Growing up in a household with some Catholic influence, some Baptist influence, and lots of Black spirituality that teaches God is love and our Lord holds close all who needs His love, I had a hard time finding a church home that made me feel like there was a place for me. It seemed like there was always a caveat on who I should be and how I should live if I wanted to have a relationship with God. For a while I was away from the church, and my relationship with God went without the attention that it needed.

Eventually I made my way around to Episcopal churches in the area, and found my way at Saint Paul’s. I would’ve been too late to another service, so I decided to give it a try! My first mass made me feel like I was transported somewhere else. I was enthralled by the sounds and smells, singing the Our Father together with everyone, and finally going up to receive the Sacrament. It was such an amazing experience. The mystery and power were so overwhelming that I wondered if this was all just a special day. But the more I read the more I learned this is as its always done at St. Paul’s.

So I started attending on and off for a while before taking the biggest step: reaching out to anyone. I was afraid that the beautiful experience, the click I’d always feel in my mind at mass that made me feel this is all “meet and right”, would be ruined by the requirements to be “one of them” that they’d share with me: the list of nos that would make me feel unwelcome. But I took the step and, thanks be to God, I have never felt out of place.

Eventually I learned that Saint Paul’s has been a welcoming place long before I arrived here. Founded in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, Saint Paul’s was a place for the poor who could not afford rented pews. It took making the first step for me to really understand that this is not only part of the fabric of the parish, it is the true Christian way: to find in the face of all those around us the face of Our Lord and love them completely. As I continue to grow in the faith as a Black Anglo-Catholic man, I am thankful for the gift this parish family has been for my relationship with God, and for the strength given to me in taking new steps to support it with what time, talent, and treasure I can give.

-Kahn Branch