Angels Unawares: Strangers Who Changed My Life: Margaret


Remembered by the Rev. Jack Stanton


I will always remember Margaret. I first met her when she came with her two children from Bermuda. They were poor as church mice – sleeping on mattresses on the floor of a city apartment, but faithful every Sunday at Christ Episcopal Church in Hackensack, New Jersey. Margaret was a seamstress; she could make a garment from a picture in a magazine. She also had a deeply felt and personal faith and attended a variety of prayer groups in and around town.

One day, when I was in a priestly funk, wondering about my life and my future in holy orders, there came a knock at the door and there stood Margaret. I was glad to see her and invited her into my house. She told me that she ‘wanted me to know the Lord.’ I knew right away that I was in trouble! But, she sat on the sofa, explained to me her simple faith in Jesus and her profound participation in the life of the Holy Spirit. Then, she invited me to a Prayer and Praise meeting at St. Michael’s Church in Wayne.

I thank God to this day that I did not say, ‘What! You’re going to teach faith to me? I’m a priest of the church!’ No, I listened and wanted to go to the meeting, partly because I was simply moved to do so and partly because, if forty people were attending a mid-week service at an Episcopal Church, I wanted to find out what they were doing.

At Prayer and Praise, I found a group of Episcopalians and others who were reading and sharing the Bible. They were telling each other about the work of the Lord in their lives. They believed in the power of the Holy Spirit in their midst right now. They prayed for each other and, with great conviction, shared in the laying on of hands for healing – for the body, the mind and for relationships. And, of all things, they baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Now, bear in mind that I had no knowledge or experience of evangelical or charismatic Christianity. I had never heard of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. We read together about the work of the Holy Spirit in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles and I witnessed people being ‘slain in the Spirit’ as their fall to the floor was cushioned by others. I felt drawn to join them but feared that I would be giving up my mind, my education, my intellect. As I shared in their experience, I was truly ‘blown away’ by the wind of the Spirit. To my own astonishment, one evening I presented myself to be baptized in the Spirit and was helped up from the floor.

It was a turning point in my life, a true renewal in the Spirit. The lights went on and I saw the Bible in a new way. The words of Scripture fairly burned from the page and I really understood what St. Paul was talking about. My fear of the loss of my intellect was not a problem. The Spirit was putting flesh on the bones of my education! Suddenly, I could really preach the Word, not inflict dreadful essays on unsuspecting congregations. I was on fire with the Holy Spirit. I should have been locked up! I went around telling people about my experience until I wore them out.

All this was over twenty years ago and I have since mellowed, but the life I know in the Spirit is still with me. Thank you, Margaret. You surely helped me to ‘know the Lord.’

It was my privilege to preach at her funeral and say, “I know what she’s doing right now. She walked up to our Lord and said, ‘Thank you, Jesus,’ and started a prayer group.

The Rev. John F. Stanton

Episcopal Priest, Diocese of Newark, Retired and Alive in the Spirit

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