Episcopal nerd

by Missy Morain

Hi my name is Missy and I am an Episcopal Nerd. There I said it. They say that admitting that you have a problem is the first step, and although I am admitting it, I am not entirely sure that it is a problem at all. I probably cannot be taken to dinner parties where the rules are “don’t talk about religion or politics” as one of my favorite topics is religion and I love a good religious political debate. While my parents taught me lovely manners I sometimes wonder whether my Episcopal nerd aspect will slip out in polite company, thus making me inappropriate, which is something, a good Episcopalian should never be.

I work at the Cathedral College of Washington National Cathedral, a little building on the grounds of the National Cathedral that looks strangely like Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It is sometimes a bit of a surreal experience. In the past year I have been a part of both the Investiture and Installation of Katharine Jefferts Schori as the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the funeral of Gerald Ford, a gathering called Church for the 21st Century which Phyllis Tickle called “a council of the church” and participated in discussions with a group trying to determine how to have healthy inter-religious dialogue. I was a nerd before I started working at the Cathedral College but I think my nerdyness has increased since I arrived. I even got to be there when my boss told nearly one thousand people what a nerd I was when I first saw Marcus Borg and couldn’t even manage to find words to say “hello”, I just shuffled my feet and stared.

Lately though I have been witnessing one of the most remarkable things I have experienced since I got to DC and it is not happening at the Cathedral at all, a smaller parish with just a few children, taking another step on their journey towards living out baptismal ministry. This parish has been putting together its first Godly Play room. Godly Play is a process of Christian Formation. While it is a wonderful program for any age it is most frequently used with children. This past weekend a group of us began setting up the Godly Play room after the Sunday morning Eucharist.

While we were setting up various members of the congregation wandered into the room, asking questions and helping organize. A small group began talking about how to make the room even more welcoming. Initially the conversation revolved around painting, then the graphic artists got involved. For the next hour they discussed possibilities and designs eventually settling on a method to further create the room as a holy learning place. Then they began to discuss fabric and banners that could be created. None of the people left in the room were parents of children at the church, but this didn’t change their passion for the ministry being discussed. Several times in several different ways I heard a desire on the part of these ministers of the congregation, to have a place where children were welcomed, formed and ministered with and to. They talked about the young people of the congregation, and the young people that they would like to welcome. These weren’t people who wanted to create for their children but for the children who didn’t even exist in their lives yet. It was amazing to watch.

When I saw Marcus Borg most recently, I managed to be somewhat coherent and didn’t drool, I consider that a measure of my growth. I am not sure that I am equally capable of being coherent at this new Godly Play congregation. Each time I am there or interact with the ministers of the congregation I am heartened by their desire to share the Good News and to really welcome young people into their mix. It is also providing a much-needed lesson for me. My inclination is always to work behind the scenes. If I had done that, people with gifts to offer would not have explored or been able to share their gifts. Part of not hiding my light under a basket means that it leaves space for others to shine too.

Missy Morain, Program Manager for the Cathedral College’s Center for Christian Formation at Washington National Cathedral, is keeper of the blog Episcopal Princess. She is on the board of directors of the National Association for Episcopal Christian Education Directors.

Past Posts