Growing up, my family was very involved in our Methodist church on Long Island. My parents were both members of the choir, and my brother and I were “choir orphans.” Orphan Sundays were a blast; we piled into a pew with our friends, while one poor non-musical parent sat nearby trying to keep us quiet.
Mom’s side of the family had deep roots in Methodism. My dad’s side on the other hand was very much discontented with religion in general. Having had a terrible experience with his own strict Catholic upbringing, my Grandfather chose to raise his children without religion. With such different religious experiences, I’m grateful that my parents decided to begin attending church regularly when I was 5 and my brother was 8. My parents will admit that the wonderful music drew us to that church, but I know it was the spiritual grounding, loving community and community outreach that kept us there.
I didn’t attend church regularly while in college or while living in New York City, where Adam and I met. It wasn’t until we found ourselves living briefly on the west coast that we began talking about growing together spiritually. When we picked up and moved “down south” to Alexandria, we set about making a permanent home for ourselves, and began looking for a church to attend.
Searching for a church with Amy was a great opportunity to reflect on some aspects of the religious experiences I had growing up that I wanted to keep as an adult.
I was raised Catholic, and sitting in the pews with my parents and eventually five younger siblings, I found that I appreciated the form and reverence of a Catholic mass, as well as the opportunity during the service for quiet reflection. Later, at a sleepaway summer camp, I had the chance to attend outdoor services and take part in a rousing Saturday night "hymn sing" that gave me a good knowledge of the traditional Episcopal hymnal.
Like Amy, I didn't attend church all that frequently during college or as a young adult living in New York City. When Amy and I moved here from New York, we both wanted to start attending church regularly and weren't sure where to start. Although Catholicism still held an interest for me, I wanted to find a church that was a bit more progressive, but still supported reverence and time for reflection during worship.
Amy & Adam
Coming from such a varied Christian background, we know there is a variety of denominations and churches out there. In our short search, some seemed to have a little too much of “this” or not enough of “that,” so we kept up our search for a church that would be “just right.” It wasn’t until one Saturday evening, just after returning from Christmas up in New York, when Adam was sitting at the laptop searching Google Maps for nearby churches, that he suddenly said, “I think I’ve found it!”.
Emmanuel’s description on its website made it seem like a good fit for us, and when we came in the next morning, we immediately felt at home. On the walk home from service, we talked about how we appreciated the multi-generational congregation, the family-friendly service, the thoughtful sermons, the good music, and of course the chance to talk with everyone at coffee hour.
After a few months, we started taking part in a confirmation class ahead of being "received" in the Episcopal Church. During that class we came to an even greater appreciation about why the Episcopal Church was a great fit for us. In particular, we liked the balance between traditional worship and the importance placed on being active in ministry and a part of the world around us. The foundation of the church, and the openness to applying reason as part of one’s religious experience (alongside faith and scripture) were also important to us. With that said, we would say we ultimately became Episcopalians because of how we were received at Emmanuel and the wonderful community we found here.
Fast forward a few years and we now have three young children alongside us at church on Sundays. We're grateful that we joined such a supportive and family-friendly church. As we return to a regular year, Amy will get back to leading the Children's Choir, Adam will quarterback coffee hour on occasional Sundays, and the kids will look forward every Sunday to hitting the playground after church.
Amy & Adam Schildge