but at the same time a priest needs to know where to draw the line. The national church is not aware of everything that happens in every parish at every moment. BTW, this isn’t just the Episcopal Church either. We knew an ELCA pastor who hadn’t had a vacation in 3 years because she said her congregation wouldn’t let her go whenever she’d plan one. After other local clergy told her repeatedly to just arrange for coverage and finally give herself a needed break, she finally did so, but she had to learn to stand up to bullying tactics on the part of her congregation.


      • Ash – Forgiveness! Ah, yes. “Forgiveness is mine,” says the Lord. So easy to want to volunteer to be involved – but involvement would probably not look _anything_ like what we expected! As you say, it may be this life or the next, but you can trust that God will give you justice. In the meantime, you need to let go of the anger, etc that’s eating you.
        Forgiveness might appear passive, becs one is no longer livid at the one who hurt/damaged/etc’d. It will free your energy to work on what is needed. A court case can be presented solidly and rationally, and if the presentation does not include a vicious attitude, it can be received better. Not just Jack or Jill being utterly pissed off and out for revenge.
        You say that if/when you receive what you are owed, forgiven the debts they hold, etc, they’d never hear from you again. That doesn’t mean GTS will be gone from your mind and heart (or the incoming mail! You’d be sure to get annual giving requests unless you tell them to take you off their mailing list!). And it doesn’t mean they won’t have a hold over you, you won’t growl to yourself when someone mentions them (or esp gives a compliment).


      • roamingator – the emphasis on wellness sounds good, but a lot is missed or overlooked. Look at the mess in Maryland now, Bishop Heather Cook, voted for last spring, consecrated this fall, hit a bicyclist in broad daylight, left the scene, and had an alcohol level of 0.22 close to an hour after the accident. The bicyclist died after being taken to the closest hospital. She was using her cell phone, as well.
        A couple of years ago, she was pulled over on MD’s Eastern Shore. Blood level was 0.27, an open bottle on the seat, marijuana usage stuff, and vomit down her shirt. (Google Bishop Heather Cook and you’ll find this and more.) The committee met with her and asked about that, and she said that was the first time she’d ever drunk too much. Either no one on the committee knew enough about alcohol levels to have serious doubts about being able to function at a level of 0.27 (max accepted is 0.08), or they put it behind them. This wasn’t mentioned to the full committee, and it was not told to those voting at convention.
        And yes, clergy and the music staff, esp at a large parish, need to have sacred days off each week, sacred vacation time, and sabbatical time that’s not just 3 months in the summer, but a significant length of time including Christmas and/or Easter or other major days on the church calendar. There are clergy on the loose who will take a position for several months. My church’s rector was away for at least 8 wks every summer, and was gone one summer when a metastatic cancer was found in my father, who was active in the church. The cancer had wrought havoc inside my father and he died 5 wks after it was found. The summer substitute was with us the full time and did the memorial service.
        3 cheers to your husband for refusing the vestry’s 24/7 expectation!


    • There’s no doubt the church can be a painful place. My prayer for you is that you find a community of faith that you feel comfortable with. I hope that you can find someone to help you process your feelings so that you can let go of the pain and move on.


      • Speaking as a psychiatric social worker, Episcopalian and clergy spouse, I too pray that Ashe finds a church in which he is comfortable and accepted. I would also remind Ashe that “forgiveness” is not for the forgiven one but for the forgiver. Harbouring the kind of anger Ashe currently carries is only a burden to him – not GTS or the people who betrayed him. It does take time and a consious effort to get to the point of forgiveness but, Ashe, YOU are worth the effort. My prayers are with you. By the way, forgive is not forget. God Bless you.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Ash,
      I don’t know what you’ve been through, what the circumstances are. I do know first hand some of the pain one can feel by the decisions those in the church can and do make. God loves us and is with us no matter what. As someone else said, forgiveness is for the forgiver. Those being forgiven often aren’t even aware that what they have done has even effected you. Jesus said from the cross “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do”. And remember the church has at least two main faults, it is a human institution. I will remain in the church because I am better for being in it and they are better for my being there. I wish I could tell you how to live with the pain.


  8. This piece certainly reflects why I love the Episcopal Church. For me, add the music that is part of most of our liturgy, including Evensong. The intellect that is part of our faith separates us from the unquestioning in other denominations. After all, in our Baptismal Covenant we pray for those baptized that God “Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works.”


