By Sue Fulmore
My inheritance includes a heritage home. It sits on a beautiful although somewhat overgrown property with gardens overflowing with roses, peonies, daisies, and delightfully scented phlox. The house itself is stately and solid yet showing the wear of many years’ battle with the elements. The stones are worn in places, metalwork shows signs of rust, paint is flaking in other areas; the patina of having stood the test of time.
This home feels like a sanctuary as you enter. The luxurious carpet softens your footfall and extends a welcome. The living room has floor to ceiling windows overlooking an expanse of lawn and old growth forest. Chairs and couches beckon you to sit and rest, enjoy a coffee and the view. From where it is situated this room would be cool in the summer and sheltered from the winds in the winter. A library is next door with its high-ceilinged rows upon rows of books handed down from past generations. These volumes contain wisdom of the past; read, appreciated and passed on. The scent of old volumes and worn leather fills the room and whispers an invite to linger. Embossed velvet draperies create a cocoon for the reader.
Down the hall is the conservatory, tropical in feel with a profusion of plants, the smell of rich soil, trickling water features and the warmth of the sun. This is a place to ponder and to care for the living things growing here.
An expansive modernized kitchen has been carefully planned to have beautiful spaces for working as well as sitting down to enjoy the fruits of one’s labour with friends and family. Original carved wooden cabinetry, marble countertops, glistening fixtures, a mix of the old and the new is pleasing in every way.
Up a wide carpeted winding staircase are the three bedrooms. All are spacious and speak of understated luxury. The master bedroom is a cloud of misty greys and blues with mounds of sumptuous cushions on the bed and settee. It speaks of calmness and serenity, a place of rest and refuge.
All of this has been left for me, but I live only in the kitchen and master bedroom. The other rooms are locked up. I never enter them.
This is a picture of how I feel about growing up in the evangelical church.
I was brought up in the evangelical tradition and appreciate the ways it taught me to love God and others. It showed me that God was approachable and real. Belonging to this branch of Christianity schooled me in spontaneous expressions of worship and prayer. It also tried to make everything explainable and defendable. I did not sense of the “mystery” of God, His holy “otherness”, nor did I see a celebration of the beauty of God. I understand that the beginning of the Protestant movement was a reaction to the abuses and excesses that were occurring in the Church at the time. We needed to reckon with them, but I believe we may have gone too far in the other direction.
It seems that much of the beautiful and rich inheritance we have in the history of the Christian church was ignored, often looked upon with suspicion and even shunned. It was not until I was in my 40’s that I heard about the concept of Advent and thought of Lent as something that is open to those outside the Catholic tradition. I hold a degree in Religious Education, but I did not receive a very broad range of teaching. Some of the things that have stood the test of time such as Lectio Divina, Examen, observing the church calendar and Sabbath, contemplative prayer, and meditation were locked away by my spiritual forebears. Until recently, I have only had access to a small portion of my riches.
I have only just begun to open the doors to the other rooms occupied by my brothers and sisters from the more liturgical branches of Christianity. For instance, I am finding that the practise of holy reading (Lectio Divina) opens up a whole new level of meaning to Scriptures that I may have read numerous times. If my more traditional fellow believers have practices that draw them into deeper intimacy and dependence on God, then I want to incorporate these into my life. There is a beautiful sense of rootedness that comes from participating in practices that have blessed believers for over 2,000 years. Different ways to celebrate the Eucharist only add to its significance. Knowing that millions of Christians from all branches of the faith are preparing along with me for the coming of Advent or Easter reminds me of my place in the holy catholic church.
While remaining in my local evangelical church I am choosing to read from the vast library of wisdom left by those who have gone before, and those considered to be outside of my brand of the faith. I am choosing to embrace my complete inheritance and seek to experience the full riches available to me and to enjoy the communion of all the saints.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Eph, 1:18-19)
Sue Fulmore is an art quilter, decorator, and gardener. She’s also a wife, mother, friend, sister, aunt, daughter, and a two-steps-forward one-step-back follower of Jesus. She lives in sunny Alberta, Canada with my robust shoe collection and retired husband. You can find her at https://www.instagram.com/gr8fulwanderer/ and https://www.facebook.com/sue.fulmore
Cover photo by James Bold on Unsplash
Oh my goodness how I loved this!!! I feel exactly the same!!! I’m reading right now Thin Places by Tracy Balzer about Celtic Christianity and watching sessions of Hearing God with Dallas Willard. I too have a journey from Southern Baptist thru the Charismatic move and now after a number of years of just being the Church with a few precious friends find myself back in a larger community. But through precious fellow so-journers like Ann Voskamp, Eugene Peterson, Richard Foster, Dallas Willard and a vast number of others I simply say Amen!
Thank you for your comments. It seems like there are many of us on this same kind of journey. May your walk with Jesus be deeper and richer as you continue to explore. ❤️
i really appreciate this , Sue — the embracing he good – without throwing everything overboard — for example, just because a scripture was taken out of context doesn’t mean the scripture is at fault. your whole approsch here just made sense.
Carol, thank you. It felt risky sharing this because I did not want to negate the gifts of growing up in the church. I’m glad you received it in the spirit in which it was written. It’s good to “get rid of the bath water while keeping the baby”!
see, that’s what i liked….there are gifts, rich, deep ones and I am weary of the rhetoric that insists on tossing it all.
What a great visual of what I am currently experiencing! This year I am working my way through a book by Richard Foster (and others) – A Year With God.
A question: Do you get cautioned or receive “raised eyebrows” from your circle of evangelical friends / pastors when you try to discuss what you are reading / experiencing? How do you handle this?
I’m glad that this resonated with you. Oh yes… raised eyebrows, concern for my soul, etc is part of this unfortunately. I had people in my life that lead the way in this which was helpful. Much depends on who you share your experiences with, and it is wise to choose carefully. If our purpose behind exploring new ways to connect with God is to have a deeper relationship with Jesus and it produces more of the fruit of the Spirit within us then we are on the right track. We have to be careful though not to think of ourselves as more enlightened than others – which is pride- but recognize that we are on a journey and we will all be at different places. That being said try to find some like minded people to journey with you. Blessings!
Thank you! Wise words and encouragement!
You are welcome – carry on learning and growing!! ❤️
I grew up charismatic and went to a baptist college. I was so surprised by the depth of my babysit friends faith- their heart for God’s word and their wisdom. I realized you could be saved and not speak in tongues – that was a revelation but a lot of charismatic testimonies start with,”I was raised baptist or catholic but I didn’t know Jesus. “. I married a catholic guy and was so touched the first time I walked the stations of the cross. I realized that you can’t substitute ritual or bible study for a relationship with Jesus – but with Christ as your foundation study and even ritual come alive with greater depth and meaning.
Thank you for sharing. Sometimes we get so caught up with how different we are that we forget about how much we have in common. If we have a deeper relationship with Jesus as the focus there is so much richness to be found in all of the different ways we worship.
May we grow in our loving acceptance of one another as we seek after Jesus.
This is rich. I understand this completely. So many times I feel in our evangelical world we have narrow minds, trying to shut out words associated with other denominations, without realizing that there is good in some things. Lectio Divina is wonderful, it brings a centering to God. Lent also keeps our mind on Christ, which as a young person I couldn’t quite grasp. The comparison to the great house is excellent! Thank you.
Thank you your comments and encouragement – you are so right about us shutting our minds off to unfamiliar terms at times. May this not be so as we move forward 🙏