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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