have been told more than once that I think too much, in fact, that I over think things. But I believe that I just have too great a desire to know about something, to understand the deeper meaning, to determine how it fits into my life.
Faith is like that. For as long as I can remember, I have believed in God. Being raised in an Irish Catholic household, the role, the importance, the power of faith and of God was a given. Being in touch with God meant that you were a faithful churchgoer. For it was in the quiet of the church, in the power of the mass that the divine that is within each of us can maintain its connection with the divine that is God. At Baptism, we are marked as Christ’s own forever and we are proclaimed as a child of God. I believe that everyone of us that has lived, is living, or will live has the spark of the divine within us and that we are all children of God. I have never for one moment doubted that.
I diligently study my catechism, the Baltimore Catechism, in preparation for taking holy communion for the first time. Even at the young age, I knew that this was the first, and perhaps, most important step on my my faith journey. Even at that early age, perhaps I was guilty I was thinking too much. For some of my age mates this was a scary step. It never frightened me. I embraced it for having watched my father and my Irish grandmother, I knew that this would open the doors of the church for me. And it did. I found a place that I understood, where I belonged. I found the connection that strengthened my life, that gave purpose and meaning to my life, and has sustained me for nearly seventy years.
During those years, I have far too often strayed from that path. I have not always been as faithful to the call associated with being a child of God. I have not always loved my neighbor as myself. But whenever I strayed, I knew it. I knew that I was not fulfilling the meaning that had been given my life. I knew that I was wrong. Those were the darker periods of my life. And I knew it.
And I knew that I had to reconnect my life with the divine that was within me. That I had to return to the quiet power that is found in the church. My life needed and required that.
When I was in those darker times, searching for a place of repose, I knew what I was seeking. I knew that kind of spiritual place that I needed. I knew that just as God could find me anywhere, I could find God anywhere. But I needed a place where my eye could be held steady and would not wander. Where the noise that might pull me away again could be stilled. Where spiritual guidance would be quietly firm and steady. I would think that I had found it, only to discover that noise was growing louder again. Remember, I think too much.
And then we found St. Stephen’s. I found the spiritual quiet that I desired. I found the power in the service that I needed. I found the spiritual guidance that I was seeking. I was embraced by a community of fellow travelers. I was allowed to reconnect with the divine as I needed to, not in some preordained way. This was and is my path and only I can walk it. And I am allowed to do so. I attend services not because I must but because I can. I find strength and comfort within this church and within the community of that is this church.
I give to the support St Stephen’s of my talent, my time and my treasure. I do so in order to ensure that it remains as a bastion of light in the dark to can be life. I do so in order to ensure that the message of hope and redemption can be heard and embraced. I do so in order to keep the spark that is the divine within each of us remains alive and bright. I do so in order to keep the beliefs that I willingly embraced nearly seventy years remain undimmed.
– Bill Barney