|Melanie Wallace, Diocesan archivist|
In May of last year, I submitted an article to TOPIC entitled “I’m not actually Anglican”– a bit of a confessional on my experience of coming into the Anglican community as a non-Anglican. As I write this it is exactly a year since I started working as the archivist for the Diocese, and I am feeling a bit introspective as I look over the past year.
My progress in acclimatizing to Anglican culture has been quite startling I must say! I now know the difference between a BCP and BAS – and can throw around acronyms like ACPO, HoC, PWRDF and DTFPR like an old pro!
I have finally figured out who is a Venerable, a Reverend, a Very Reverend, and a Most Reverend and have dropped “Extremely Reverend” and “Incredibly Reverend” from my mind’s internal list of “possible titles for Anglican clergy.” I have been, and reported, to two synods (diocesan and provincial). I’ve even been introduced to single malt scotch – though not at work of course! All that is what continues to surprise me as I journey through my first year of working in the diocese – my work has affected so much more than my job. In my travels and holidays in the past year - through no fault or initiative but my own - I have visited Anglican parishes in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Alberta. I even find myself at a parish close to my home here in Vancouver not all that un-regularly…at the very back of course where no one can see my confusion or mistakes.
I’ve become involved in what we used to call “extracurricular activities” in school – things outside my work that pertain to the Anglican community. Some of my friends are concerned. They joke about staging an intervention for me.
Even my husband asked a couple of months ago:“Are they actively trying to convert you, or are you really this interested?”. Well, “they” are not actively trying to convert me (to my knowledge – correct me if I’m wrong here), and yes, I am really this interested.
In my last article, I struggled to place what it was about “Anglicanism” that so moved and intrigued me. I decided then that it was the balance and tension between surety of faith and a sense of mystery. That is still true, and is what first drew me. I think what makes me stay – hang on, cling to what I have experienced - is the people.
If nothing else, I have learned this year that the god I thought I knew was small, angry, picky and most of all – absent. What makes me stay is that I see God’s hands in the hands of parishioners making community meals.
I see God’s eyes in the eyes of many who choose to see beyond class, race, sexual orientation to the soul of the person before them. I see God’s feet in the feet of people who travel far from home to teach, to nurture, to help others. I see God’s heart in the welcome, the embrace, the acceptance I have experienced – even as an “outsider”. God is present.
I have also seen that this community is not perfect - there is hurt, anger, and dissonance. That doesn’t scare me. I came across a sermon the other day in the archives. It was written by a priest of this Diocese in 1938. He wrote: “I suppose that controversies are inevitable among free peoples. So much of truth is relative that people who think must differ about many things, and when we find any mass of them saying the same thing, we may conclude that either they have not been thinking, or that they are not saying what they think”.
I love that within this tradition, people are allowed to think, and allowed to express what they think. That was not the case in the tradition I grew up in, and I see it as such an incredible gift.
I’m still discovering. I’m still not sure why the bishop flung water around at synod (and not in my direction either – was that a sign?) or what those funny-looking letters on the hangings off the altar at my local parish mean. I still haven’t figured out if it’s one hand out for a wafer and two for bread or vice versa – and why it seems to be different at every parish I visit. I am still afraid of messing up in the service….but less so, because there seems to be so much of God’s ridiculous grace hanging around it seems less important that I do things right, than that I just be.
Thank you again for the warm welcome, and an incredible first year.
Melanie Wallace is the diocesan archivist.