Green for growth — the color of Epiphany.
So, I’m a post-evangelical.
This became clear to me just a few months ago as I continued my several-years-long path of discerning whether to be confirmed in the Anglican communion of which my new church home is a part.
You see, a couple years ago, my husband and I began attending an Episcopal church around the corner from our home and soon realized we were meant to stay there. I didn’t anticipate a move away from evangelicalism through this decision. It wasn’t intentional on either of our parts to take a new path when it came to church. We weren’t even looking for a new church home.
But it happened. We began visiting — and eventually stayed — at an Episcopalian church we absolutely love.
Pretty soon after deciding to stay, we decided to take a yearlong course in the history of the church. It was a class they referred to as a “catechumenate,” meaning it would teach us the essentials of church history, including that of our church’s Anglican roots, with an aim toward preparing us for confirmation in the tradition at the end of the course.
When it came time for confirmation, though, I didn’t feel ready. I wasn’t yet sure. Taking such a step — being confirmed as a member in a mainline denomination, especially after a lifetime of living out a nondenominational status — felt like a very big deal. I had some lingering questions. I couldn’t step over the line. And as our catechumenate instructor said to me when I told him this, “Here’s the thing about discernment: You don’t know until you know.”
It was clear I didn’t know. And so I continued on in limbo.
But just a few months ago, I realized I am no longer in limbo. Or at least I realized I can no longer remain in limbo. Because I’ve realized I won’t be going back. While at that particular moment of realization I didn’t know if I would be confirmed in the Anglican communion or — the bigger question — move toward the full expression of Catholicism, I clearly knew I would not be returning to evangelicalism.
It’s such a weird place to be, especially for someone who didn’t set out to get here. But here I am, with at least one part of the discernment question come clear.
And so here I sit, a post-evangelical in a mainline denomination. I’m sure it’s no news to you to say I am not alone — not by a longshot. And so I can’t help but think: There must be a whole lot of people like me sitting in these mainline pews with a slim-pickings knowledge of this whole church year thing. So many of us showing up in mainline churches these days are newbies when it comes to the church year.
So, what do we need to know about, say, the current season of Epiphany?
Here’s one thing I know: We need to know more than the barebones facts.
The barebone facts, at least as I hear them bandied about, are:
- That it happens on January 6
- That it’s what the “12 Days of Christmas” song is all about
- That it’s when the church marks the arrival of the wise men on the scene of the Christ child’s birth — and thus why we shoudn’t add the wise men to our at-home nativity scenes until this day
I just know there’s so much more to this season than these facts — and we need to know what this “more” is.
We need to know things like what my friend Rob said, that it tells the world everyone belongs in this story of God — even those who have different styles, languages, and customs than us — and that when we see a star of light in our view, we’re meant to follow it. (I just love that translation of what happened then to what happens now, don’t you? That part about the star? It’s marvelous.)
We need to know things like what my friend Valerie told me today, that the themes of Epiphany are:
- Jesus being made known to the nations (through the coming of the Magi)
- His baptism in the Jordan and the beginning of his public ministry
- His first miracle
- Living out what the Incarnation means for Christ and for us
- Giving flesh to the idea of “the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” and what that looks like in daily life
Who knew the season of Epiphany included exceptional moments in Christ’s adult life? I didn’t.
We need to know what my friend Sarah also told me today, when she said, “I think of all the seasons of the church year as practice for the seasons of our lives. I think that is why it is important to participate in them even when the season doesn’t match our daily experience. … Epiphany is practice for the times when [Christ] comes in quieter and smaller ways, for seeing the signs of him and following them in daily life, for remembering that he comes every day, whether we see it or not.”
So, so helpful. Epiphany is so rich. It doesn’t surprise me to learn it is rich, but it helps me to learn how it is rich.
How do you think about Epiphany? What do you think would be helpful for a newbie to the church year to know about it?