“Morning has broken …”
Thus begins one of my favorite hymns, made popular in the 1970s by Cat Stevens. I was born to a Protestant mother and a Catholic father. After learning my parents had eloped during World War II, dad’s priest declared them living in sin and me illegitimate, which ended dad’s years as a Catholic. Thus, after searching for a church they both liked, I was brought up Evangelical United Brethren, a church I still respect above all others.
“Blackbird has spoken …”
As a child I wanted so to fit in, to be included, as do most children. At the age of 12 I was baptized with my mother and that Christmas, after all the pageant parts were handed out to the younger children, there was no part for me. I went to the pastor and told him I wanted to be involved and he chose me to read the Christmas story from the New Testament, my first time standing at a pulpit, but not my last.
“Sweet the rain’s new fall …”
When I was 13 we moved to Seattle and my parents dropped out of church. But I continued, going with neighbors or walking to the local Lutheran church, the closest congregation. I even considered joining but never felt I quite fit. Meanwhile my EUB denomination merged with the Methodists and I became United Methodist.
“Sunlit from heaven …”
When my children came along, I dragged my husband to the nearest UM church and there he and the children were baptized, the boys with their father, our daughter as a newborn on Easter Sunday. I was the newsletter editor and was even sent to two series of classes in journalism at the local newspaper. The pastor was helping me fit in and find my niche. And I was again at the pulpit on occasion. After asking too many unanswerable questions, the pastor urged me to study theology at a nearby Free Methodist university. I’ve never looked back.
“Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning …”
By the end of my studies, the pastor had left and we got one who was just making the motions so when a friend invited me to her American Baptist church I went. There I became the associate pastor and was at the pulpit every week. I didn’t know their God, I was losing touch with the Holy Spirit. I didn’t fit in, I didn’t belong. Something was missing: The Wesleyan Quadilateral of Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience, And it was Reason that got in my way and ultimately pulled me away from the church altogether. To me “a fountain filled with blood,” part of a Baptist hymn, wasn’t reasonable, was actually kind of creepy. “All Creatures of our God and King,” which I sang as a Methodist spoke of brotherhood with all mankind as well as the creatures of the earth and sky. I studied the Apocrypha, listened to interviews with Joseph Campbell and moved beyond into the “something more” I wasn’t finding in the church.
“Praise with elation, praise ev’ry morning … morning has broken…”
And now I see the world around us is falling apart. Wars, threats of wars not seen in our lifetime, fires, earthquakes where the earth normally stands still, floods, droughts. I know how Christianity views this, through the eyes of the book of Revelation, written for another people in another time but interpreted, I believe wrongly, for the people of today. If one believes in God, in my opinion a loving God wouldn’t do this to His people. But of course there’s an answer to that — He mourns with them and lifts them up. But isn’t God the God of the Muslim, the Jew, the Zoroastrian, the Buddhist? That’s where the Christians jump in and start talking about Jesus. But I can’t believe God plays favorites like that so there must be something else going on. Maybe, as some believe, the axis has tilted, maybe mankind and climate change have brought this all on themselves, which is what I believe. I believe we’re all part of one whole, that when one of us dies all of us die a bit, when one is born all of us are reborn. I believe we created this mess and I believe it’s up to us to fix it. Not to enact laws, which are only as good as the people who make them, but to take action. To help one another. After all, who is our neighbor? You are.
Susan Campbell is a resident of Kalaheo.