  9. Thank you for the great post, Ben. I’ve spent the past year finding the spiritual formation I never received in 30 years of attending fine Baptist/EV Free churches through kneeling at the table, counting days by the church calendar, and worshiping through liturgy (which from my earliest experiences in the faith was always preceded by the word ‘dead’). As Brian Zahnd says, liturgy can only be true or false, but not dead. If the liturgy is true, I’m the one who needs to be alive. It’s been a great and needed discovery for my own spiritual well being.



  10. Great article, thank you. I became intrigued by the Episcopal church because of a little bit of church attendance in England where I lived for a few years. When I got back to the States i knew that was what I wanted to explore. After my first Sunday I knew I didn’t need to go around trying out churches. I look forward to Sunday mornings and I am sad when the service is over. They were welcoming but left me alone until I approached and began to ask them to ask me for help. I needed to be needed. My experience with my church echoes what you have written. Thanks again for putting it so well.


  11. Beautiful, and exactly on the mark. I’ve been an Episcopalian my entire life, but at times I have searched out other ways of thinking. Always, I come back to the Episcopal Church. The Cathedral I attend now is so accepting of everyone, and that really means a lot to me. No matter what I look like or how I dress, I am welcomed. No matter how many times I turned away from the Church, the Church never turned away from me.


  12. Raised Mennonite, an Evangelical for years but more than one failed marriage left me on the “outside of my soul” looking for answers that were no longer working. The Psalms being sung in my darkest hour while sneaking in during mid-service; impregnated my soul with the possibility that I was not an outcast. Rather just a weary confused sojourner, looking for crumbs of HOPE! Ten plus years later, my new bride of 10 years are in the spiritual formation class for membership.


  13. Thanks for this, Ben. A beautiful summary of the gifts of liturgical tradition. Your story of your daughter and her fish crackers even brought a tear to my eye. That church in a gutted out mall also saved my faith, though at the time I was an ordained pastor in the Lutheran church. My faith had become “professional” and that “famous pastor” and the community in that mall helped me hear the good news again FOR ME. I will always be grateful. Later, partly through my own decisions and partly through the ungraciousness of church leadership, I became one of those “cast out” which you describe. I landed, with my wife and family, in the Episcopal Church, mostly because it was close to my home and I was too exhausted to look anywhere else. Those people scooped us up, embraced us as we are, fed us spiritually (and literally!) and showed grace for me despite my failings. God is good and love and hope has shined in our small congregation. It’s been a painful journey but I will forever be grateful for the path that led to our being members of the Episcopal Church. God bless you, your family and your congregation. Keep writing. You’re good at it. : )

    Liked by 1 person

  14. As a born and raised Episcopalian, I too am a liturgical junky. I seek out the Eucharist services using Rite I as these poetic words of comfort feed my soul. “Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.”

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Nice article. I have always found the Episcopal Church to be welcoming. Not so of the Lutherans, although they like to think they are. Growing up Baptist many of the comments about evangelicals to ring true. As a family we have settled on Methodist.


  16. Thank you for this. I am a cradle Episcopalian, the daughter of another cradle Ep. and a former Presbyterian who changed churches during WWII for some of the same reasons you list here. My husband, who was ordained as an Episcopal priest late in life, is also a former Presbyterian. He had drifted away from church until his first wife introduced him to the Ep. way of things. But he’s been Episcopalian for 35 years now, I for 57 years and sometimes it’s difficult for us to spell out why it is the right place for us to be, simply because it is so familiar and known to us. It’s good to have someone else remind us.

    One additional thing I love is being part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which means we not only can feel comfortable at services in any US Episcopal church, but also at churches throughout the world. I’ve been to services at AC churches in Uppsala Sweden, Rome Italy, Florence Italy, Paris France, Prague Czech Republic, Budapest Hungary, and Rome Italy again. It’s wonderful to be able to worship in a familiar liturgy when traveling and attending church in other places also gives you an “in” with locals to learn more about the place you are visiting. (Interesting, between our 2 trips to Rome (’97 & ’12) the parish in Rome gained a large number of immigrants from Africa in its membership. Made for a really interesting mix of worship styles.)


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  19. I love my Episcopal Church, Its seen me through bad and good, and although the small parish I attend is on winter break due to the remoteness and questionable road conditions, that’s why I am motivated to find things like this on here. I also visit the Lutherans with the wife occasionally and a different Episcopal parish a few miles away. I was away for a long time, and very pleased to be back. Thanks and keep up the good work.


    • Isn’t a winter service break a cause for great conversations? We’ve had several winters when the weather’s been so bad no boats have run, so the minister wasn’t able to come out from the mainland, and some of our residents weren’t able to go off to the churches they go/went to. So a different group than usual would meet at the church here, and I don’t remember what was done for sermon/homily/etc. The minister came only every other week, and there would be multiple times the Sunday weather was foul enough for boat cancellation.


