Let me just start by saying that if you didn’t read that title in song, I might not be the person you need in your life. You’ll figure out pretty quickly that I often reference songs, books, and movies; and if you can’t get on board with that, well then I’m not sure you can be saved. On with the post…
Faith is something that has recently hit my radar pretty hard. Maybe it’s age, or maybe it’s just where I’m at in my journey of self discovery. Regardless, it’s been something I am feeling called by; and so in an effort to find some clarity, I thought I’d write it out a little.
My faith journey is scattered and inconsistent at best. My early memories of anything church related are of my grandmother, who was Catholic. Like, the most Catholic a person can be. She lived a few blocks away from the church she attended, and walked to mass 6 times a week. Monday through Friday mornings at 5:30 or some equally obscene hour reserved for devout Catholics and fitness buffs, and Saturday evenings. I’m sure she would have gone to the Sunday mass as well, but it was in Spanish. I would go with her to the Saturday evening mass, and occasionally when the weekday service was at 8:00am or something more reasonable than 5:00, but I never went through the classes or participated in the sacraments or anything.
When I was about 9, I moved away with my mom and my step-dad, and we began attending a “non-denominational” church, which I never fully figured out. It was a pretty big church relative to our small city of about 200,000 – not quite mega church, but big enough to feel totally alone. We went, sat in the seats, and listened to the sermon, but we didn’t ever actually plug in. We didn’t have church friends or go to church sponsored events, and on the rare occasion I went to Sunday school or youth group, I may as well have met those kids for the first time every time so inconsistent was my presence. I just sat through the service with the grown ups and tried to stay awake. This was the bulk of my experience through high school.
It’s probably no surprise given my mostly unplugged and unengaged background that once I moved out on my own, a church home was not the first thing I sought out. The opinions that I had formed about church by that time was that it was stuffy, and judged, and oh so boring. I could be spiritual without all that. I never really had any kind of huge crisis of faith where I questioned the presence of God or anything – I just had a problem with the way every church I had ever attended taught. So I decided I would worship in my own way and focus on being a mostly good human.
As time went on, I kind of started feeling like maybe my kids could benefit from church. I knew enough people that had great past experiences with church; had grown in their faith and made lifelong friends along the way. I couldn’t imagine ever being friends with the type of uppity people I had encountered in church in the past, but I was willing to overlook that and maybe try a different church. So I dragged my little family to a few churches, and eventually found one that I absolutely loved. It was an old building with the awesome architecture and the stained glass windows. The services were traditional in that they sang hymns out of the hymnals to music being played on an actual organ. But the traditional feel ended there. Where I was used to church services being long and boring, and preachy; the sermons at this church were timely and relevant. This church tackled tough issues speaking from a place of God’s love and acceptance; not hellfire and damnation. I learned that this church was a member of the Reconciling Ministries, a network of congregations dedicated to full inclusion of the LGBTQ population, and I was sold. It had never occurred to me that there were populations marginalized by the church, and knowing that the church I was attending was fighting to end that discrimination spoke to me in a way organized religion never had (this was probably one of my first realizations of my own privilege and kickstarted my fervor for equality and social justice). It was the only church my family ever actually joined. All 3 of my boys were baptized there, and 2 of them were confirmed.
Fast forward to present day, and I now live roughly 400 miles away. We have lived here for nearly 4 years now, and while we have visited a several churches, and really actually liked a few of them, I am still without a home. This is due in large part to the fact that I haven’t put a huge priority on it. I have gotten complacent to spending Sunday mornings drinking coffee in pajamas under a blanket, and leaving that comfort zone (both the literal and the figurative) is pretty unappealing. I’m just so afraid I’m going to have to muddle my way through church after church of unaccepting, noninclusive doctrine. As I mentioned before, though, I’ve been feeling pulled to explore (restart?) my faith journey, so I’ve begun searching again; only this time I am looking for more than just a church home, but for a community of like-minded people that I can learn from – in whatever form that may come.
Enter the Daughters of Abraham. The Daughters are a group that was established after 9/11 to bring women of the three faiths descended from Abraham (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) together to celebrate build community with, and learn from, each other. They meet once a month and discuss issues important to society in general from the perspective of each of the three religions. After promising myself for months that I was going to check out a meeting, last week, I finally did. The topic was Women Leadership in Our Houses of Worship: How Do We Make Our Voices Heard? I had absolutely nothing to contribute to the discussion, and that was ok. I was only there to listen. It was fascinating to hear all these women from different backgrounds, different cultures, different beliefs share their experiences and wisdom. I left that meeting inspired and excited for next month’s meeting to continue learning from these women.
So my faith journey has begun. Again.