Being a cradle Episcopalian myself, I never had to go out and search for a church that suited me, I was just an Episcopalian, so I went to an Episcopal church. Something many of our youths do today. I remember starting my formation classes at St. George's Church in Germantown. Being Confirmed. Continuing my formation classes here at Holy Communion. Going on Pilgrimage. Then I graduated and went off to college. It seemed to me that people are more willing to discuss religion in college than in high school. I still remember to this day, because in a way, it changed my life. I was asked a simple question, one you may be asked a hundred times and have answered without even giving it a second thought.
"So what denomination are you?"
" Episcopal!" I proclaimed proudly, as we Episcopalians often do.
"Oh, ok cool. I don't know too much about that, what do they believe?"
I was then asked a serious of questions to which my response was always..."Ummm..."
How could I claim that I was a proud Episcopalian and have gone through Episcopal formation classes, yet I know nothing about it!
The next day I spent hours doing research and getting books about the Episcopal church, learning the difference between different denominations, trying to learn anything I could. It fascinated me! So much so, that I even switched to a religious studies major. In one of my classes I read a book Putting Away Childish Things by Marcus Borg. The moral of the book is to stop accepting things that you are simply told. Ask questions, dare to learn, find things out on your own.
These lessons are also preached in a book I am reading right now, Who Needs Theology?
In this book, it claims that everyone is a theologian. However, there are different levels of theology. Lay Theology, Folk Theology, Ministerial Theology, Academic Theology, and Professional Theology are the types of listed in this book. Most of them are very similar in that they require a deeper questioning and yearning to learn more, to know more. To grow. To ask! This book claims that the lowest form is folk theology. What is this that it is so low in regards to other forms of theology? The lack of questioning! In folk theology, you simply take what you are taught or read as fact. You hear it and believe it. There is no deeper questioning or wanting to know more.
As Marcus Borg puts it, this is a child's thought process. As we grow, our faith needs to grow as well. This means asking questions and trying to figure things out on your own, as opposed to just hearing and believing.
This is the mind set that I wish to introduce into our formation classes. We want to question. We want to strive to learn in community, through discussion. That is the great thing about the Episcopal church! Is that is what we can do and what we are encouraged to do!
So what does it mean to be an Episcopalian? What do you believe? What kind of theologian are you? I dare to ask you.