  20. “I don’t always believe the words of the Nicene Creed. But I say them anyway. Sometimes they’re more a confession of desire than conviction, a statement of what I desperately hope to be true.”

    Thank you for writing that. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one. I’ve had a lot of shifts in my faith (and have ended up Anglican for now) and realized a few months ago that all the confessions I could make with such surety in the past I now wasn’t as sure about. But I still want them to be true, so it’s become a confession of hope rather than a statement of fact.


    • about confessions – I’ve had times in my life when I couldn’t fully mean a confession but wanted to mean it, and I’d tell God just that and ask for help in being able to confess in my heart not just with my words. I always got there, though it took varying lengths of time. And when I got to that point, I found that I was already forgiven.

      a couple of more general comments on the creed also: 1) most versions of the Nicene Creed in the current BCP use “We believe …” I think there’s still one version that uses 1st person singular, I believe, but most use the plural,. That is because the Nicene Creed is what the church as a whole believes, regardless of what the individual members are able to believe at the time. I’ve never met anyone who would say they fully believed every line of the creed all the time.

      2) the Biblical word that is translated as believe or belief is pisteuo, which is also translated as faith or trust, depending on the context. Belief/ believe is an inadequate translation, pisteuo more accurately translates as :to put your trust in”. I’ve also heard it translated as “to hold in your heart.” When you think of the “We believe” of the creed as being one of those phrases, it takes on a very different meaning. When I learned this point, I already knew there’s a big difference between believing something in your heart and believing it in your head, but it still made a big difference in what the creed means to me when I say it.


      • The original Greek is “pistevo” – I believe – because you can only speak for yourself…..not for others. To make it “we” is a mistranslation. In the Orthodox Church, this is the original form that we still use, and mind you, without the “filioque”.. the addition that was made by a Spanish council without the entire Church’s agreement, to try and “beef up” Christ in the midst of all those Arians in Spain at the time. Well-meaning, but wrong. The Father is the source of the Godhead, and the Spirit proceeds from HIM alone.


  21. Your article resonated deeply with me. Thank you for sharing. When my husband and I returned home from the mission field, broken and physically ill, our sending church no longer saw us as good PR and quickly removed their support. Stunned and deeply wounded, we stopped attending church altogether. Our daughter happened to be attending an Episcopal school in the area, so we decided to attend a service. What we experienced there was overwhelming grace. I couldn’t get through the first few services without weeping as my wounded soul began to heal. I have found that within the Episcopal church, I can relax and just be. No agendas, no manipulation, no feeling like there is something I need to do to be a good member of the church. The traditions and liturgy surprisingly free me up to worship and focus on Jesus. I find myself looking forward to Sunday as I never have before!


  22. I was raised Episcopalian as was my late husband. When we moved to a small town in Florida, the closest we could find was Methodist. Moving several more times we attended other denominations, United Methodist where we were active 29 years, then Baptist, Christian Missionary Alliance, nondenominational, and now I am seeking a new fellowship. I have been considering the Episcopal church again. Praying for direction.


    • I have a friend who had a hard time finding churches when he moved. He started as an Episcopalian, then found a Congregational church after he moved, then…. He ended up answering anyone who asked what denomination he was “EpisCongBaptisTerian.” Methodist in the summers, but somehow that’s missing. 😉


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  24. Ben, The top picture of a church exterior showing 2 bell towers looks like St. Mark’s Grand Rapids – Am I right or does this church have a doppelganger somewhere?


  25. Thank you so much for this post. I am a “lapsed” Episcopalian. When I try to explain to my Unitarian friends, and to myself why I still feel such a reluctance to completely abandon the Church I have been at a loss. Your words say what I have been struggling to iterate.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Good list. I’m a cradle Episcopalian whose first church was a movie theater and whose second was a stable. As a priest, I’ve done everything from solemn high mass to an all-night liturgy in a circus tent. As the late Bishop Paul Moore once told me in an interview for a video history on “The Story of the Episcopal Church”: “We are a catholic church in love with freedom.”

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Beautifully expressed, Ben. I was on the staffs of two Episcopal churches, one Methodist church, and one Reform synagogue–all of which experienced significant growth simply by embracing their inherent identity as liturgical, historic organisms. I was a “cradle” Episcopalian from the days of Morning Prayer, and exposure to the sung canticles, hymns and beautiful words of the liturgy were deeply formative, giving me a lifelong affinity for music and the English language.

