Acceptance, Service, Renewal

Stories of the Christ Church Experience

 

Members of Christ Church Cathedral reflect on the ways their own stories intersect with the larger story of their church home.

 

Christ Church Cathedral and Me

 

I was not looking. I was uninterested in organized religion. Of course, I believed in God, but had no desire to pair that up with church, congregations, and organizational politics. As a gay person, I had heard, seen, and experienced enough judgmental, Bible literalist pronouncements of my particular and hateful sinfulness. Enough.

Christ Church Cathedral found me –– and just in time. I had reason to attend the liturgy there, in order to hear Bishop John Shelby Spong preach. I left the service hearing myself think, “I could come back here …” And I kept coming week after week. I was falling in love again with God, sacred music, and the liturgy with its communal worship. I had no idea how much I could want to truly participate in, be a part of, some spiritual community greater than myself, meet Jesus again –– but for Christ Church Cathedral.

Visiting the services slowly awakened something in me I had put aside and had subsequently dried up inside me. I gradually remembered how much the liturgy meant to me, the personal awe of the Communion experience, and how I enjoyed sharing God’s word as a lay reader. I was delighted to know so many people, gay and straight, who made worship there a welcoming, joyful, and regular part of their lives. I found myself wanting it too, and returned regularly until I happily chose the Episcopal faith and joined Christ Church Cathedral as a member.

One of the pieces that has captivated me about being a part of the cathedral is how the priests, from Dean Gail Greenwell on, make it a point to help us thoughtfully, and in an enlightened manner, understand and navigate personal meaning in the readings from both the Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) and the New Testament. They bring unabashed joy and complete seriousness in encouraging us cathedral members to deeply experience the unconditional love of Jesus, God the Father, and Holy Spirit. As a lesbian, I know I am home in a community that wants and welcomes me, other members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community, and all of God’s beloved children. All lives matter here. As Canon Rob Rhodes once said, “Church does not change you. Just come here, and you will find that God changes you.” It is true. I am a witness to it. Thank God.

 

Living My Faith in Service

 

I am a cradle Episcopalian. I was born in 1939 and, during the early years of my life, my family attended St. Philip’s Church in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Northside. In 1948, my parents transferred our membership to Christ Church downtown. Since then, Christ Church (now) Cathedral, without interruption, has been a cornerstone of my life. I plan to be inurned in the cathedral columbarium.

My parents were leaders in the church, which ensured my attendance at church school, summer camp, and youth group, as well as my Confirmation. I was shy as a young person, but was asked to take positions of trust, such as serving as president of the Young Peoples’ Fellowship and serving as a youth representative on the Christ Church nominating committee. This led me to confidently go on to serve as head of the prom queen contest at Walnut Hills High School in 1957 and serve as treasurer of both my high school and college fraternities.

I am a faith in action guy. Once an adult, rarely have I participated in Christian education programs, Bible study or group discussions. I prefer to do rather than talk, observe rather than study, listen rather than challenge, and always look before leaping.

All complex organizations, including churches, have some form of hypocrisy, dishonesty, jealousy, paranoia, power plays, control freaks, and communication issues, and that can be both frustrating and counterproductive. I have tried not to let these characteristics get between me and the Cross. I have tried to use any conflict I experienced to strengthen my own faith, having long ago resolved to grow and nurture this sacred Christ Church community and its resources.

I have had many faith experiences at Christ Church Cathedral that have brought tears to my eyes, mostly through music. My greatest faith experience has been the church’s willingness and encouragement through the years to live my faith in service. From conceiving of and raising funds to open a Montessori cross-cultural day care center; to coordinating the camping and youth opportunities programming; to raising funds for stewardship, planned giving, and two capital campaigns; to years as membership chair and coordinator of ushering; to serving on the vestry and as treasurer in the 1970s, it has been a faithful journey.

My faith stems from a sound and conservative upbringing, a wonderful marriage, excellent role models from the “greatest generation,” and a good, humble sense of self. I am blessed to be able to “do good work” for God. Alleluia!

 

Great Things Are Happening

 

I was born in the Republic of Panama, and my husband and I migrated to the United States in 1968. Volunteering is a way of life for us, and we restrict our time to those organizations and churches whose policies provide opportunities that improve the quality of life for individuals, their families, and their communities.

Trinity Church on Wall Street was our choice for worship when we lived in New York City. Our work there was extensive. We changed lives. We brought positive change to the interactions between the congregation and its leadership. Then a job relocation brought us to Cincinnati in 1988, and while looking for a place to worship, Christ Church was recommended.

It was not easy becoming part of a new community but strong faith, coupled with the feeling that Christ Church is where I needed to be, kept me going. I served as a member of the outreach and grants committees, the altar guild, and the hospitality guild (providing the first set of pastries, which led to donations to formally start a coffee hour in the undercroft each Sunday morning after the ten o’clock service). I served as a lay reader, an usher, a vestry member, and a board member of the Episcopal Community Services Foundation. I volunteered with the Interfaith Hospitality Network, the 5000 Club (cooking the first community meal), the ministry to Anna Louise Inn, and the Drop Inn Center (now called the Shelterhouse). I became involved in stewardship campaigns, attended Christian Formation programs, and studied for one year as an Education for Ministry student.

My grandchildren grew up participating in the youth programs of Christ Church, traveling to Navajoland, El Hogar in Honduras, and Mountain T.O.P. in Tennessee.

I attended many workshops and lectures at the cathedral over the years that have strengthened my faith. And I have seen many changes in this church. With the new administration under Dean Gail Greenwell, I feel renewed in spirit because of what is happening at the cathedral. Great things are happening.

 

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