I’m an old cradle Episcopalian who luckily belongs to an even older Episcopal Church. I saw its hundredth birthday and its one hundred fiftieth too! There have been many changes to Good Shepherd over the years to the structure of its buildings, to the congregation, and to the liturgy.
When I was a child, the church was a beige color. We used the 1928 Prayer Book, we were considered “low” church. We only had communion once a month. There were no lectors. Ushers and acolytes were all men or boys. We wore hats (which men removed when they entered the church), gloves, and special “Sunday” outfits. The Parish Hall only had the old house and the big hall behind it.
We were a very poor church and at one time almost became a mission. Any changes or repairs to the infrastructure were done by the parishioners because there was no extra money to hire anyone. We owned the rectory — the first one in my memory was a small Victorian on Wright Avenue that was replaced in the early ‘60’s by a home we were able to build on Bratton Avenue. It was later sold as it had become too expensive to support. Some of the time we have been able to be a viable church only by a shoe string, but somehow we have always survived.
There have been many changes throughout the years, but there have always been some things that remained constant for me. I have always felt love, comfort, protection, and forgiveness that I lump together and call “God’s Grace.” I feel it the moment I smell the boxwoods outside the church, and I carry it out with me when I leave. I feel surrounded by all the Saints of the past — known and unknown parishioners, family of blood and association — all encouraging me to open up and place myself in Our Shepherd’s hands.
There is always a cleansing and renewal of my soul that occurs. I feel new-born each and every time I am in the church or greeting someone at coffee hour. God’s Grace is always in this special place. The people who have come to partake of this Grace are the luckiest people in the world and that includes me.