    As an “old timer”, it’s gratifying to see that some of the items on your list — such as the participation of children — were hard-won battles in many parishes and, at the time, greatly contentious. To me, this is a testament to one of the church’s greatest strengths: the idea that the liturgy — that the Church, itself — is a living, organic entity and, as such, must be open to change. Fortunately, not change for the sake of change, but change consistent with the broader messages of the Gospel, such as “All are welcome: women, children, gays, the homeless”. Well-founded change can keep us moving forward, growing, leading, even as we enjoy a link with the community down through the ages in our traditions and forms of worship.

    As an aside, my own faith went the way of the Dodo more than a decade ago. But though I am now an agnostic, I’m a reverent one, and I think I will always be an Episcopalian at heart!


  28. I loved everything you said. I didn’t ‘find’ the Episcopal Church…it was a gift from my parents. Over my lifetime (lo these 70 years) I have known it to be home. ‘Home is where the heart is’ and for me the liturgy, the hymns, the quiet reflection, the absorbing of the faith of those who have come before only makes me love my church more. It’s reflection of Christ’s message to love, to forgive, to include, to pray, to join in or to seek out….I love the hymn, Come, just as you are. I think the Episcopal Church has really gotten that right. Come and pray, come and sing, come and share, come and partake….come.


  29. I love the part about kids at the Eucharist. I was raised in a church that taught if you didn’t “understand” communion, you were “eating and drinking damnation”. Yeah.

    Until my daughter was 3 she would go to the rail for Eucharist and receive a blessing, but not partake. Around 3 she started asking why she could have the “blessing” that we received (“the little round blessings”). A wise priest advised that when she started feeling left out, it was time for her to receive. My childhood popped up and I said, “But, she doesn’t understand it.” To which, of course, he replied, “Do you? Does anyone?”

    Liked by 1 person

    As a Disciples of Christ minister I love this program for laity. We have a group at my church and I am a co-mentor.


    • Thanks for mentioning EfM. Am a co-mentor myself and feel the same kind of “nourishment” at our weekly gatherings as I do in Worship. In both places are we free to examine our differences in a setting of love and grace.


  31. Thank you for writing this! It is beautifully written and I wholeheartedly agree! I had some similar experiences. I also love the Episcopal Church for all those reasons and for its theology based on faith, tradition, and reason. I don’t think there is one perfect church anywhere and I tried many! But the Episcopal Church comes the closest for me! God bless the Episcopal Church!


  32. Any chance that old gutted out mall church with the rock star pastor was Mars Hill? I went there for years. I live in NC now, and am actually a Catholic, but grew up Episcopalian and can so very much relate to what you have to say. Thanks for writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well guessed! (As long as we’re both thinking of the Michigan one, not the Seattle one.) Mars Hill was instrumental in my faith journey…and, surprisingly enough, the first place I ever experienced an Ash Wednesday service. (They too were beginning to incorporate elements of liturgy into their worship at the time.)


  33. Thank you for sharing this. It’s not too often that I read about someone who, like me, really loves liturgy. It speaks to me on such a deep level. I especially love your last point on how we’re all the same at the altar.


  34. Ben, we shared your testimony on our Unapologetically Episcopalian Facebook page yesterday. As of now, Facebook tells us it has reached over 135,000 people via our page and that it has been shared 1,130 times. We’ve had 71 comments on it, which is a remarkable number for our page. We believe the reason it has struck such a chord among our participants is that it is what our page is all about. We leave wrestling with the question “What’s wrong with The Episcopal Church?” to others. Instead, we ask, “What’s right with The Episcopal Church?” fostering hope and positive change where needed and promoting respectful and holy conversations. You have made a huge contribution! Thank you! Please participate in our online community whenever possible at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Unapologetically-Episcopalian/122364231114060

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, that certainly explains a lot! 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing it. I love your approach to fostering conversation. I will definitely look to participate in the future!


  35. This is a wonderful artical of your intimate thoughts about The Episcopal Church.That we all feel the same as well.Thank you for sharing.


  36. I have been floating between churches, because of different church politics. I do not have a specific church home, but as a converted Episcopalian I have never lost my newfound identity. Your list reminded me though why this identity is so strong. It is bigger than one building or one community. I love being Episcopalian. Thank you for writing this for me!

    Liked by 1 person

  37. As a Roman Catholic I must say that I love the Episcopal church even though I will never consider abandoning my baptismal identity. When I worship at the Episcopal church and watch the procession during the liturgical act it makes me feel I am participating in an act of enthronement. The coronation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We do it every Sunday.. How inspirational.


