My St. Michael’s Story: Jenny Hunter

Posted by on Sun, Sep 23, 2018 in Giving

My St. Michael’s story is one of reconciliation. To understand how meaningful my experience has been with St. Michael’s, you first need to understand a bit about my past.

My relationship with the church and, for that matter with God, was deeply affected by my relationship with my father. His unconditional love for me was the template for which I built my understanding of God’s love for all of his children. I grew up in the Episcopal church and through the liturgy, traditions, music and celebrations I felt a great sense of connection to a larger family in Christ.

My teenage years were tumultuous–I tested many boundaries and was the cause of great stress for my family. During this time, my father and my relationship became fractured and although we lived in the same house, we became estranged from one another. To my mind, his ongoing condemnation of me was an indicator that love had a limit. I came to believe that if I couldn’t trust my father’s love to be unconditional, then how could I trust my heart to God himself? I closed my heart to God and from the church.

For the better part of my young adult life, I sought out various ways to anesthetize my ever-disquieted psyche. Without a sense of spirituality, I felt as if I was adrift in river rapids, barely keeping my head above water and without hope of rescue.

It wasn’t until becoming sober that I started grappling with the damage of my past. I struggled to develop an understanding of a Power Greater Than Myself and I felt unable to reconcile myself to my former understanding of God, let alone with returning to the church. Instead, I developed a connection to feminine divine, God as mother who loved me in all my damage.

In sobriety I was able to reconcile my relationship with my father and through this effort I felt God’s love acting through both of us. With this healing I began to yearn for a connection to the church. I attempted to find a sense of connection in a variety of parishes, but never felt quite at home. It was easy to come in for service and leave without anyone really noticing that I’d been there at all. This went on for many years.

When I moved back to the Eastside, my mother had often invited me to St. Michael’s but, as I have often done throughout my life, I declined as I wanted to make my own way. Instead, I tried to find my place in another church where I struggled to authentically feel God’s presence.

It wasn’t until I visited a 9:15 service at St. Michael’s that I was able to experience what I’d been searching for–a needed shift from an intellectual understanding of God’s love to a heart-based experience that would lead to being more open, willing, and vulnerable ever since.

I vividly recall the impact I felt when I heard Justin’s voice creating a meditative quality to the service that I’d never experienced before. The points in this service that gave time for reflection gave me the opportunity to stop thinking and FEEL the message of the Katherine’s sermon. That day she looked into my eyes at communion and I could FEEL the connection to the Divine that had first offered me solace in early recovery.  Afterward I found myself tearing up from the pure joy of feeling at home.

St. Michael’s has indeed become more of a spiritual home to me then I’d ever found before. Even before people found out that I was Tina’s daughter, they had already welcomed me as an individual. People here obviously care about the newcomer and encourage people’s participation in the church if they have the inclination to become more involved. In the past I had never considered doing more than donating items for the food or clothing bins in church gathering rooms, but at St. Michael’s people cared enough about me to inquire about my skills. I found that one of the greatest gifts St. Michael’s parish offered to me was the opportunity to serve and by doing so, my life has been enriched.

As a priest’s daughter, I’ve struggled to find my own way in the church preferring to fly under the radar rather than risk becoming part of a congregation for fear of disclosing all the ways in which I still struggle with my own spiritual path. With Katherine’s guidance and support I have come to recognize that we are all works in progress and that it is through sharing our stories that we can all develop new ones.

—Jenny Hunter