I want to get back to my Board’s questions and the unraveling of our time in Missouri, but must first catch up one important thread: my continuing journey into liturgical-contemplative spirituality, especially through the Episcopal Church.
When the Warrensburg ministry began, I continued the project begun in Muncie of attempting to reconcile modern evangelical sensibilities with liturgical worship practices. In the course of our Sunday services at the UCM Campus House, we introduced people to many aspects of liturgical worship, but always safely couched between more recognizable elements. For a time this satisfied, but as time wore on, it began to feel as though I were “playing liturgy,” borrowing buffet-style pieces of a larger whole from which I was disconnected.
I longed for that connection and, over time, began to recognize my heart had drifted far away from the tradition of my youth. Compounded with my negative experiences with “Christian Church people” were the beautiful moments at Grace Episcopal in Muncie and my growing love for liturgical prayer both at home and church, all of which drew me in an ever-tightening spiral toward the Anglican communion. Once we moved, I immediately searched for a local congregation, only this time, my family was accompanying me. Though we only attended during summer and winter breaks, I now had to think of what might be approachable for them rather than searching for some sleepy Rite I service I could sneak in before meeting my wife and kids at the local hipster church. I felt caught between my desire for deeper exploration and connection with the Episcopal Church and the difficulty in discerning my wife’s thoughts of the liturgy, but we pressed on, eventually landing at Calvary, a small but lively community in the neighboring town.1 It was there I met Harv.
When I first met him, Harv was the consistent supply priest at Calvary, since he lived in Sedalia with his amazing wife, Susan. Quick to smile, with soft eyes and a measured voice as full of teaching as ridiculous jokes, I first made the acquaintance of the seventy-something man who’d been a priest longer than I’d been alive after one of our first visits. During announcements that morning, he spoke of the ceremony of confirmation and encouraged others who had not taken that step to do so. As I sat in the pew, a realization hit me like a thunderbolt – or maybe it had crept up slowly, like the tide: either way, I realized I had become spiritually homeless. I had been raised and trained in a community with which I no longer felt any affinity; though my job kept me connected,2 my heart had left, yet I had not openly expressed my desire to be part of something else. Yes, I was using much of their liturgy in Campus House services and yes, I was attending Eucharist every time I had a free Sunday, but still I felt some sort of sacramental action, some grand gesture3 was in order.
So I caught up with Harv to inquire after confirmation classes. Wanting, I think, to gauge where this total stranger was in the process, he asked if I would be willing to go to lunch, so we met up later that week, and began a relationship and ritual that was to become a highlight of my time in Warrensburg. At least twice a month we’d go to a local restaurant and chat for hours at a time. We talked about life and marriage, about ministry and theology and literature – we even found time to talk about confirmation! – and in May 2014 with my family and Harv looking on, I was confirmed into the Episcopal Church.
I was home.
But the lunch meetings continued, becoming more of a staple for my life . . . and his.
This is where I realized something had changed. The men who had mentored me in the past were always a joy to be around and most of them were very open about their own lives and experiences, but something almost always kept us firmly on the “mentor – mentee” spectrum. Yet with Harv, I found more: a friend. Yes, he most definitely mentored me and offered stories and advice from his deep reserves of wisdom (he would laugh at that line), but he also listened. For the first time I felt as though I was both soaking up the wisdom of a venerated teacher but also offering insight and wisdom of my own. Doubtless, he had heard most everything I had to say at some point, but he listened with rapt attention and treated every conversation as though it contained information vital to his existence.
I miss Harv more than just about anything else from our time in Missouri. He was there for confirmation; he celebrated the birth of our third child, Elanor, and baptized all my children; he ate in our home and we in his; he worried for me when I spoke of the Board’s questions and wept over the outcome; he constantly affirmed my call and vocation, and encouraged me to pursue the priesthood, even taking me to meet the Bishop – and so much more. As I look back on my life and spiritual journey through the lens of this series, Harv casts a long, comforting shadow. While I might have found my home in the Anglican Communion without him, it would have been a diminished home, and I would have missed out on one of the most transformative friendships I’ve ever known.
1. I hope to talk more about Calvary and their rector, Anne, when we discuss the months between Warrensburg and Bloomington.↩
2. Yes, the Campus House at Warrensburg was based out of the Christian Churches, but under Brad’s leadership had presented itself more neutrally, ironically and unintentionally living up to the ideals of the Restoration Movement more authentically than many of the churches that founded it.↩
3. For those of you familiar with the Enneagram, my wife and Bonnie would probably be screaming, “That’s because you’re a four!” No. It’s because I’m a person. I’m a “four” because I do those things. Get it right. 😉↩