By Stacey Neale 

Reflecting on my faith journey is always difficult because of its ebb and flow. I returned to church eight years ago after leaving like most teens do after confirmation. Church at that time seemed boring to me, and if the social justice message of the Gospel was being discussed in sermons, it wasn’t reaching me in the back pew, literally or figuratively. When I did go to church with my dad, we sat in the pews that once occupied the space that is now the coffee area. Removing the pews might have been a radical decision for some, but it seems to me to be one of adaptation and hospitality. Two qualities, among many, I have come to learn that this parish is noted for.

When I came back, I made a commitment to myself to really learn what church and Christianity were all about. To this end, I have participated in bible study, Lenten and Advent programs, Lay Reader’s workshops, and graduated from Education for Ministry. All this knowledge has helped me to understand my faith and the radical nature of the Gospel call. Liberation theology is of particular interest to me and seeing it in practice around the world is proof that change can indeed happen. Truly internalizing this knowledge and putting it into practice, however, has come in fits and starts as I haven’t completely discarded my secular ways. I feel that Nicodemus is a kindred spirit and often wonder how he fared after he helped bury Jesus.

I have come to believe that following Jesus is an affair of the heart. To live in the mystery requires a letting go that I am rarely able to do. I am in awe of the mystics who gave themselves over completely to the practices of contemplative prayer and austere living to gain an experiential knowledge of God. Praying through Meditatio and the meditative walks, participating in Taizé, and listening to Gospel music have brought me small glimpses of this mystery, but I long for more. I take comfort in knowing that God is always welcoming me back each time I renew my haphazard prayer practice, and each time I am reminded of the calming peace that follows our time together.