Switching Religions

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that 44 percent of Americans profess a different religious affiliation from the one they had as children. Newsweek puts a human face on this statistic–Episcopal priest Albert Scariato of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown:

Like most of his congregants at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown, Father Albert wasn’t born an Episcopalian. In fact, he first walked into St. John’s almost 20 years ago as a Jewish physician. He had done a lot of searching to find a spiritual home since his high-school days, when he attended Hebrew classes. “I wasn’t very religious, but I always read everything I could get my hands on about religion, regardless of tradition,” he says. Peering through round, owlish glasses, he is subdued when discussing his decision to enter the priesthood. The choice is still “very painful” to some members of his family, he says, but to him it was a change of profession more than of faith.

. . .

Father Albert says he is most comfortable in a place of worship where people with doubts and questions are welcome. He is candid about the fact that his sexual orientation was and probably still is an issue for some in the church. On the morning of his ordination to the priesthood at St. John’s in 1997, someone nailed an objection to the church door à la Martin Luther. The church was packed and the officiating priest, a woman, had planned that the congregation would sing the longest hymn in the hymnal while the lay leadership and the bishop heard the protest in the parish hall. Midway through the verses, the bishop returned to declare Father Albert had been fully and fairly evaluated and that the ordination would proceed. His words received a thunderous, 10-minute ovation.

The church has grown since then, and Father Albert says he is “hard-pressed to name a whole slew of cradle Episcopalians” among the congregants. He’s known for biblically based sermons that can be applied to daily life and that convey a message of social justice. He spends much of his time ministering to the sick and dying, and reaching out to the poor. Does he miss his old profession? “I feel I never left it.”

Read it all here.

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