The Episcopalian Card

I just wanted to make sure I left no misunderstandings in my last post, A Few More Drops In The Bucket. In the post, I discussed my various connections with Williamsburg and my quest to attend a worship service at Bruton Parish Church. I mentioned that I missed my first opportunity several years back because I had not yet converted to the Episcopal Church and did not have an Episcopalian card.

There is no Episcopalian card.

My hesitation during that trip was a me thing, not an Episcopalian thing. When I saw the closed door and noticed a sign proclaiming that a service was in process, my own shyness, insecurities, and unworthiness came barreling down, steamrolling my rational judgment. I self-edited. It was not that the Episcopalians did not want me at the service. I told myself I was not welcome there. In fact, later in the day, when we toured the church and I told the tour guide about my experience, she seemed genuinely distressed that I had not come in and joined them in worship. She engaged me in conversation and encouraged me to feel free to attend future services. She was honestly, genuinely welcoming.

So were the other Episcopalians when I did eventually start exploring changing my Roman Catholic affiliation. The rector at my local Episcopal parish spent a whole morning with me, patiently answering my questions. His perspectives were tactful and respectful. I believed he was giving me clear, direct information. He did not pussyfoot around issues and possible points of controversy. He had no wish or wash in his assertions. On the other hand, he had no problem admitting that there are some questions for which we do not have answers and that there can be a great deal of difference between competing viewpoints. Reasonable, prayerful people could and did disagree on matters of theology with no one’s Christianity being put into question.

When I first started attending services, I wanted to be somewhat anonymous. In the five days between the day I spoke with the rector and the day I attended my first Sunday service, my mother had a massive stroke and I was living a nightmare. For the next 13 months, my life and energy revolved around my mother. I did not have the wherewithal to make new connections or involve myself in parish life. I wanted to feel welcome and I wanted to be surrounded by warmth, but I did not want to engage. I came to the service, sat next to a couple who were, in time, to become my very great friends. After the dismissal, I made a beeline for the parking lot and went to see my mother. I did not pass Go. I did not collect my $200. I certainly did not hang out at the coffee hour. Once in awhile, someone suggested that I stay for some refreshment. I found the whole idea of socializing completely beyond my emotional pall. Still, as I worshipped and observed the congregation from a metaphorical distance, I could see genuine openness and warmth. I have never been to a church before where the “sign of peace” involved getting out of your pew and passing goodwill to people all around the church. I panicked the first time and pretended to drop my bulletin so I could fish around for it on the floor, which allowed me to sink out of everyone’s line of sight. Quite soon, though, I noticed that the people were honest, genuine, empathetic, and respectful. I felt welcome, included, but not invaded. This was a congregation that let me grow towards them at my own pace.

When I ultimately decided to convert to the Episcopal Church, I went to Orlando to be received into the church by the bishop. That day truly was one of the most wonderful days in my life. From the moment I entered the building, people greeted me and smiled at me and told me how happy they were that I was there. You can read about that experience in the blog post I wrote at the time, Grace On Robinson Street (Grace On Robinson Street – Terri LaBonte- Reinventing Myself in Retirement). It might have been overwhelming. It might have crippled me with shyness. It might have landed as artificial. However, to me, it felt like I truly was someone that they had been waiting for and were very glad to see. I put that down to the genuinely welcoming hearts of the people involved- and the Holy Spirit.

In my church today, we are working with a ministry called Invite, Welcome, Connect. This ministry was developed by Mary Parmer. Mary worked with our parish and conducted a workshop that served to energize the project. We want to grow our church in numbers and vibrancy. We want other people to have the experience that I had. We want other people to find a home where they can be closer to God and closer to His Church. Numerous task groups are working on projects and programs to share what we have. These projects and programs will launch more effective ways to invite guests to our church. They will make it easier for our guests and parishioners to feel genuinely welcome and accepted into our church. They also foster a richer sense of belonging and ownership by helping connect parishioners with ministries and programs within the church.

