On Conversion and Formation

josWhen I use the word “conversion,” I wonder what images pop-up into your mind. Maybe the old-school tent revivals from our agrarian past; or the image of someone hitting “rock bottom” and finally accepting the necessity of change. Many of us think of conversion as a once—in-a-lifetime kind of event, like the phrase from “Amazing Grace”: “I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see.”

As I listen to your stories and to pay attention to God’s work in my own life, I have grown suspicious of characterizing conversion as a one-time event. The image that comes to mind for me is our solar system. Each planet has its unique ellipsis approaching the sun for some period and then moving away from it. Simultaneously, the planets rotate with half in sunlight, and the other half in darkness. If we imagine the center of our universe to be God, there are times when we are closer and farther away; times when our path is illuminated and when it is pitch-black. Conversion isn’t so much about always being in the light, nor about wanting to control the elliptical path to stay near the center. Rather, conversion is coming to trust more and more that God has lovingly set creation with all its whirling planets in motion; that darkness is never darkness to God; and that while we may be at the far point on the elliptical path, we are about to curve around and the closeness will return.

The Episcopal Church teaches that formation is a life-long process. I think conversion is, too. Formation at St. Peter’s is designed to meet you wherever you are on that elliptical path and remind you that God’s presence is there, too. If you are feeling well-connected to God and filled with divine radiance, come share what that life is like. If you are at the outermost edge, come with your questions, disappointments and doubts. Allow the Loving Creator to meet you where you are and assure you again and again “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God.” (Romans 8:38)

To learn more about Formation opportunities at St. Peter’s, see our Fall Program Guide, at www.st-peters.org/program-calendar.

The Reverend Joslyn Ogden Schaefer, Associate Rector