An Invitation to Join
Alix Janke

I’m a joiner, really. It’s what I do. I join. I participate. And it’s not difficult to understand why. I come from a proud line of joiners; the oft-told story is that my parents, in the years since their retirement, have “joined” so many volunteer activities that they fill more hours of their week than they ever spent in full time employment. Joining is the model I was provided, my way of understanding how I fit in the world.

It hasn’t been that way my whole life, though. And I suppose it’s not that surprising, either. I would categorize my late teens and early twenties as a period of active not-joining. Of not participating. Of taking away more than I put in. While that’s not uncommon, it’s taken some time to understand the effect that had on me – not only the not joining, but the not having a sense of being near to much of anything worth joining anyway. It was, so often, a very lonely feeling.

That’s not the crux of what I’m here to say, though. And while I could write a whole separate article about how it is that on this meandering path of life I ended up at Epiphany, that’s not really what I’m trying to do, either. I want to talk about what I do here, and why. And perhaps uncover some more of the invitation that was extended to me and that I want anyone who walks through our doors to experience in the way that works for them.

I had been visiting at Epiphany for a little over a year, at first sporadically and then with more regularity. I had friends here and met acquaintances along the way. I really liked the way we worshipped together and I wanted more, but in many ways I was still lurking around the edges. Feeling timid. Cynthia Hizer approached me and Wende Crow and (at least to my recollection) informed us that there was a need for ushers and that she was going to go ahead and sign us up for that. We were trained within the next two weeks and we still serve today. My inner welcomer delights at the opportunity to greet the parish and support the movements of our gathering together in worship.

The next summer, I finally dipped my toe into the choral waters by singing in the summer choir. Singing was a huge part of my early years; countless hours of my life were spent shuttling to choir rehearsals, voice lessons, performances. In those years of not-joining, singing was one of the first things I gave away. The welcome I experienced in those few weeks of summer singing was like another arm wrapping around me, embracing me in this place. I was reminded again how I feel closest to the divine in music. I couldn’t wait to get more. As soon as I finished grad school in 2016 and my world opened up, I joined the regular choir. No stranger to saying yes, I joined the Hildegard ensemble a few months later.

When the invitation came to join vestry in 2017, I might have laughed a little into the phone. I thought to myself, “Man, they must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel if they’re asking me!” I mean, I’m a joiner, but let’s get real. I’ve been an Episcopalian for approximately one millisecond and I have never joined in the kind of way that might have an impact on any significant body of people. I felt wholly underqualified. Luckily the vestry – just like the parish it serves – is an extraordinarily gracious group of people working and walking together to support the life of an incredible church. I’m figuring out my role in it day by day. This year, I’m serving in the area of Membership and it is such a privilege. It feels like a natural extension of my joiner self. What can we do to invite others to join? To make this a space where even those who have been here many years feel continually invited?

And really, that’s what participation at Epiphany does for me. Finding the spaces where my gifts align with a need gives me a sense of perpetual invitation to participate in the body of Christ, in the work of being the church in a difficult world. This is a place where I find solace, strength for the journey, and satisfaction in being part of both this community and something much, much larger. And I want, in whatever way I can, to be part of the invitation to you to find that for yourself here, however that looks. That, to me, is stewardship. To bring our gifts and share them, making something infinitely more powerful than the sum of the parts.