I never really thought much about how powerful I felt walking into people’s homes as a young man — except for that time someone complimented me on my legs — but I realized something when I began working with one of my best friends in his home church on Sundays. It was 2014, and the timing worked perfectly, because that was just the right time for me to act — to grow up.
I was 30 years old and had spent the last five years experimenting with various spiritual paths, from New Age to spiritual massage, although I have always been a bit skeptical about the latter. I had also dabbled in spiritual counseling, so being an ordained pastor was something I had considered long before my father passed away, but that didn’t seem necessary when I began my work with my friend. I already felt in my bones that God was there.
When you’re introduced to a new spiritual practice, you have to figure out your own process and make sure you are moving in God’s direction. In my case, I decided that walking up and down those steep flights of stairs into the church was what was required. Walking up stairs. Walking through a churchyard. Walking through a baptism. Walking through Sunday services with your gaze off to the side and mouthing to yourself along the way. Walking through the ceremonies of the pastors.
I like to call it “preaching through solitude.”
Now I’m not necessarily claiming that this method is the best way to communicate your spiritual message, but it does have its benefits, like allowing me to walk through the motions of the worship experience and do things like enunciate the name of the Lord and perform simple spiritual rituals on my own.
I’ve seen a lot of my friends struggle with their faith as they have transitioned out of college and began dating. This feeling of longing for a deeper connection with God or others can make it very difficult to juggle a career. The modern world can be a burden on young people who are asking for help in navigating romance, marriage and children. So, the idea of walking up and down those stairs in a large, public setting where you are in charge of giving a message is a challenge for many — and it can be very difficult.
If I start to feel nervous, I take a moment and raise my eyes to God as I do the walk to the pulpit. Of course, I don’t do that alone — there are catechesis assistants and acolytes who also do it with me.
When I got the opportunity to break ground for St. Peter’s new location, the members of the St. Peter’s community came together in a significant way to honor and prepare us all for this new path. The original St. Peter’s, the first church built in Old City of Philadelphia, began with simple white sandstones and led to the construction of 18th-century white stones. When we rededicated the old church to celebrate our new path on March 3, the beautiful white sandstone walls of St. Peter’s building were what we chose to mark our walking journey.
I had been thinking about these walls and going to church since I was in sixth grade. I chose to walk on the steps in that exact location on March 3 because I am very proud to be standing on this soil, knowing this building will support me for years to come. Walking up those steep stairs and becoming a preacher is a very powerful and powerful way to push your own belief system and be a part of community, not just as a mentor or leader, but as the model for how others can practice and be better people.
If you are looking for guidance on how to break down those white walls of a church and start engaging the people around you in Jesus’ words, this might be a little advice for you: Walk and talk often. You will find that the most powerful way to communicate in this life is when you are truly communicating with the heart and soul of the people who are around you.
You can find out more about my walk here.