I did not have a religious upbringing, though my paternal grandfather was a Presbyterian minister who moved from church to church in the Midwest before dying at fairly young age. My mother wanted my brother and me to go to Sunday school, but my father was against it – apparently growing up in a minister’s family put him at odds with organized religion. So, from my earliest days Sundays were just like any other day.
Growing up in our small family just outside of Boston, I developed something of a loner mentality. My brother had a learning disability and was bullied by his peers, and in my valiant but largely unsuccessful attempts to shield him, his wounds became mine. If divine help was available I never saw any evidence of it, and it never occurred to me to ask. So I learned to place a high value on self-reliance, spending much of my time playing alone in the woods – nature became my church.
One summer in Estes Park, CO where my Dad’s family spent many summers during his youth, I went to a church service officiated by one of my grandfather’s old friends, and as the organ played and the hymns were sung, I started to cry. My mother embraced me and said, “Oh Kate, you’ve got religion!” I remember feeling awkward and defensive as she released me from her grasp, embarrassed that my inner feelings were so transparent. I had come to believe that crying was a sign of weakness, and I retreated deeper into my cave.
In college I majored in philosophy, and whatever concept I may have had about God or any other universal “being” was systematically dismantled and cast into limbo, leaving me with more questions than answers. After crashing around agnostically for many years, I eventually met Joel, a self-described “cradle Episcopalian,” and 18 months ago we settled in Rowley. We decided to check out a local church, and Joel chose AMC in part because of the pipe organ, knowing that I had worked for C.B. Fisk as a woodworker in the 80’s and would enjoy the music, if nothing else.
On our first day here, I was instantly struck by the warmth of this congregation, and Brad’s sermon was deeply moving. It was several months before I made it up to the Communion rail because of lingering doubts and confusion about my own beliefs. Gradually I was able to let go of these doubts and I was baptized in May and received into the Church in September. I remember vividly when Brad said to Loben and Kessler Fouser on the day we were all baptized that the water he would put on our foreheads was “like a big wet kiss from God.” In that moment, I knew that this was what I needed and had always been yearning for – to be part of a greater human family, guided by the love of God, where having all the answers is less important than simply choosing to live each day with a full and open heart.
As Brad said during one of his recent sermons, “there is no contentment that comes from floating in your own reality.” I need to keep hearing this message, to be reminded that life is about connection, not the false safety of my former cave. So, I came to AMC for the music, but I’ve stayed for everything else that AMC offers and stands for, not just on Sundays but throughout the year.
I am forever grateful to Joel for getting me through the door, to Brad for his deeply inspiring words, and to all of you for welcoming Joel and me so warmly into the AMC community. And the music still makes me cry.
~ Kate Turner