A Beginner’s Guide To Becoming Episcopalian


By beginner’s guide I do not mean an expert explaining Episcopalianisms to novices. I mean a guide written by one beginner for other beginners. You should think of me as perhaps a year or two ahead of you, should you make the shocking and counter-cultural decision to become an Episcopalian yourself. In fact, I’m not even officially an Episcopalian yet. I attend Saint Francis Episcopal in San Antonio, but I’ve not been confirmed. That won’t happen until the bishop comes to our church in February of 2013.

I don’t know anything about the confirmation service, by the way, except I hear the bishop puts his or her hands on your head. Beyond that I haven’t a clue. I’ll tell you more about it after I’ve been through it.

And that’s what this little series of essays is going to be like. One guy who doesn’t know much writing for people who know even less. I could study Episcopal polity and theology. I have a seminary degree and used to be a minister in another tradition, so I’m familiar with that kind of learning. I expect I could get seven or eight well-chosen books, read them, and sound like a cradle Episcopalian in a few months.

But I don’t want to do that. I’d rather learn about this tradition organically, the way most people do. You go to church. You read stuff the church people give to you – mostly pamphlets designed for beginners. You attend spiritual formation classes. And you keep your eyes open. If you don’t know what’s going on, you ask someone.

So that’s how I’m going to learn what it means to be an Episcopalian. Slowly and one step at a time.

Now this next part is important. Because I’m going to learn as I go, I’m going to be wrong sometimes. I’ll experience something at church, make my best guess at what was going on, write to you about it, and then a more experienced Episcopalian will leave a comment and help me see that I was mistaken.

That’s okay with me. I like the idea of being a novice and getting mixed up or confused and having wise people help me out. It takes all the pressure off of me. Also I have an idea that the Episcopal Church might need to know how reasonably intelligent and willing newcomers are misunderstanding things.

So maybe my observations will be helpful to us all.

At the very least I hope it’s entertaining. I took myself entirely too seriously with my last faith tradition. This time I’m in the mood to laugh a little bit and enjoy the journey.

Gordon Atkinson

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  • Ashevillian

    Welcome… from a doctrinally inadequate latecomer Episcopalian who probably doesn’t believe in God. ~ Pascale

  • Lori Z.

    One of the best things I have found about the Episcopal church is we are pretty embracing. We aren’t really uptight and quick to point out, “oh my goodness, you lit the candle wrong”. Certainly it depends on the church and their members, but having been to many, we are a “come as you are church” And yes you will learn, and the church allows enough room for you to think, grow and develop within your own sense of spirit as well. We are liturgical yes, but you know by know what the word means. Whether you choose to kneel or stand during communion is of no consequence to the rest of the church. I prefer to stand. In my church there are only a handful who stand. most kneel. It’s whatever you are comfortable with. either way is correct. ENough rambling, more importantly, I wish you many blessings on your confirmation. You I am sure have already read the confirmation service. The BCP is a beautiful book. You have such a wonderful spirit Gordon. And so many gifts… and your church and the Episcopal church is blessed to have you. Gods peace to you.

    • I love the BCP. Jeanene gave me my own copy for my birthday a couple of weeks ago. Used it in worship for the first time yesterday.

  • Allison Kennedy Owen

    All the best to you on your journey! Prayers and peace.

  • Susan

    Will you at some time explain what drew you to this faith tradition?

    • Susan, I definitely will be doing that. I have written about this journey along the way in various places. I posted something about the Sunday I decided this was for me earlier this year at another blog location. I will rerun some of those pieces in this series.

  • I discovered RLP and began reading you when I was going through my own journey from the Churches of Christ into the Episcopal Church. It’s strange, because I absolutely think reading you was a part of what brought me into the Episcopal Church. You were able to open my mind on some questions in a way only someone from a tradition similar to mind could. Now as an Episcopal priest, I’m grateful to you and hope that this journey brings God to you in unexpected ways and places.

    The Episcopal Church welcomes you.

    • Thanks Jared. I think about you sometimes. Maybe someday I’ll get to visit your church. It would be an honor.

  • Mark (MN Lutheran)

    Glad to see this update. I have really appreciated your blog a lot since a co-worker told me about it years ago. God’s blessings to you!

  • Alan

    May the Peace of Christ be with you as you continue your faith journey on a new path.


  • Kimberly

    Excited to see you writing again… but even more excited that your faith journey continues. Yea!

  • BM



  • Found you through the Velveteen Rabbi. We appear to be at similar stages. I was just confirmed in December. Looking forward to reading more!

  • Jane Pace Lawing

    Just reading and learning. Appreciate your insight!