This week’s Acts 8 BLOGFORCE question is both good and timely. It is timely because this marks Pentecost week in the life of the Church. Good because it invites us to think about something that can be uncomfortable for many Episcopalians, the work of the Holy Spirit. Without further adieu, this week’s BLOGFORCE challenge: Tell us the story from your time in the Episcopal Church that you have felt the Holy Spirit at work.
Here’s my story.
Sweet Home Alabama
On or around Ash Wednesday of my senior year in seminary, my Bishop came to visit. We had a nice dinner, but there was an obvious elephant in the room. WHERE THE HECK AM I GOING TO GET A JOB WHEN I GRADUATE!?!?!? I was one of six graduating seniors from Central PA, and the only one who wasn’t a) already drawing a pension or b) independently wealthy. Bishop Baxter was gracious and allowed me to interview in other dioceses, so long as I a) interviewed anywhere in Central PA that he recommended and b) kept him in the loop. This was well and good, but after thinking that going back to PA was my only option for so long, I had no clue where to even begin a nationwide job search.
A few week’s went by when a friend, Stuart Shelby, sent me a Facebook message about a job in LA (Lower Alabama) that I had to check out. I didn’t even know that Alabama had Episcopalians, let alone a Gulf Coast, so I chuckled to myself and ignored the message. Two days later, he messaged me again. I relented and gave Stuart my cell phone number and told him to pass my name along to the Rector.
It was a Wednesday in Lent when Keith called me and I missed the call. Being prone to anxiety, I was very nervous about calling him back, so I put it off and went to my Field Ed site for our Wednesday evening Lenten Program. I arrived at home about 8pm and told SHW about the phone call.
“Call him back!” She said excitedly.
“It’s late. It’s a Wednesday in Lent. He won’t answer.” I tried to make excuses, but I knew deep down that this was not the way she would have normally reacted. She, like me, had planned to return to PA, to be near home, to be close to family, so her enthusiasm about the possibility of moving to within 10 miles of the Gulf of Mexico was the first evidence of the Holy Spirit at work. Well, the first sign for me at least. She had received her first sign on the way home from work that afternoon, when the radio in her car malfunctioned and the only thing she could listen to was one song on the CD player. The artist? Lynyrd Skynyrd. The song? Sweet Home Alabama.
The Spirit continued to be present throughout the process. Phone interview questions like “when was the last time you took your wife on a date?” and “who is in the Final Four in your NCAA bracket?” Members of the vestry who welcomed us with open arms. Chocolate cake and Sangster’s Cream Rum. Tears of joy in TKT’s living room as we all came to realize that this was so very right, that prayers were being answered, and that the Spirit was at work.
Sunday marks 7 years at Saint Paul’s in Foley, and the Spirit continues to live and move in this community. I see it in their willingness to try new things, to step out of their comfort zones, to reach out to the community, and to put up with the wild dreams of TKT and me. I give thanks everyday that the Spirit wouldn’t be ignored back in February of 2007 and for bringing us to where we belong, Sweet Home Alabama.