I have discovered two really cool things during these weird pandemic years—Emmanuel Episcopal Church and pickleball!
First, about my faith. I was born and raised Roman Catholic. I grew up going to Mass every week, went to Catholic school, got married in the Catholic Church and raised two Catholic children.
As my kids became adults and stopped participating in formalized religion, I became more of a Cafeteria Catholic (picking and choosing the parts of Catholicism that I felt comfortable with) and started pondering if Catholicism was the right religion for me. I longed for a faith that was more progressive, more tolerant and better aligned with my personal beliefs.
But, I felt bad for questioning my religion and didn’t want to upset my devout parents or husband, so I passively remained Catholic, but started going to church less and less, ultimately becoming— horror of horrors—a Chreaster (only going to Mass on Church and Easter)!
Fast forward to a little over a year ago to the virtual funeral of a friend—a self-described “recovering Catholic”—at which Chuck McCoart presided. I had only known “Father Chuck” as the popular parish priest at Good Shepherd Catholic Church, when I was an active parishioner many years ago. When Chuck left Good Shepherd, parishioners were never offered an official explanation. He just was there one day and then he wasn’t. The Catholic Church version of an Irish goodbye.
So, I was thrilled to rediscover Chuck, albeit for this sad occasion, as he was always my favorite part about my years at Good Shepherd. After my friend’s service, I did a Google search for Chuck and found out that he had become Episcopalian. Mystery solved.
I read Chuck’s bio on the Clergy page for Emmanuel Episcopal in which he said the Episcopal faith was just a “far better fit” for him personally. And that, “among other things, the ordination of women, married clergy and how divorced and gay individuals are treated in the church was what compelled” Chuck to make this transition. His words resonated with me and encouraged me to reach out.
Unfortunately, the first time I ended up contacting Chuck was more transactional than I had wanted as my brother-in-law had died of cancer a few days after my friend’s service. My brother-in-law was living in Wisconsin at the time and we were in need of someone to preside over his service at Arlington. Due to several in our family being LGBTQ and estranged from Catholicism, our family did not want a Catholic priest.
I emailed Chuck and explained the situation and offered my background too. Chuck emailed me back within a half hour (!) and told me he would be honored to preside over my brother-in-law’s service and he also offered to reach out to my sister to provide counsel and comfort. Seriously?!? How can you not love this guy?
Chuck also set up a Zoom call with me. The first time we spoke was for over an hour and we talked about many things—family, dogs, the varied rumors (!) surrounding his departure from Good Shepherd, and religion. Chuck never tried to sell the Episcopalian faith to me, but mentioned that if I would like to explore it he would have Joani Peacock reach out to me via Zoom calls, which she did on multiple occasions.
On one call, Joani suggested I buy “Jesus Was An Episcopalian” and a Book of Common Prayer. We had many question and answer sessions. Joani was always knowledgeable and friendly. I looked forward to our Zoom sessions and felt comfortable asking her anything. I particularly remember our conversation about Lent and what the “rules” were for Episcopalians when it came to fasting and abstaining. Joani said, “All may, some do, none must.” The “none must” part of things blew my Catholic mind!
After several conversations with Joani, I started attending Zoom services and have also worshipped in person a few times as well. I also did a few of the Zoom Coffee Hours. I have felt nothing but warmth and kindness from all I have encountered and met at Emmanuel Episcopal.
When I first spoke with Chuck, he told me you couldn’t be “anonymous” at Emmanuel and that has proven to be the case. At times where my participation has dwindled (most recently while spending a lot of time in Pittsburgh with my terminally ill mother-in-law), I have received emails or correspondence checking on me in a concerned manner.
Even though I am relatively new to the church, it already feels like a supportive family to me. I look forward to getting more involved and continuing on in my faith journey with Emmanuel.
And lastly, about pickleball, if you haven’t tried it yet, you must. It is an absolute blast, no matter your skill or activity level. Beth Jarvis