Been pretty busy lately, hiking and all, but I did finally decide to visit a church. I figured it was time for me to visit an affirming church because at least at an affirming church I would not be subject to cheap shots from the pulpit aimed at drumming up support by slamming the LGBTQ people who certainly wouldn’t be willingly sitting at that church. I figured that most churches that are affirming don’t actually preach sermons about gay people, so even though I haven’t exactly figured out what my beliefs are, I would be pretty comfortable there. The list of affirming churches in my community is not very long, so I compiled the list and began to debate which one I should visit first. Many of the churches on the list were very different from churches I had attended in the past. Most were Episcopal. I knew Episcopal churches would feature liturgy and some different ways of doing things so I did some googling to see what I would be in for. Yes yes, I do my homework before darkening the door of any unknown church. After much debate, I picked one. Thinking it probably wouldn’t be the place I would end up, but they are hosting an event that looks interesting (read progressive) and so I felt it would be a safe place to figure out how to navigate an Episcopal service before I visit a place I might actually want to join. What I found there shocked me.
I took delight in the simple way fellow worshippers approached the elaborate service. My introverted heart took delight in the way they sat quietly and waited for the service to start. I have actually arrived late to churches in the past to avoid awkward conversations. The service itself featured skillfully executed traditional music and yes liturgy and up and down. But I liked that everyone was just doing it and there wasn’t really room for that holier than though performance that tends to creep into more contemporary services. After hearing for years that Episcopalians weren’t very good Christians, I was surprised to find that they read a whole lot of scripture. More than the “super Christian” Reformed churches. So I was enjoying it fine when a man got up to give a lay message. I found my eyes wandering to the stained glass window above him, when I heard him say, “I realized that I was gay and I was Baptist.”
What just happened? The implications piled up in my head. There was no gasp of shock rippling across the room. They already knew. The rector didn’t jump up and jerk the mic away from him. She knew he was gay and she asked him to tell his story. Not only was he a key member of the choir, they gave a gay man the mic. In a church. In my city. You could have knocked me over with a feather. As he spoke I determined that his thesis was why he enjoyed that church – a great message for visitor to hear. At one point he said, “I have felt accepted here.” Then he caught himself, “Not just accepted. Celebrated.”
What does that MEAN???? That was the first message that man has ever shared in his life, and chances are he probably won’t share again. And I was there. I happened to walk into that church on that day. Coincidence?
Could God have led me to a church where a gay man would be speaking on purpose? Would that indicate that He approves?
I still refuse to sacrifice my integrity while attempting to be in a relationship that is in violation of my contract. Silly me, it’s not like there’s anyone standing there asking to be with me anyway. But I am moving closer and closer to the idea that if it were not a condition of my employment, it might be okay for me to fall in love with a woman and live happily ever after. Perhaps.
But the most important thing is the announcement that the rector makes each Sunday to begin the Eucharist. “To the table we are about to recieve, all are invited and all are welcome.”
I know one thing. I will be back.