BY AMY WALTON |
Every morning I stand in my kitchen, hands cupped around my protein smoothie, and say the blessing I’ve said for nearly six decades:
Come, Lord Jesus,
Our Guest to be,
and bless these gifts
Bestowed by Thee. Amen
It’s the prayer I said as a child in our little home in North Carolina, and it’s the blessing I taught my sons, the one we said as a family. Today I continue to invite Jesus into my meals this way, even though I’ve been a Catholic for 23 years.
Truth be told, my Christian faith that was formed in the Moravian Church is permeated with the Church’s beliefs and practices, and I am being drawn back to it now in a greater way.
I was baptized and confirmed in the Mayodan Moravian Church. Growing up, I spent years singing in the youth choir under the direction of Bishop Graham Rights. I learned about serving the less fortunate through the Moravian missionary stories and youth group outreach projects. My Easter mornings began early as I held music sheets for band members walking around town, brass instruments announcing, “He is Risen!” I developed a love and reverence for God’s creation in my summers at Laurel Ridge. I eagerly sang “Jesus bids us shine” at the closing of the Christmas Eve lovefeast and candlelight service, my red-trimmed taper held high in the air.
Above any denomination, I am a Christian; and my 35-year journey from being a Moravian Christian to a Catholic Christian-with Lutheran and non-denominational in between- was largely influenced by moves and major life changes. When my late husband and I moved out of North Carolina, I discovered that geography was not in my favor for continuing to worship and participate in a Moravian community, so we joined other denominations. And while I have been fed and shared in the life of those churches, the faith of my youth has been the daily foundation of my Christian walk.
If you were to enter my coastal Virginia home today, you would see familiar images throughout its spaces: A cross-stitched Moravian table blessing displayed in a wooden frame on one of my dining room’s walls. A commemorative plate of my childhood church sitting on a buffet table. The verses of “Morning Star,” bordered by magnets, at the center of my kitchen’s refrigerator door. A section of a family room bookshelf featuring Moravian hymnals, the Passion Week Manual, and books on Moravian history. A Moravian beeswax candle on my office desk. Tucked inside a drawer of my jewelry box is a charm with the church’s familiar seal that proclaims, “Our Lamb Has Conquered. Let Us Follow Him.” A coin with the words “God Loves Us. Let Us Love One Another” rests beside it, a childhood treasure given to me by the late Bishop Herbert Spaugh.
That’s the essence of the gospels. God loves us, and we must love others, no statues or ornate altars required.
Moravian hymnals have always been a part of my morning quiet time with God. For decades, I have meditated on beloved songs before I pray and read scripture. Psalm 100 bids us to come before God’s presence with singing, so that’s what I often do! Count Zinzendorf’s words in “Jesus Still Lead On,” along with the familiar and beloved “Jesus Makes My Heart Rejoice” are frequent companions in my devotional time, and I often pray the various liturgies found in the hymnals.
No established religious faith is perfect, but the one of which I am currently a member has been steeped in the sexual abuse (and cover up) of children for years. Like many Catholics, I can’t wrap my head around the magnitude of all that’s happened. And now that I’m no longer in the fast-paced lane of being a widower, working mother of two sons, I am contemplating many things regarding the church, including the lack of female leadership and the issue of papal supremacy. Both bother me greatly (and always have). I have never read the Catechism, and there are certain teachings I question or just don’t accept.
My neighborhood parish has been my faith community for many years, one that embraced me after my husband’s death. It’s where I raised my family. The proximity to my home was a factor in my choosing the church because the boys could ride bikes to activities. There is much I love about the faith, including its beautiful liturgy and strong emphasis on social justice.
But I am now in the biggest spiritual discernment chapter of my life. I realize the faith I practice outside of church walls is and always has been deeply rooted in my Moravian foundation.
So, what am I doing about this?
I’m praying. I’m having open conversations with Christians of various denominations and giving voice to my renewed Moravian faith. Reading The Moravian magazine, to which I recently started subscribing, is helping me stay informed about so many things I miss in a church, like an emphasis on creativity and the camping ministries. Tired of religious dogma and Vatican politics, I am now happily embracing my Catholic friends telling me I am a Protestant at heart.
Yes, I suppose I am.
And while my heart is open and discerning, this baptized Moravian will continue saying the blessing I’ve said my entire life, singing my favorite hymns, and seeking how best to live my Moravian faith-nowhere near a Moravian church- in this new chapter of my life.
In the 1700s, Count Zinzendorf wrote, “heav’nly leader still direct us…” The Lord has always directed His people, and I am confident He will direct me.
About the Author
Amy Walton is a certified life coach, certified Christian life coach, speaker, and writer who has lived in coastal Virginia for nearly 30 years. A native of Mayodan, North Carolina, she was baptized, confirmed, and raised in Mayodan Moravian Church, where she remains an Associate Member. Connect with her at www.amy-walton.com or [email protected].