My Saint Michael’s Story: Carol Chipman

Posted by on Sun, Oct 27, 2019 in Giving

When I was a child, my parents “made” me go to Sunday School. I couldn’t understand why, because they chose not to go to church themselves. When I was 12, they told me I didn’t have to go to church anymore if I didn’t want to, so I didn’t.

Fast forward to when I was pregnant with my son Gabriel, and a coworker and I were talking about our plans for the Christmas holiday. Out of the blue, she sheepishly asked me to explain to her the story of Jesus’ birth, since she had never had it told to her. I was shocked, because I assumed everybody knew about that particular story, even if they had never gone to church. So I decided that when my son was a little older, I would do exactly what my parents had done to me, and send him to Sunday School, only this time his parents would go with him, of course. I finally realized that having the foundation for a Christian faith, even though I hadn’t attended church for a long time, was a source of strength and comfort that I would not otherwise have had, so thank you Mum and Dad, and I wanted that same foundation for my son.

Unfortunately, when my son was approaching adolescence, he did the same thing as I had when I was his age, and chose to stop going to church. For him, attending church had become just a duty. My husband and I continued to attend until, sadly, attending church seemed to become a duty for us too, and we eventually stopped going.

Years later, I was introduced to St. Michael’s for a very sad occasion. It was for my father-in-law’s memorial service. A year or two previously, he and his wife, Martha, had moved from their home in Ohio to a retirement community here in Issaquah to be closer to family, and they had chosen St. Michael’s for their new spiritual home. We made the easy 30-minute drive from Seattle to attend the service. The first thing I appreciated very much was that we could actually park “in” the parking lot and quickly be inside the church. When we had attended our church in Seattle, it was hard to get there and difficult to find parking. Needless to say, we were often late for the services.

Once inside St. Michael’s for the memorial service, I was immediately taken with how “unchurchy” it all felt. There was an informal air about St. Michael’s, there was a certain simplicity all around, and the space was full of light. And, most important, the parishioners and clergy were quick to offer us a smile and some words of comfort and welcome.

The memorial service was going well. Then Communion arrived. I became anxious because I had never felt comfortable taking Communion, even in the previous churches I had attended. I didn’t take Communion because somehow, I didn’t feel worthy, not with all the skeletons I felt were still living in “my” closet. So I fully expected to sit this one out too, until the part where Mother Katherine invited all of us to take Communion, and said something about, “And ‘all’ are welcome.” As she said this, she was looking over in my direction and it seemed to me as if she was saying, to me, “And that includes you too, Carol.” I really did feel as though it was okay for me to take Communion, that it was okay with God, so for the first time in a very long time, I went for it, and took Communion, and have felt comfortable doing so, here at St. Michael’s, ever since.

After the memorial service, I began to attend St. Michael’s each Sunday, mostly to keep Martha company since she was still relatively new to the church, but I quickly found myself actually looking forward to coming here on Sunday mornings. Coming to St. Michael’s didn’t feel like a duty anymore. I felt that each time I came, I learned something new that I could take with me when I returned home. I felt comfortable with the services, their simplicity, their clarity and brevity; the beautiful but simple altar, and “these” surroundings both inside and out. This was a place that I didn’t realize that I had been searching for, for a long time, and where I have been given the gift of strengthening my faith in God and finding peace.

I have been coming here for about 3 years now, and still marvel at the delightful and thoughtful touches that come our way from St. Michael’s. The offering of bread by a child who eagerly offers it at the end of the service, Jason’s playing of a short piece music at the end of the service, that allows me a moment to just sit and listen quietly, taking in the beauty of the music and my surroundings; the occasional personal handwritten notes sent by a vestry member saying that they are including us in their prayers.

Lastly, helping out with various tasks at church has opened up a new community for me of friends and acquaintances, who share the same values and who enjoy being with each other as we go about our duties. I truly enjoy coming here, and am almost never late.