My name is Alexa Henault, and I have just begun a year as a missionary for the Episcopal Church. For many who know me, the subject of that sentence, they are surprised by the predicate that follows. I have never identified so boldly as a Christian. I have been raised in a family and in a community that prioritize compassion, and my church has never been any different. However, many dominant Christian narratives choose to espouse shame keeping me quiet when discussing my affiliation. My church has never been dogmatic or prohibitive. I didn’t want to represent myself disingenuously because of individuals who shared my faith, but radically opposed my values. Odd as it may sound, I distanced myself from the church so my identity would seem more morally sound.
As it turns out, making decisions for your soul based on how they affect your reputation is not a healthy choice. After a tumultuous hiatus I began to actively search for spiritual outlets. I find communal worship quenches my spirit more than independent prayer, so I began to visit different houses of worship. One a week. Slowly, but intentionally, dipping my toes back into the cool waters. I was fascinated, by the buildings, the ministers, the music, the families, the children. I did not often stray from my home parish growing up, so being able to walk so freely into an intimate shared space of strangers was powerful. Some places had nearly tangible boundaries between a new parishioner and the parish community, and some places welcomed me with open arms. The one that felt like home became my spirits new resting spot (and it was only a five minute walk from my house!) After the spiritual taste testing I found myself back in a traditional Episcopal Church, with an eclectic and open minded congregation, all of whom introduced themselves at my first coffee hour.
While my religious ties may be a surprise to some, no one is surprised that I have chosen to dedicate a year of my life to service work; it is not the first time and I doubt it will be the last. Upon applying to the Young Adult Service Corps I admit my expectations for my acceptance were low. In fact, sitting here in my new bedroom in San Jose, Costa Rica I still can’t believe that I was given this opportunity. I feel blessed to be allowed to work with the children and colleagues I will soon meet in Hogar Escuela. Moreso I feel blessed to have the opportunity to be reborn in a new place, with a community in Christ to help guide me. The travel to Costa Rica was delayed by a few days because of an active volcano near the city that was covering the surrounding area in ash. I kept thinking of the allegory of the Phoenix, a bird who was set aflame by the sun while perching on a tree. From the ashes the bird rose again, to new life. I have been welcomed into this new chapter under a blanket of ash. Watched as it was gently cleansed by rain. And I have never felt more prepared.
The Phoenix Who Survived
-@Deanthebard ( www.deanthebard.com )
Rising from the ashes, you spread your wings to fly
Reaching now for those final dreams, belief will never die
Beautiful and so glorious, the eternal bird of fire
Soaring up into the sun, leaving behind the pyre
Dreams are now your destiny; reach with all your might
You’re a powerful inferno, ablaze and in full flight
Yesterday is over, today has just begun
The sky is now your playground your home is now the sun
Destiny is in your grasp, forget the doubts and fears
Your flame will burn eternally for all remaining years
There will be times of doubt, and moments of pure sorrowBut one thing that is ever true, you’re the angel of tomorrow