It is not all peaches and cream. Growing a church and replicating the feeling of authentic generosity, warmth, and community has challenges. We have been working on some stage of this process or another for a little over a year. Now that we are getting to the “nuts and bolts” of implementing new actions, we are starting to feel a few growing pains. We are also already starting to reap some rewards, which is wonderful… but also challenging in that some things get harder as you go along. For instance, the attendance at our 10:15am Sunday service was usually small enough for me to see and identify everyone who came in, if I paid attention. It was easy to spot a new face and introduce myself. Lately, the congregation has swelled and I love it. It is not so easy to see a new face, though. It takes more intentionality. Also, as we make decisions about what programs to put in place, how to spend money, and who will take responsibility for specific tasks, there are more differences of opinion.  The good news is that I believe we all have the same goals in mind- to become more Christlike in worship, outreach, and discipleship. We all, I believe, believe that God calls us to share His message and welcome His people into our hearts, as He has welcomed all of us into His. The only issue is how to best do that with our combined resources and gifts. Growth does mean working through disagreements and becoming stronger through those discussions. As we grow our own hearts, we will be even better equipped to grow the Church with new members.

And we won’t ever be asking anyone for their Episcopalian card!

If you would like more information about Invite, Welcome, Connect, you can find out more at Invite Welcome Connect. If you have any questions about my church, St. James Episcopal at 204 N. Lee Street in Leesburg, Fl, you can reach out to me on email at You can also visit our website at St James Episcopal Church (

Have a blessed day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

This blog is brought to you today in celebration of Father Tom Trees’ 20th ordination anniversary. Thank you for being such a faithful servant of God.

Another Few Drops In The Bucket

Recently, Max and I went to Williamsburg, Virginia on vacation. This was our fifth trip together and my seventh trip. Some people might suggest that this is a bit extreme. Yes, Williamsburg is a lovely place but seven times? With all the other wonderful places there are to visit in the world?

These questions have merit. I have some special connections with Williamsburg, though, that seem to compel and propel me there rather frequently.

First, my parents honeymooned in Williamsburg. They took a road trip from New York City through the Shenandoah Mountains. They visited Jamestown and Williamsburg. I attribute my fascination with Williamsburg at least in part to my pre-conception nostalgia. There was actually a world before me… an intimate, personal world that would evolve to include me. Williamsburg was part of that life. There is almost an element of heredity embedded in Williamsburg for me. Both nature AND nurture connect me to Williamsburg. My father bought my mother a hand-blown green glass vase on their honeymoon. They watched the artisans create that vase at the glassworks in Jamestown. There was no part of my childhood that did not include memories of that vase. Ultimately, the vase broke. I replaced it for my mother on one of my trips to the Historic Triangle as an adult. When my mother died, the replacement vase passed to me. On this most recent trip, I purchased a matching creamer to keep the vase company. I also remember my mother talking about the delicious gingerbread cakes they made and sold in the colonial Williamsburg Revolutionary City. Anyone will tell you that, throughout my life, gingerbread has been my jam. I never met a gingerbread that I didn’t like.

I made my first visit to Williamsburg with my parents and brother when I was almost twelve. Our family drove across the country from California to New York to attend the wedding of one of my cousins. On the return trip, we turned the journey into a sightseeing tour. We made several stops at historic and natural points of interest. It was quite the summer of discovery. I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time. I proudly claimed the city of the American people, Washington DC. And we went to Williamsburg.

When I was a young adult, I had this fantasy that I would go away to college. Nearly all the books I read as a pre-teen and teenager involved fresh-faced young women heading off to college in a post-war modern Utopia. These sweet young co-eds lived in dorms or sorority houses. They led madcap, fun lives and developed lifelong relationships. They wore sweaters and plaid skirts when the nip of fall was in the air. They walked through the snow caroling during pre-holiday revels. They attended a flurry of parties and formal dances throughout the spring. They looked forward to a happy summer by the sea as the term ended. Most of them ended up graduating with a MRS degree. I was never sure exactly where these mythical campuses were, but they were always historic and glistening with the patina of tradition.

On that first trip I took to Williamsburg, I think I figured out where that mythical campus was- I am sure it was the College of William and Mary.

