I was baptised and joined the Episcopal Church in 1967 when I was twenty-one years old. Part of this had to do with the search for respectability within the culture – I was going to join a tennis club and a college fraternity at the same time; but on a deeper level it was searching for a place to say, “thank you” and “I am sorry.” There was something in the church that met that need, and a few more too. It felt safe, but there was also something dangerous, subversive to my plan, because it was both adult and childlike; strong and innocent; fragile and enduring; here was a community that came together to pray for themselves and others, confess their sins, ask for forgiveness and receive it in some kind of faith that life could be trusted. Here I saw the possibility of a community of people washing their finitude, their lives, in the life and teaching, the death and resurrection of this Jesus, and I was scared and surprised and attracted by this. I still am sometimes.
Around the same time I started reading the work of Thomas Merton, a Roman Catholic monk, writer and poet, who was a renowned authority on Zen Buddhism as well as an articulate critic of modern world civilization. I read – and teach – him still. Merton gives me a model for meeting the world based on devotion, intellectual and personal honesty, and a certain kind of off the wall humour that I find attractive and indispensable.