We’ve been going to a church since July. It’s been okay. The sermons are outstanding, the choir is pretty darn good, the church itself is homey and nice. But, there are two members that speak to us. Literally. Anyone else that has ever said hi to us have been the people handing out the order of service pamphlets and maybe an usher or two.
These two members are quite different. Member 1, will come say hello before the sermon and say maybe something about going to the fair. Nothing else though, but he consistently will come beforehand to say hello. He’s never sat near us, nor introduced his wife to us, but I will give him the applause due for making the effort to say hello.
Member 2, has engaged with us from the very first day, even so much as to tap on our shoulder during the service and introduce himself and then ask our names. The next time when he couldn’t remember, he asked me to write down our first names so he could try harder. After that first visit, we have shared a pew with this man ever since. He has inquired about our work, where we live, what we do. He has shared that he has a new grandchild, just married off a son, his wife has trouble with her knees. She doesn’t ever come to church, I suspect there’s more to the story with that, but I cannot begin to know what that might be. He lights up when he sees us, and he has kind eyes. He is a heavily engaged member, and talks back after the sermon if he doesn’t agree or has something to say. I appreciate his honesty and commitment.
Today he said that he wanted to let us know how he felt because he wanted to be honest. He wanted to tell us that had he been a voting member at the time the church was going through the process to being LGBTQ welcoming, he would have voted against it. He then told us that he used to be involved in prison ministry and he would invite pedophiles over for dinner and he became friends with them even despite him not agreeing with their lifestyle or choice.
Although this may not have been intended to be a comparison, a person on the receiving end of this comment can only do so much with this information.
I told him that he would still be welcome in my home.
During the exceptionally long minister’s prayer, he grabbed my hand. He grasped it. He squeezed it during the moments he agreed with. It went limp when the minister mentioned the LGBTQ inclusion and also of the state celebration of Pride. He squeezed it again when the prayer went back to other quality mentions…
Then at the end of the service he smiled and patted my arm like only a kind, older, fragile man can do and said how lovely it was to see me. I said “you too” partially out of the quick habit that comes from answering these types of comments your whole life. Partially, because it was true. His honesty is refreshing, albeit painful and like a bee sting. But I still like bees.
Adding insult to injury…
Today, after the second service there was going to be fellowship with food, music, cookies. This intended to signal the return of the new year after summer lull (church attendance is low and reduced to one service and no snack & chat afterwards). We left not planning on coming back later, but after we ran some errands we felt it was important to go back. In part, to give others a chance to chat with us that they had not easily had in the summer, and in part to replenish the soul-crushing experience of feeling like ya just got compared to a pedophile. An age-old comparison in the LGBTQ world that really you didn’t think on THIS day, in THIS setting would experience. So we went with hope, but low expectations.
One person spoke to us at the cookie tray. The cookies were stuck together and she said “That means you get to eat more!”
So we left.
We are not done with this church…yet. We will alternate weeks and check out other churches. Even if they aren’t outwardly waving a rainbow flag, we’re still going to try it. Even if the congregation is the tiniest thing ever, we’re still going to try it. I’ll look for other ways to supplement my spiritual thirst like reading magazines, books, joining an online congregation.
Despite feeling like I got the wind knocked out of me, I’m not giving up my faith or in my search for community. I am worthy of taking of space in your pew, in your conversations, and your time.