My world was not within the pages of a 1950s teenage novel. My parents were middle class- not affluent enough to pay for me to go away to school and too affluent to qualify for any means-based scholarship money. Plus, I was raised in an absurdly practical family. Why would anyone pay a bunch of money for a private college and for a second household at said college when there was a perfectly good commuter college down the road? I spent two years at a local junior college and went on to attend a State University about 10 miles from home. My entire college education probably cost less than $1000, including books.

I absolutely understood and bought into this position, but the dream never dissipated. As I progressed through life, I always regretted not going away to school. I am sure the true experience would not have matched my fantasy, but I think I would have grown in significantly different directions had I attended the College of William and Mary away from home and family. I would have learned to live on my own. I would have learned to communicate and forge relationships in a grown-up world. I would have learned to face my fears of new people and new experiences.  I would have learned what it was like to live somewhere very different from the environment in which I was raised. I think I would have grown into more of a risk-taker. I think it is even fair to say that I might have avoided the tragedy of my marriage.

During the early days of the pandemic, I had time to examine my thoughts, feelings, and regrets about missing out on a William and Mary education. I went trawling around on the internet, just to see what it would cost to spend some time in those hallowed halls. I even fantasized about someday renting a place in Williamsburg for a couple of months and enrolling for a semester. When I realized what that would cost, I realized why it was a fantasy. However, my research did reveal an alternative. The College of William and Mary has something called an Osher Institute. This program is intended to offer short-term, non-college credit courses for enrichment. The main target for the program is senior citizens, but it is open to people of all ages. Pre-pandemic, these were on-campus classes. Because of the pandemic, however, the Osher Institute offered virtual classes through Zoom. The cost for the classes was absurdly low. I participated in several terms, taking one or two classes per term. It was great. I was enriched. Besides the interesting and diverse knowledge that I gained from the classes, I met my life coach. He was teaching one of the classes in which I enrolled. All in all, it was a very positive experience. The next time Max and I went to Williamsburg after I took the classes, he bought me a teddy bear from the college bookstore. The teddy bear, who I named WilMa, is wearing a W&M cap and gown. I may be stretching the truth a little bit with the suggestion that I actually graduated from the college. However, I really did feel a little bit like I’d accomplished a dream.

There is a specific factor that motivated our last three trips to Williamsburg. Max and I visited the Bruton Parish Church on each trip. On one trip, before I converted to the Episcopal Church, I thought it would be nice to attend a service at Bruton Parish. The idea of praising God in the same church that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and other luminaries worshipped was very appealing. However, I got shy about entering the church for a service- since I didn’t have an Episcopalian card. I missed the opportunity on that trip.

I resolved to remedy that omission on our next trip. I had recently become an Episcopalian, so I was no longer afraid of being run out of church on a rail. However, we were also scheduled to go to Busch Gardens on that next trip. Unfortunately, when I set up our itinerary, it never entered my head that theme parks in some parts of the country are not open all week. Living in California and Florida, I thought amusement parks were open 365 days a year. Wrong. In climates that are less temperate, the thrills and chills are rationed by the weather. When we went to Williamsburg in the early spring, I found that the park was only open on weekends. Since I had already paid for the tickets, we went to Busch Gardens instead of the worship service.

Fast forward to a couple of years later… after watching me angst over missing the worship service and throw myself into my virtual College of William and Mary classes, Max thought we needed to go back to rectify my problem. We started planning another trip, believing that surely the pandemic would be over by April of 2021.

It was not. We did make the trip and had a good time, but Bruton Parish was not holding in person services.

This year, we were on a mission. Our whole trip was built around the service at Bruton Parish. Even up to Sunday morning, I was sure something was going to happen to thwart us in our endeavor. When I parked in the lot a block away from the church, I was about 80% convinced that we were going to find the church locked when we got there. Fortunately, as advertised, the church was open, and we worshipped together with the other parishioners. My butt might have been sitting in the same place George Washington sat. Score!

