Flash forward a decade to the mid-70's. After some unbelieving years I had returned to Christianity, and my husband and I were students at an Episcopal seminary near Washington, DC. We decided, out of curiosity, to go observe a prayer service that was being held each week at Catholic University. Our southern background led us to associate "Holy Ghost" - style worship with tiny rural churches, but now we were hearing that Catholics, Episcopalians, and other stolid types were experiencing a "charismatic renewal." So we took a seat on the back row and listened to mild, earnest songs that were accompanied by strumming guitars. This was followed by silence, then came an indecipherable sound. I clutched my husband's arm. "This priest next to me!" I whispered. "He's talking, and he's not talking English!" The rhythms of glossolalia filled the room.
Then something disturbing happened. A dumpy-looking guy stood up and said, "What you people are doing here is really good. It's not my thing, but it's good. My friends and I like to do something too. We kill people. We killed somebody last night. Anyway, thanks, and I like what you're doing here."
As he sat back down my hair was standing on end. I hissed to my husband, "What if his friends are waiting outside?" and he replied, "Don't you see? He doesn't have any `friends.'" The slumped, lonely figure did not have the appearance of someone who was too well plugged into reality; it seemed clear that this Manson-style spree was all in his mind. We waited to see what would happen next. If this had occurred at the kind of church service we were used to, it would be chaos.
But what happened surprised us. A blanket of peace gently dropped over the room. A person got up and began to pray for the man who had just spoken, that the Evil One would be driven away from hurting and oppressing him, that he would have clarity of mind and peace and come to know the love of God. (Maybe he had spoken up at meetings before?) A few others prayed in similar ways. Then the thread of worship picked up as it had before, a meandering series of prayers, songs, and scriptures.
That made a big impression on me. At last I knew what the Holy Spirit was for; he was able to give peace and direction in a moment of fear and confusion. He could do a lot of other things, I was soon to learn: healings, prophetic words of guidance, glimpses of the future. On a December evening, a fellow-seminarian prayed over us and we were "baptized in the Holy Spirit" and prayed in tongues.
I wish I could summarize the next decade or so in a couple of words, but it was too full of upheaval. Sometimes we were thrilled and exhilarated with the presence of the Holy Spirit. We saw healings and miracles; we experienced many "words" from the Lord. By now, I was the one strumming guitar, and as we finished seminary and began to serve in Episcopal parishes we always kept a midweek Prayer and Praise service going. It was terrific.
For a while, anyway. Then it began to get tedious. We felt like it was a chore to crank everyone up to a fever pitch of spiritual excitement every week. As the person leading the music, I was uncomfortably aware that much of what people were feeling was guided by my prodding. I wanted the music to serve and underscore religious experience, but there was a thin line between that and manipulating it.
I was also afraid. I was afraid that I was losing my "first love," as Christ warned the church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:4).
At a busy, noisy, hands-in-the-air women's retreat I found myself sitting silently with my hands in my lap. All my friends were surging gaily around me, but I had my eyes closed. I felt like there was a little oil lamp in my heart with a tiny sputtering wick. If I got agitated and tipped it even a bit, it would go out. I needed to stay quiet.
We began searching for something deeper. My husband rediscovered his childhood "high church" Anglicanism. I began reading St. Therese of Avila and St. John of the Cross (16th century), Julian of Norwich and the "Cloud of Unknowing" (14th century), and gradually it dawned on me that this path kept on going back, right to the beginning. It was possible to rediscover the faith of the earliest Christians, the ones who lived in the Middle East and spoke the same language the New Testament was written in. It was possible to recover the original faith.