” And I Will Raise Him Up”

” Oh captain! My captain! our fearful trip is done….”

 

In 2010 a new minister came to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, located on College Street in Macon, Georgia. I had been going to Christ Church (when I went) but knew I was going to start going to St. Paul’s again- Christ Church was my then husband’s church, and he would become my ex-husband, which meant I needed to go home.

 

I struggled spiritually and wanted to speak to a minister, and for various reasons did not want to speak to the minister at Christ Church. I wanted to speak in anonymity- I know that sounds funny for those of you reading this, my need to speak anonymously. But there was a new minister at St. Paul’s, which would allow me to do so.

 

And I will raise him up
And I will raise him up
And I will raise him up on the last day

 

I was risen, spiritually, and was brought through many hard times. Life does bring us up and down quite frequently.

 

But now the Bishop of Atlanta has taken Father Hal away. My spiritual leader is gone.

 

I’ve written before about how much I hate goodbyes- how does one say goodbye to someone who is not leaving with joyful gladness?

 

We don’t know exactly why Father Hal was asked to resign. We know a few people in the church weren’t happy with him, but everyone I have spoken to was happy with him. The Bishop was called upon by the vestry to help with some disagreements, as best as I can discern, but they did not want Father Hal’s resignation.

 

I am the bread of life  
You who come to Me shall not hunger 
And who believe in Me shall not thirst 
No one can come to Me  
Unless the Father beckons

 

I called the Diocese of Atlanta and raised pure hell. I’m not exactly proud of what I said, suffice it to say I blasted out the first person who put me on the phone with the Director of Finance. I couldn’t speak to the Bishop without first talking to his secretary, and she wasn’t there. I was assured I would get a call from Reverend Alicia Schuster Weltner: Cannon to the Ordinary first thing Monday.

 

I didn’t get a call, so I drove up there and waited to speak to her face to face. Imagine my surprise at her hostility! How quickly I forgot that even clergy are human. But I am still, to this day, startled by the words she would say to me, as I told her I was conflicted because I have a journalistic background and I wanted to know the truth- she then said ” but there’s the good Christian side of you that knows that sometimes we’re just trying to do our best…. but we’re trying to act faithfully.”

 

By this point I was in tears, especially since she just prayed with me. In retrospect, I wish I had pointed out to her how wrong she was- there’s not a “Christian side” to me. My spirituality and my faith envelops all of me.

 

We keep being told we need faith to move on from all of this, to heal. Me- I quote John 8:32- ” The truth shall set you free”. I still want the truth. My faith is not placed in people, my faith is placed in God.

 

The bread that I will give 
Is My flesh for the life of the world 
And if you eat of this bread 
You shall live forever 
You shall live forever

 

And yet, I still have no answers. I really like Bishop Wright, the leader of the Atlanta Diocese. I think he has the potential to be everything that we need. The one time he came to St. Paul’s he spoke so eloquently and from the heart. He vocally opposes the death penalty. He is pro-Immigration reform. He is in favor of same-sex marriage blessings. He has, as the first African-American Bishop of our Diocese, spoken first hand of dismantling racism. He was even named to Georgia Trend’s 100 Most Influential People this year. I’m terrified to even push the “publish” button on this post- because I just cannot reconcile the actions of this man who I admire with what has happened in my own parish. I just want so much for someone to tell us why. And I’m not the only one- the great majority wants to know. Multiple people have emailed and asked, with no answers forthcoming.

 

( I should note- I did tell Rev. Schuster Weltner that I was planning a post on this. So, it should not come as a surprise. But I was warned I might do more harm than good. Perhaps I am naive but, how can the truth cause harm? I am not the only one speaking publicly about this, there are others….)

 

I am the resurrection  
I am the life 
If you believe in Me  
Even though you die 
You shall live forever

 

This is an emotional post for me, please bear with me. There are so many facts I could delve in to, things I’ve discovered and been told, it’s been a roller-coaster of information. I feel as though I am in my own personal episode of Serial- and I am without the grace of Sarah Koenig. I’ve searched for answers and gotten rumors and half-truths that are difficult to prove.

 

My church is now divided. People have pulled financial pledges. Questions remain unanswered. We are told to have faith in the people and the system. My faith is in God, not in people.

 

In today’s sermon, Father Hal said ” everything said and done must be to build up the church. If your actions destroy faith then you are not a leader from God.” Will this post break the faith of others? I believe the truth can heal. How can I get the truth without hurting the faith of others?

 

Perhaps all of this will unite us after all, I’ve never seen Episcopalians get to their feet and applaud their minister as we did today for Father Hal.

 

It felt like death during the service today, but we are told even in death there is life.

 

As I walked to church today from the parish building, alone with my thoughts and worries, I saw one of our choir members racing a little girl. A tall white man with his tie and suit coat flailing out behind him, red in the face racing a little African-American girl with her pouty natural hair streaming behind her. They were both laughing. And in that moment I had hope: that my church can heal. Whether we get the answers we want or not. That we can continue to make the strides I so desperately need to happen. Healing can happen in God’s presence, and He is everywhere.

 

I do still want to know the truth, I still want to know why the Bishop took my minister away. But I know this will, likely, not happen. I’m going to pray that it was with good intent, that there is some good reason we aren’t being told. I want so much to believe this, because I do think so highly of both of these spiritual leaders. But my healing can happen regardless. My faith is placed in God.

 

I Am The Bread Of Life 
(Suzanne Toolan) 

I am the bread of life  
You who come to Me shall not hunger 
And who believe in Me shall not thirst 
No one can come to Me  
Unless the Father beckons 

And I will raise you up  
And I will raise you up 
And I will raise you up on the last day 

The bread that I will give 
Is My flesh for the life of the world 
And if you eat of this bread 
You shall live forever 
You shall live forever 

 

And I will raise you up  
And I will raise you up 
And I will raise you up on the last day

I am the resurrection  
I am the life 
If you believe in Me  
Even though you die 
You shall live forever 

And I will raise you up  
And I will raise you up 
And I will raise you up on the last day

Yes Lord I believe  
That You are the Christ 
The Son of God  
Who has come 
Into the world 

 

And I will raise you up  
And I will raise you up 
And I will raise you up on the last day

Molly McWilliams Wilkins

Molly McWilliams Wilkins is a Southern culture commentator, web producer, and social media marketing maven. She is also a freelance writer who has worked with a variety of publications and online magazines including Bourbon & Boots, Paste Magazine, Macon Magazine, the 11th Hour, Macon Food & Culture Magazine, and as the Digital Content Editor for The Southern Weekend. Mommy first, fashionista, social media maven, writer, artist, dreamer and poet. Hangs on to her Oxford Commas by force. Addicted to shoes and purses- and lots of coffee. Coffee coffee coffee.

Molly McWilliams Wilkins has 883 posts and counting. See all posts by Molly McWilliams Wilkins

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