Grieving church, and reclaiming myself
On Sunday morning, my twin sister sat with me on the stone steps outside of St. Thomas' Parish, an Episcopal church in the gayborhood of Washington, D.C. She rubbed my back, asking me what was wrong. Why was I crying? Hadn’t we just driven 30 minutes to come specifically to this church? Wasn’t it recommended because it's so queer-friendly? Didn’t I want to go in?
The emotion coming up in me was so deep that I couldn’t speak it then. I just let her be present with me, and let the tears follow one another down my face.
“It grieves me” is a phrase I learned from a Queerituality participant, and that is what was I felt yesterday. I grieved for the Sunday mornings – hundreds of them – when I had stayed home, in fear of what I would find in a church. I grieved my feelings of being forgotten and beyond reclaiming. I grieved the missed songs and prayers, and the lost feeling of belonging.
The thought that I would be warmly welcomed into St. Thomas’ as a full human being was so momentous that I couldn’t embrace it without first acknowledging all of the times that I had felt other, unwelcomed, afraid and unworthy. So I stayed silently on the steps and kept crying.
During my seven un-churched years, I have experienced my most spiritual moments at night, in the darkness, alone. (In fact, it was in just such a setting that the Queerituality project came into my consciousness.)
I find that darkness and receptivity reflected in one of my favorite hymns:
Here I am, Lord.
Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, If you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.
Those words never cease to inspire me: I will hold your people in my heart. Here, in the darkness, when I am afraid, I will not cast them away from me, and I will not hide myself under a bushel basket. I will hold your people in my heart.
The reverse of that is also true. I will allow myself to be held. Held by my amazing sister. Held in prayer. Helped, when I need it. Lord, may I let your people hold me in their hearts.
The hymn also calls us not to stay in the darkness, but to go. So I did.
My sister and I entered St. Thomas’ Parish so late in the service yesterday that we had already missed the sermon. My tears continued throughout the Lord’s Prayer, and as I took communion – the act of community that I learned as a small child. Though my hands shook as I took the bread and the wine, I shared in that familiar sacrament as a full and present and fearless human.
Tonight, beyond my grief, is an understanding that is healing and foreign:
I am a child of God.
I am someone with spiritual gifts.
I am worthy to be in community.
I feel those three sentences coming from a deeper place, a place of wisdom. That is a place I can start to acknowledge, knowing that all will be well if I do.
This Sunday morning, my spiritual progress happened in full sunlight. Is it too soon to say that it changed my life?