“Moving again, I tried the lonely slope–my firm foot always was the one below. And almost where the hillside starts to rise–look there!–A leopard, very quick and lithe, a leopard covered with a spotted hide. He did not disappear from sight, but stayed; indeed, he so impeded my ascent that I had often to turn back again.” Inferno Canto I
A Few Things…
There are numerous lessons I have learned from my life that I could talk about here, but I mostly want to include the things that explain my motives. I perceive the spiritual journey to be something one does not do alone. Sharing what I have been through is just one way to make sense of that. For this reason, I want to make it clear that this website was made as a way for me to better communicate to those that are interested. I don’t intend on everyone reading the things on this page. The best of me has been the product of the friends I have made on my journey.
My Journey to the Church and Religious Studies
My name is Trevor B. Williams, and I was born in Washington state. Though my family was unaffiliated with any religious community, we still possessed Christian heirlooms that testified to a more observant past. In this sense, my family believed that the past meant something, but our identification with that history was not total. Other elements of this are difficult to describe here. I often describe my childhood as “very Huckleberry Finn.” My siblings and I spent a lot of time outside in a forest nearby and went on many adventures. We were free to use our imagination. Still, I can only say that when I was a kid looking for Halloween costumes, I always stood in the aisle admiring the monk costume. It was not amusing to me, and I did not perceive it as a gag-costume (though that’s certainly what it was), but I felt a sense of yearning. Monks were somehow meaningful to me. For as long as I can remember I have always been fascinated by religiosity and how it is practiced. I loved spirituality before I ever knew what those feelings meant. Entering into middle school, my parents divorced peacefully (mostly) and I got to see them almost equally for several years. I love both of them for everything that they are. I cherish that I never had to choose between them. Around this time, there was a definitive moment when I was sitting near a bookshelf in my childhood home. I remember feeling a distinct desire to pick up a red book. There was no voice (or dramatic lightning), but it was a feeling that was more than curiosity. Picking up that book changed my life.
Given the rather non-religious nature of my upbringing, an interest in religious studies and theology came about in a rather unconventional way. The red book was a Bible. I knew it was a Christian book (I later discovered that Jews and Muslims appreciated it in distinct ways), but the story it described was largely a mystery to me. In a short amount of time I read this book in its entirety. I read it during my “reading time” and for my book reports in middle school (no, the Bible is not banned in public schools). It was a time that was filled with discovery! I read through the narratives of the Old Testament, which inspired me with their remarkable imagery and memorable characters. Mysterious things like prayer were illuminated while I read. The weird things that I knew Jews and Christians believed even began to make more sense. Most of all, I read through the teachings of Jesus. Jesus made me ask serious questions about myself that I found to be quite compelling; indeed, he “taught as one who had authority” (Matt. 7:29). Reading the Bible gave me a great deal of meaning and the latent spiritual thirst of my soul feasted upon its words.
Though biblical literature drew me in powerful ways, I had no one that could teach me to read the Bible well. My late middle school and early high school years were also fraught with difficulties. Domestic issues, the loss of friends through drug abuse, and a continual stream of disparaging teachers complicated my self-image. However, I had moments of respite in several people over the years. The people that spoke into my life—seeing through my increasingly bad behavior to see the struggling kid beneath—were sources of hope and encouragement. Despite the moments of goodness, most of my teachers taught me to believe that I was stupid (by way of comments and attitudes), so I began to suppress my curiosity. Inevitably, my way of avoiding these challenges only made things worse. The words from the red book faded in the face of these challenges.
By way of several inexplicable circumstances, I eventually found myself at a small local church. New Hope Christian Church offered me opportunities to rethink where I was taking my life. While I have come to think differently from many of my friends in that church community, they remain responsible for showing me the parts of myself that I had been taught to forget. I knew that I had to get back to the journey that started when I picked up the red book all those years ago. Christians helped push me back into a love for intellectual curiosity (a point I often highlight). One such person was Gary Bannister. He gave me more books than I could read, but he also taught me the importance of humility and encouragement. Gary gave me Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship (1937) around the first time I had an argument with an atheist friend. The depth provided by that book helped point me to a fuller form of Christianity. It is clear to me that without Gary’s ministry, I may not be a Christian today. The Bible is great for spiritual edification, but the Christian life requires community and fellowship.
For several years I worshipped in Protestant churches, especially in the Stone-Campbell tradition of Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. My undergraduate education at Hope International University and masters degree at Pepperdine University were rooted in that tradition. Many of my friends from those institutions ended up becoming ministers and their ministries continue to be an inspiration to me. I even spent time preaching for a couple years (my ordination occurring in 2015). However, my spiritual journey, and the conclusions I have made theologically, has led me to the Roman Catholic Church. I have always been drawn in this direction. When my belief in Sola Scriptura eroded, my appreciation of tradition became more pronounced. I encountered Bishop Robert Barron and Catholic theological literature that gave me the resources to actually address the questions I was asking. Finally, when I was at Pepperdine, I attended an Ash Wednesday mass and then an Easter mass. In both services I felt like I was home. The liturgy spoke to my heart, but I did not start attending mass regularly until I was in Nashville. I wanted to be Catholic, but I knew that it would be a huge decision (personally and professionally). I could spend so much more time describing my beliefs on this, but I am convinced that its teachings are apostolic and in faithful continuity with the early church. Now that I am on the other side, Roman Catholicism has given me a decisive fulness to my Christian practice.
Today, I recognize that my fascination was something that I hardly chose, but now I get to choose it every day.
“The time was the beginning of the morning; the sun was rising now in fellowship with the same stars that had escorted it when Divine Love first moved those things of beauty; so that the hour and the gentle season gave me good cause for hopefulness on seeing that beast before me with his speckled skin.” Inferno Canto I