Heading for Hope

“Holed Up for a Year, I Hope…”

Holy Week blog post from Nan DeRenzi

Someday, people will write books about the Covid pandemic and how it changed their lives; that’s certainly the case for me (although likely not the book part)!  The pandemic-driven quarantine started the day I landed in Iowa to visit my then-fiancée, Laura’s, sister who was dying of cancer.  It would be the last time I ever saw Carey and I’m forever grateful for taking that trip.  The return trip, on empty planes through deserted airports, kicked off an endless stretch of working from home and adjusting to life on Zoom.  Unlike others, I didn’t organize closets, learn to cook, or write the Great American Novel.  I was comforted by the company of our pets while Laura was in Iowa, but there was another very special reason I wasn’t alone.  

On Ash Wednesday 2020, searching for a new faith community, I walked into Emmanuel and felt immediately at home. When Laura attended with me a few weeks later, we were welcomed as a couple; it was an unexpected and important turning point in our lives.  During quarantine, I spent many hours with Joani in virtual “Rabbi by Appointment” sessions – and spent every Sunday with Emmanuel at Home.  From Ryan’s opening chords to prayers, homilies, and Coffee Hour, it was always the highlight of my week!  The more I learned about Emmanuel and the Episcopal church, the more I wanted to be part of a community that welcomes everyone, embraces newcomers, and values diversity and inclusion.  Quarantine also gave me the gift of quiet time to examine what’s most important in life, and for me that starts with faith. 

I was raised in the Catholic faith and, even though faith was central to my life, I felt further and further removed from the Catholic church as the years passed.  During an early conversation with Chuck, he mentioned that he grew up in the Catholic faith and is a former Catholic priest.  I off-handedly mentioned that I always wanted to be a priest, and a few weeks later he asked if I wanted to talk more about that.  What a difference one person can make!  I told Chuck that, as a little girl, all I wanted to be was a priest.  My parents had to tell me — more than once — that girls couldn’t grow up to be priests.  I confided in Chuck that God’s voice never went away, and he highlighted the obvious – a path to ordination exists in the Episcopal church should I desire to discern God’s call and explore how I may best be able to serve.

While I don’t know where the road will lead, I’m leaving my job at the end of May and, on August 1, will start classes in the Pathway to Ministry Program at the Virginia Theological Seminary – a 1-year program for those who haven’t engaged in a discernment process but want to pursue theological education.  I have so much to learn and am open to any path – and it all started being holed up at home but finding a wonderful community of faith in Emmanuel Episcopal Church.  I hope to survive being a student again – this time in the 21st century!

Nan DeRenzi is a retired Naval officer, senior executive & spiritual seeker.

P.S. Click here to check out other posts in this series!

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The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog

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