Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Place I am Content

As a teenager, it can be very difficult to find places where you feel completely safe, welcome, loved, and at peace.

Even as an adult it is very difficult to find these places.

Where do you go to find contentment?

Is it in nature?  

With some friends?

As an employee of the church, one thing that you want is for people to feel that the church can be that place too.

Church is and should be more than a place you go to worship once a week.  It should be a place you go to feel safe.

A place you are loved and welcomed.

A place you feel at home.

Recently one of our youth, Max,  wrote an essay for a college application answering the question of "A place that you are content".

Here is what he wrote.

Reclining in one of the several hundred mahogany chairs, I stare forward at the lengthy chancel and the extravagant sanctuary. The whole church is whispered conversations and relaxed postures, those in need of prayer filing off into the transepts. Praise songs and hymns are fingerpicked on acoustic guitars. The priest surveys the nave from his or her chosen position with a quiet countenance and a subtle smile. My fellows walk about the church in silence, the music echoing about the cavernous space providing enough sonic stimulation for anyone to converse in quiet tones without being heard. My gaze may shift when someone passes, but I stare off into myself as much as I can. I know no one will accost or speak to me. I indulge thoughts of my world, rethinking my recent observations and actions, hoping to assemble some phrase or fragment, one I can repeat in my head to make sense of some personal trouble. I am content in the midst of a large congregation of friends, allowed to sit alone and think with a clarity unattainable when conforming to the script of social interaction.

This place is All Saints Chapel of Sewanee, the University of the South.

Through Episcopal youth programs I attend a small service at All Saints twice a year. The congregation is consistent. Most of the same youth participate in the summer and in the winter sessions. The services always include a time for individual prayer and meditation. My fellows sit in thought, converse in whispers, walk the aisles of the beautiful church or kneel out of reverence to the triune deity. I utilize this period for personal reflection. I cherish the ability to be among so many people who I communicate with so often, and say nothing to them, exchange no ideas. Left to myself, I revert to an meditative state of mind in which I can analyze my universe with ease. I find the situation unique, the time precious, the experience transcendent.

Many of my peers ponder their relationship with the Lord, but I use the time to think in complete serenity. I find the halls and rituals of a peaceful religion pleasant, providing spaces of quietude and a sense of deep safety. Episcopalians rarely vocalize dogmas. They are accepting and maintain a healthy atmosphere of peace. The Episcopal church provides me with the opportunity to hear true silence and to feel true comfort. This culture of acceptance,tolerance, and serenity has become a major part of my identity over the last four years. Of the many experiences I gain through this community, the collective hour of each year in which I sit and stare into myself there is untouchable and magical. All Saints is a space in which I feel the subliminal, naked purity of my existence. The encroaching darkness, mellifluous acoustics, welcoming candlelight, sacred geometry, and Anglican architecture constitute an environment where my being truly belongs.

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