    • Carlos, I was raised in the Roman Catholic faith, also. And decided to explore the Episcopalian church. I realized it’s part of the larger Christian faith. The bishops ordain priests going back in a direct contacted line to Jesus and Peter, and that line hasn’t been broken even now, it’s just like a stream that has been diverted by a rock. Same stream, different stream bed. Or another room in the same house. I am now happy in the the Episcopal Church. I feel at home, included, instead of just being “entertained” by the happenings at the altar.


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  39. This is a great article and you articulate what is great about the church. However, you are unfortunately describing what is now a small percentage of the Episcopal churches out there.

    The reason I finally had to throw in the towel and leave the Episcopal Church is that although they have these beautiful and deeply respectful rituals, the problem is that they have been watered down so much by the members (and clergy) that they have almost no meaning anymore. The church has turned away from most of the core beliefs about God, and the divinity of Jesus, his purpose on the cross and it has now become a social club for their liberal social causes.

    Let’s be honest, today you can have almost an entire body of members in many of the Episcopal churches that literally pride themselves on the fact that they are “intelligent” enough to “understand” that Jesus was likely just a ‘nice guy’ and ‘philosopher’. That due to the ‘conniving of the apostles’, he was turned into the ‘son of God’ after his death. Members believing this is one thing (everyone is on their own journey), but too many of the Priests and Bishops believe this very same thing. I have listened to members AND clergy allude to these facts (subtly from the pulpit, outright in one on one conversations).

    Their efforts have been to turn reshape the church beliefs to fit their leftist political views and use God for the furtherance of their politics (the very thing they arrogantly accuse evangelical churches of doing). In an effort to accomplish this, the membership and the church has turned away from Jesus to the point that they are completely on the cusp of not being part of the Christian faith anymore.

    The main example of this is that not one pen stroke of the Bible could be re-translated or twisted to make any political argument that abortion is condoned. The Episcopal’s solution? Jump on Dominic Crossan’s bandwagon with “The Jesus Seminar” and throw the entire New Testament. Like Crossan, the Episcopal clergy do not try to state that the New Testament is mistranslated (even The Jesus Seminar “scholars” were not arrogant enough to usurp 2000 years of exonerating investigation regarding that). So they take the different tact and say that it was almost entirely made up. Yea! Problem solved!

    I just left an Episcopal church in Kansas City for the above reasons. But beyond that, it was so bad there that our main priest was even allowing an avowed atheist to be part of the acolytes and serve communion! Although I never could understand why the atheist would attend church (I had several conversations about it, he definitely did not believe in God), but having a priest knowingly put him in that position was mind-boggling. After all this, I finally realized that some of the ridiculous and heretical things that were publicly said by Katharine Jefferts Schori were not flukes or taken out of context. She is embodying the New Age type belief system is endemic in the Church.

    It is my prayer that the Episcopal Church would be reclaimed by those who believe that Jesus is the son of God. Half God and half man. That he came to die on the cross for our sins to set up a new covenant so that we may now have earthly and eternal fellowship with God when we simply put our love and trust in him. When these simple, non-negotiable fundamentals are believed, then we can have those other debates and have the big tent that I also loved about the Church. At least then if the Church would posit those non-negotiable beliefs, THEN we could all come together during the beautiful reverent ceremony of communion and agree. The Church could once again be a solid part of the Christian faith.


      • Amen. Not “half God and half Man” 100% both. From a Priest who after almost 40 years in the ordained ministry is still in love with the Episcopal Church, her people, and the Catholic faith she represents. Above all with the God who was and is and who will be. I believe Bishop Schori has always been a faithful witness to the Resurrection. May God bless her – and you. J. True+


    • I understand Schiori perhaps too well. She was divisive, arrogant with fake humility, disliked helping the poor if it messed up a parking lot…. walking behind her one day when she was unaware her comments could be heard…. that her husband without an apparent other job was busy taking pictures of her as a papparazzi would, which made me wonder ‘what was up’. Despite the multiple show votes, she was the ‘anointed’ to show how politically correct the church is. Some of us in Nevada prayed to get rid of her as bishop. This is a lesson in being careful for what you pray for. The current bishop is walking a tightrope between binding up the wounds she left and being a political force for justice. I may not agree with what he does, I understand his position and support him as the right leader at the right time. He is a right man at a needed time. If the Roman Catholic part of the Church can survive the bad popes, we will survive her.

      But those 11 things are exactly what I’d been looking for all my life despite being raised in a very liberal denomination, it was dry and without deep meaning that the Episcopal Church/Anglican Church.


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