It was very nice. The space, of course, was ornate and lovely. The choir sang beautifully.  I enjoyed the sermon. We went to communion and found that the process at Bruton Parish was different from our parish. As the pandemic ebbed, our parish began offering communion with wine as well as the bread, but we were only permitted to receive the wine by intinction- in other words, by receiving the wafer and then dipping it carefully into a chalice when the priest or deacon came to you. The thought was that this was more sanitary than sipping from a communal cup. Just for general principles, we never received the wafer on our tongues, as we sometimes did when I was a Catholic. The idea of a priest puttimg his fingers into the mouths of a whole bunch of people was fairly repugnant in my church. At Bruton parish, the priest only provided for receiving the wafer on the tongue and then sipping from the communal chalice. That seemed like quite an odd practice for a church in a state that carried on full COVID-cautious measures long after Florida was back operating at full speed. 

All in all, I am very glad I spent that Sunday morning worshipping with my fellow Episcopalians in such a historic, tradition-laden environment. I enjoyed it very much.  However, I did leave with a very happy thought running through my mind. I like my parish even better. Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, Virginia might have been part of my fantasy, but St. James Episcopal in Leesburg, Florida is my home. If I had to choose one church and one community in which to worship every week, I do not even have to think about it. It would be St. James.

I am glad that I got my opportunity to fill in this gap in my life. I am happy I have been able to reimagine that college experience I wish I had had. I am definitely at peace about so many trips to Williamsburg. As bucket lists go, mine is not very exciting. I have no intention or even any inkling of desire to do something like skydive or climb Mount Everest. That does not mean that my bucket list is not worth filling. And Williamsburg has been able to add a few drops to that bucket.

What’s on your bucket list? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a satisfying day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Life Snarls

I feel like I’ve been a bit of a slacker lately when it comes to the blog. I took a break earlier this year to concentrate on dealing with some personal issues. When I came out of that period of brokenness and rebirth, I happily engaged with you all again on the blog. The last few weeks, though, I have been missing in action again. I apologize.

It isn’t that I am running out of things to say. I have not ventured into an idea desert. Themes and phraseologies and metaphors continue to spring from my brain like a fountain. I have no less than five blog posts currently in some phase of development. An idea will occur to me, and I’ll begin writing. The words will flow from my fingers. Then, before I can complete a finished product that pleases me, another idea or turn of phrase will conflate into my mind. I sort that muddle and write a few notes to remind me where I want to go with another blog piece. This process seems to be on an unending loop.

And then, life snarls.

“Snarls” is an interesting word. It can mean tangled up and knotted. My life certainly has snarled in that way over the past few months. In the past month, there has been such uncontrolled forward momentum (in other words, “avalanche”) of activity, the threads could not help but get snarled. People think I am an organized person, but it is a façade. An organized person has systems that make sure her life moves smoothly and effectively even when she isn’t watching it. I do quite well with the smoothly and effectively when I am able to keep my eyes peeled on everything that needs doing all at once. When I run my fingers through all the threads I am holding, I’m good. When I have so many things going that I run out of slots between my fingers, those threads snarl. Once they snarl, I have to invest substantial time and energy untangling the mess I’ve made. I sometimes lose motivation. I will say, though, that it is incredibly satisfying when I do spend the time and energy untangling the knots.

“Snarls” can also mean the sound an animal makes when it is threatened or threatening. Life can snarl like that, too. When life snarls, sometimes you just have to abandon the momentum of what you are doing and pay attention. That kind of life snarl can absolutely torpedo an overpacked schedule. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that, sometimes, I look at what I’ve planned for a day or a week and realize that I have just enough time to handle everything I need to do if everything goes just exactly perfectly and I catch all the green lights. When life snarls, things do not go perfectly, and I do not catch all the green lights. Life snarls are where partially written blog posts go to die. I think I can finish them. I plan to finish them. Then some threatening life snarl happens, and I retreat. Really, life has not been snarling at me like that since a couple of weeks before Easter. Life is good. God is great. I heart writing my blog. Still, the life snarls of the first couple of months of 2023 have left my mind limping a little bit.

I have always believed that it is important that a blogger adds new content regularly and reliably. I think posting new material at the same time each week, every week keeps readers interested and looking forward to my blog. I ask your forgiveness for letting you down. It isn’t me being flighty. It is life snarling.

Do you ever find life snarls getting in the way of your productivity? How do you deal with it? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a snarl-less day!

Terri/Dorry 😊