John Francis Nash, PhD, was born in the United Kingdom but has lived in the United States since the 1960s. He earned his doctorate from the University of London and holds other degrees from British, Belgian, and American institutions. A varied career led him from scientific research to business and eventually to higher education. Since “retiring,” after thirty years in academia, he has devoted his time to writing and teaching in religious philosophy and history. He was founding editor of The Esoteric Quarterly, an international peer-reviewed journal of esoteric philosophy. His lifetime output of publications includes fifteen books (including this one) and 150 papers and articles in multiple fields.

Dr. Nash grew up in the secure religious environment of pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism. After a long spiritual journey he became an Episcopalian and is an active member of St Mary’s Parish, Asheville, North Carolina, a church that was founded in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. His interests include sacred choral and organ music.

How I Came to the Episcopal Church: Personal Reflections

In my twenties I left the Church of Rome to become an atheist. It was a wonderful experience that wiped the slate clean of all the questioned beliefs, motional damage inflicted by parochial schools, and especially guilt. In some ways that was the beginning of my spiritual journey, though I retained more from our sister sacramental church than I realized at the time.

The phase of atheism soon gave way to agnosticism, and I found a temporary home in Unitarianism and also explored the religions of Asia. At about the same time I began to explore esoteric systems, particularly Theosophy and the Kabbalah. In due course I studied for twenty years in an esoteric school and eventually founded The Esoteric Quarterly to provide a forum for the dissemination of serious research in esoteric philosophy.

I never abandoned my love for the aesthetics of sacramental worship. A love of sacred ceremony—and especially a love of choral and organ music—has remained with me throughout my life. Even as an atheist or agnostic, I would listen to Anglican Chant and on trips back to the United Kingdom I would attend the Sung Eucharist on Sunday mornings at large churches or cathedrals. Indeed the sacredness of time-honored houses of worship has been a recurring experience. My sense of spirituality and reverence for "the sacred" steadily grew, though I was still not ready to commit myself again to organized religion.

The pieces of the puzzle fell into place during a trip to Europe in 2006. I had profound spiritual experiences in the Lady Chapel at Ely Cathedral and then at Mass at All Saints', Margaret Street, London. Attendance at the latter was quite "by accident," though a higher guiding hand was probably at work. After the experience at All Saints', I knew that Anglo-Catholicism was my rightful spiritual home. Unfortunately, there was no Anglo-Catholic church where I lived in the United States. 

Despair of finding a church was relieved when I bumped into Fr Richard Shackleford, at the time serving as an interim priest at a church in Kingsport. He understood my need. Although he could not offer me what I wanted at his parish, he pointed me to St Mary's Episcopal Church, Asheville, North Carolina. It was sixty miles away, over a mountain range; but a recently completed Interstate highway made access feasible. A few weeks later I arrived on the doorstep of St Mary's, a church that was founded in the Anglo-Catholic tradition in 1914. (North Carolina itself had roots in Anglo-Catholicism stretching back to the 1840s.) I was welcomed into the parish by Fr Brent Norris and, in due course, received into the Episcopal Church by Bishop Porter Taylor of Western North Carolina. The Sacramental Church is my gift to St Mary's.

After several years I transferred my menbership to St John's Episcopal Church, Johnson City, Tennessee, where I remain actively involved.

Such are the joyful workings of the Divine.

John Nash

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