Conversion(s) a

As of late, I’ve been wrestling with the whole idea of conversion. I grew up going to Catholic mass, going to Catholic schools, learning the Catholic way. I never spent much time thinking about conversion in this context, partially because I was young (I stopped attending Catholic-everything after 8th grade) and partially because they have a radically different understanding of what it means to be a Christian (it is not a matter of going to an altar, but learning the practices and language of and living in a family, the Christian church). Then at the age of 14 my step-father asked my brothers and I to say the sinner’s prayer to become Christian. I remember resisting this. First I thought and then asked aloud, “Aren’t I already a Christian? I already try to live and do right and I believe the stuff about Jesus I have learned in school, isn’t that enough?” The answer was an strong no.

Shortly after that I too said the sinner’s prayer, which version I do not remember, but said it I did. I don’t mean to downplay this. It really was a turning point for me, but I don’t think it was just because of the prayer (though I suspect it helped me to be more open to a new expression of faith). At about the same time that we said this prayer, we began attending a non-denominational charismatic church. We joined the youth group, and I started studying the bible with my peers as an extra-curricular activity – not something I’d done up to that point. I was put in leadership in our youth group when I got a little older and had many encourage leadership qualities in me. I also started praying more because I was taught that was something Christians did. Doing all this definitely has an impact on making faith one’s own, whether Catholic, Charismatic or Quaker.

The main turning point in this second stage of my faith-journey was the variety of charismatic experiences I had of Christ. It was in those experiences that I first felt a call to do ministry. I still hold to that call, like an old promise that one never forgets and cannot let go of. It has become woven into my life. But looking back on my life there was no one conversion, no one altar call, no one prayer that brought me to where I am. It was many, diverse experiences, hearing many people’s stories, many people of all stripes, languages, and theologies. They were used to break open my life (and my preset assumptions) to God’s divine light and love in countless ways.

I think I’ll stop there for now and maybe add a second part to this later.

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.