Whirr2005-03-29
Conversion Experience?
So this big thing happened / is happening to me, but Spring Break is over now and I don't have very much time to write about it. I might just write a little bit and then update this later.
So, for a long time now I've been a proud Agnostic. I wasn't ever going to stoop so low as to reject anyone's belief unless and until I had good evidence. A while ago, however, I began to suspect that this ultra-rationalist view of the universe was a little lacking, and I began to envy people who had Faith. It seemed like a mysterious, unquantifiable thing that I did not understand or share, but it looked really nice.
Then I read that book by Bishop Spong, my reaction to which is here.
He made me question my Agnosticism--is it really right to assume that all experience and ideology is equally valid, even the really silly stuff? And that opened some doors for me, I think. If I didn't have to accept that the "Cosmic Wombat" theory of God was just as likely as the "Water Skiing, Wine-making, Undead Jesus" theory, then maybe I could accept spirituality more easily.

Then I went to Katya's church, St. Luke's--an Episcopal church. I've been to Methodist services (when I was quite young) and some protestant funeral where this guy talked about "Christ Jesus" for an hour, and Unitarian Universalist Services where no one mentions God under any circumstances, and some Quaker Meetings. I had never seen anything like Easter Vigil at St. Luke's.
When I wasn't watching in awe or laughing in glee I was scribbling everything down in my little journal, from which I now quote:

"They came in at the rear of the church, like doctors: the Celebrant followed by five robed assistants of Grave Importance. Each one had a task, and the Celebrant (Jeannette DeFriest--I'd heard about her before from Katya. She's awesome!) would give and receive all manner of complicated tools from them, as if they were in surgery."

This is all in semi-darkness, but then the church went totally black, and in the darkness she lit a huge brazier, and a three-foot-high flame. From this she lit the paschal candle (a huge candle with a shiny gold Thingy at the tip) and the censer. These tasks both required still more tools.
"And the church fills with smoke (like a fog machine, but much better smelling) and the whole troupe entered and you'd best believe they were fucking backlit by that glorious fire, and they started lighting candles in the congregation, spreading a path of fire and light that washed out on all sides."

That, you see, is how one does it right.
There were other awesome moments, as well. Like when she said, "Alleluja, Christ is risen" and the church was in complete darkness, except for the light of the candles in the congregation, and then they turned on the lights, starting with the alter, and the whole damn place lit up. And then, out of nowhere, everyone took these bells out of their pockets and started ringing them like nobody's business. It was so cool, such a sensory overload, that I started laughing with joy.
And speaking of Joy, these folk believe in Singing. I mean, that have a great choir (Katya is in it, that's the main reason I went) and they sing hymns and what not, but every so often and for no apparent reason they just sing things instead of saying them. They have call-and-response bits where the congregation sings back at the Celebrant. What's more impressive is that the congregation can really sing! They sounded great. Add to the the beautiful voices of the choir, singing often in plain chant (which I'm told is rather difficult), and the incredible pipe organ.... *sigh*.
It was beautiful. It was moving. More than that, for the first time, I could totally imagine myself letting go of Rationality completely and allowing myself to slide into the blissful sea of Faith, examining everything uncritically and being alive and aware and swept away in the beauty of the God Experience.
I'm still a little tentative about this, but I think I may have had a conversion experience on Saturday. I might no longer be able to call myself an Agnostic, St. Luke's may well have made me an Atheist.
More on this here.
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