I went to church yesterday for the 3rd week in a row!
Once upon a time not too long ago I was in church every time the doors were open, and I wanted to be there. Then I acknowledged my struggle and that I couldn’t do it within the confines of a church building so I didn’t go at all. Well that’s not exactly true. When necessary I drove through the parking lot and pressed the brake long enough for the kids to jump out hoping that nobody I knew would stop me. But while I didn’t go to church I also didn’t abandon my faith. It was too important to me. Once things started settling down some I knew it was time to start looking for a place where I would feel comfortable being myself yet challenged to be who God wanted me to be.
The first church I tried seemed promising. The pastor actually went to the same Baptist University I did. The church was inclusive and liberal and Baptist according to their website. All were welcome. I walked in the doors to a very friendly group of people. Most seemed straight, but there was a smattering of gays around the room. That’s what I was looking for. Then church started. The pianist played familiar hymns but the words weren’t the ones I had grown up singing. The new words didn’t mention God or Jesus at all, but they were full of the words compassion and humanity. And while those are both excellent words and even ok church words because God was left out they felt quite empty to me. The subsequent sermon and prayers were the same. Lots of love and uplifting stuff, but God was no where to be found. Even communion was a watered down version. Instead of the bread representing the body of Jesus broken for us it was just referred to as “the bread of life”. The wine wasn’t ever related to the blood of Christ, just “the cup of healing”. I left there feeling like I had been to some club meeting, but I didn’t feel like God was anywhere in it.
The next week Fleur de lis and I went to a church together. This time we went Methodist. The church claimed to be a reconciled Methodist church where not only was everyone welcome, everyone was celebrated. We walked in the doors and were greeted immediately. Again there were gay and straight alike sitting around the sanctuary. The pastor was making his way through the room and came over to greet us. He asked us our church background so we told him. He told us what to expect as far as the service went. He was very nice, very welcoming, and just about perfect. Church started and was more formal than I’m used to, but it was definitely something I could get used to. The hymns weren’t really familiar, but they weren’t watered down versions of the old hymns either. God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit were there. Giving God the glory was preached. I couldn’t believe it. This is what I was looking for.
Yesterday I went back to that same Methodist church. This time I went alone because Fleur de lis had something else she needed to do. This time I went early. According to their website they had Sunday School and/or fellowship before church started. I wanted to see that. I walked in the door and again felt welcomed there. Everyone was friendly and warm. I saw gay and straight talking and laughing with each other. I talked to several people about the weekly bible study the church does during the school year. I talked to a minister about the Vacation Bible School planned for next week. I felt very comfortable and at home there.
About the same time I arrived another visitor walked in. She was given a name tag and invited to participate in the conversation. Everyone was warm and friendly with her as well. She and I talked quite a bit about what we did and where we were from. I watched how they treated her to see if they really were inclusive. To see if everyone was not only welcome, but celebrated like the pastor said. I watched, because you see she was a he. She was big and tall and hairy. She was wearing a skirt and blouse and heeled sandals. She had painted her toenails and fingernails. Her face was clean-shaven, and she wore make-up and a wig. Based on her appearance I imagined that she probably lived her everyday regular life as a man. This one day she dressed how she felt and came to church. And they welcomed her just like Jesus would have done.
Oh yeah, I’m definitely going back.