So, I am having what you could call a crisis of faith, I suppose. A period of time when what I had previously found through my church no longer seems apparent, and I am facing a decision about what to do next.
Organized religion and I don’t have the easiest of histories. As a child, my parents raised us as Roman Catholic, and although we did not attend weekly services on any consistent basis, we went for the high holy days. I prayed and confessed and received communion as any good Catholic should do. I felt a presence while in the church, presumably of God, and was always inspired by that even as a teen. However, I never felt part of that church community; maybe due to the size, maybe due to the fact that we didn’t consistently attend, I am not sure.
Fast forward to 1980; I interview and am accepted to a Catholic college in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Although the biggest reason that I chose that college was for the campus, and the academics, the fact that there was a strong faith base there would come to impact me in major ways. In my freshman year, I went to some of the services. I sang in the folk group for a period of time. And, for a few short weeks, I entertained the notion of becoming a nun. But, the biggest impact that the college had on me in terms of faith, was in strengthening my own inner faith in ways that I chose to express. So, even if I didn’t attend church weekly, I visited the chapel on a consistent basis, even in the middle of the night, when I needed to find safety and support, and the prayers that came were deep and meaningful. I asked questions about life and death and faith, which helped to guide my path.
After college, I left organized religion for a very long time. To me, church was not where I needed to be in order to feel close to God. So, I prayed on my own, I found my solitude and reflection by streams and in the woods. I had also come out as a lesbian, and knew that the church would not fully support me in that. I stayed away for a long time. However, my faith in a power greater than myself, and my gratitude and appreciation for the blessings in my life was constant.
Then, we had our family. I met the love of my life, and we had a child. And, after a few years went by, of both of us struggling with organized religion, we wanted to try to find a church where we could feel accepted as a family, and also, get some religious education for our daughter, so she could have an informed future to make her own religious decisions. We found that church in our town.
That was five years ago. We had her baptized in that church, and we officially joined it. The pastor openly embraced us, and led us through the complex road of religion, faith and being part of a community. We felt accepted by the church members and welcomed by many. Then, that all seemed to change. About a year ago, our pastor was moved, and we got a new pastor in our congregation.
The tone shifted. Although we as a family wanted to give this new pastor a chance, and try not to actively compare the two, the new pastor was drastically different. Not as connected. Keeping his attitudes and feelings close to the vest. Frankly, we didn’t know where he stood on many issues. At the same time, I came out publicly and openly in our church about my sexual orientation and our family, as a way to educate and grow our congregation. Although many persons in our church were willing to dialogue and open up their minds, many others choose to ignore the words, and do not want to view the issue of homosexuality and the church in any different way. And, our pastor won’t openly speak about it at all, whether he supports or has concerns about it. The membership has dwindled. The feeling of community, for us, is gone. I am the education director, I teach Sunday school there, I coordinate Vacation Bible School, and yet, I feel hollow and empty.
For us, church has once again become about organized religion, and not about community. So, the crossroads we find ourselves at is: stay and advocate and educate, in the hopes that we can open minds, hearts and doors. Or, save ourselves further heartache and disappointment, and find another church that is open and accepting, AND wants to and invites the dialogue. To me, that shouldn’t be something that is on a wish list, but something that every church, temple and synagogue, everywhere, needs to talk about to truly do the work of God.
To truly be called the faithful.