by Jeremy Sierra
Ellen Andrews, Program Manager for Pastoral Care and Community at Trinity Wall Street, has found a home in the Episcopal Church, but she didn’t start there.
She grew up in the Evangelical church, attending The Chapel in University Park, in Akron, Ohio, one of the first mega-churches. It was a positive environment. “I like to say I was spoon-fed, not force-fed my beliefs,” she says.
Still, the move from Evangelical to Episcopalian was not easy. This transition is not uncommon, but presents its own particular challenges. That's why Andrews is starting a group at Trinity where people with similar experiences can share and support one another.
Andrews worked in contemporary Christian music before studying acting, and continued to be immersed in evangelical culture. As she neared 30, she had a crisis of faith, which spiraled into a four-year depression. It led to a lot of healing and a new understanding of her faith.
“Everything wasn’t black and white anymore,” she explains. The Evangelical church no longer felt like home.
She ended up attending All Saints Church in Beverly Hills, CA. “I would just weep in church,” she says. She experienced the Eucharist as getting back to the basics—back to the sacrifice that Jesus made.
The Episcopal Church was a place where she understood that God was big and she didn’t have to have everything figured out. Living in that gray area was okay. “I love the mystery that the Episcopal Church embraces,” she explains.
Her background still influences her. Jesus is central to her faith, for example. “I knew who Jesus was before I knew my name,” she says, which leads her to experience the Eucharist in a very personal way.
At the same time, she often finds herself wrestling with how to read the Bible. She grew up interpreting the Bible in a very personal and often literal way. “Sometimes it’s hard for me to hear it in other ways,” she says, for example, interpreations that embrace corporate spirituality and social justice.
So she is inviting others to join her in discussion and study to better understand their own experiences and each other. Lifelong Episcopalians who are curious are invited as well.
The first meeting will be Saturday, January 24, at 4pm in All Saints Chapel, and the group will be joined by prominent author Rachel Held Evans, an evangelical who attends an Episcopal Church. Evans' book, Faith Unraveled, deals with just this change: from a black-and-white faith to one with a bit more gray.