I came to the Episcopal Church like a lot of other people; I married one. I had been raised in the “one true Church” (that is, the Roman Catholic Church). I was baptized at the age of two days old and spent my formative years in Catholic parochial school and as an “altar boy.” (I still remember most of the responses of the Latin Mass.) When we were discussing marriage, Jonnie Sue said she was willing to convert. I said, no, that was wrong; she should be able to continue in her church. That made a church wedding impossible, so we were married by a Justice of the Peace in a small town north of where we lived. I started attending her parish church with her and at some point came to the view that we should be the same on this. I was quite willing to change, being more than a little put off by my family’s opposition to our marriage. This was in the late 1950’s and the divisions between Catholics and non-Catholics was much stronger than today. (Old joke. Man tells nun he is going to marry a prostitute. Nun faints. Nun is revived and asks for clarification. Man says he is going to marry a prostitute. Nun replies, “Oh, thank Heaven; I thought you said protestant.”) The degree of separation was so great that Catholics were forbidden to even go inside a non-Catholic church. There was only the one true church on the one hand and all those poor misguided souls who were damned to hell on the other. I was probably typical in that I could not have told you any of the differences between Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist or any other denominations. They might have all been the same for all I knew.
After one of my first times at Jonnie Sue’s church, St. George’s in Port Arthur, she asked me what I thought. I said “Everything looks so English.” She had a good laugh at that.
St. George’s was one of those parishes that had Holy Eucharist one Sunday a month and a sung Morning Prayer service the other Sundays. This was before the decision by the national church around the time of Prayer Book revision in the 1970’s to make Holy Eucharist the principal service every Sunday. I had never been to anything on a Sunday morning but Mass, and my take on Morning Prayer was that it was OK, I guess, but it wasn’t Mass. For all I knew it was something they had just made up at St. George’s. It was only years later that I learned of the ancient roots of the Daily Office and the role of the Church of England in preserving it and restoring it in the Book of Common Prayer as a prayer form for everyone.
We were married in July of 1958, and I was received into the Episcopal Church the following October. I count finding the Episcopal Church as the second greatest benefit of meeting and marrying my wife. It has nurtured my spiritual development in more ways than I can tell. I can’t imagine ever being anything else.
“Gracious Father, we pray for thy holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Savior.” For the Church, BCP page 816.
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 3-February-2015.