Going to Church

For whatever reason I didn't sleep well last night and despite not going to bed until midnight or thereabouts I was up well before 6:00 this morning. I decided it was a good morning for going to church, and so I did.

I've had an ambiguous relationship with church and most things spiritual all my life. I was basically reared an agnostic by two former Methodists who were fed up with the Southern smalltown church-going hypocrisy that prevailed when they were young. Church-going wasn't something I took up until after Janet and I were married and even then I thought it was primarily going to fill a social function; only later did I realize that the liberal-minded, social justice oriented Presbyterian congregations to which we belonged met other, deeper needs than just getting to know people.

After coming out I pretty much left it behind, partly because it wasn't convenient, partly because most Christian denominations are, as far as I can tell, designed by straight people for straight people -- and even gay-affirming, gay-created denominations like the MCC have a hard time getting beyond that.

The last year Jeremy and I were in Atlanta we found a spiritual home at the Short Mountain Sanctuary, a haven for radical faeries in Middle Tennessee. My recent visit there to celebrate Jeremy's life and to place a stone lantern for him in the memory garden reaffirmed what I knew deep in my heart, that Short Mountain is a place where it all comes together for me in ways that are natural and effortless. It will always be home.

But it's a long way, away, several hundred miles, and if I get to visit once a year I'll be doing good. In the meantime...

In the meantime there's a need -- same as the one I felt nearly 20 years ago, when Janet and I were first married -- to connect with people socially on a regular basis. I went this morning looking for that and found instead the spiritual connection that I didn't quite believe would be there.

It didn't hurt that the Witness was a handsome guy with a rainbow striped stole, who spoke movingly and precisely about loss and remembrance, nostalgia and the need to take action, themes that are very much on my mind. It didn't hurt, either, that the affirmation was so perfectly in tune with my thoughts and feelings about what a faith community is all about.

Once in a Sunday school class at North Decatur Presbyterian Church the class teacher invited us to think of God in terms of synonyms. Love, for example. God is Love, Love is God. It clicked for me. "Y'know," I said, "I never understood the idea of fearing God. How can the source of all goodness be something to fear? But I can understand fearing Love. And the fear isn't really about the Love, is it? It's about our own imperfection."

So when I sat in the lavender-toned sanctuary of a well-known, mainstream Protestant, mostly gay Montrose church this morning, I thought of many synonyms:

God
Jesus
Buddha
Allah
Ras Tafari
Christ
Jupiter
Minerva
Great Spirit
Yahweh
Gaia
LOVE

It's all the same, from my point of view. Does that make me a pan-theist? Perhaps, but I tend to think it's the reverse -- one LOVE, many different ways of understanding and appreciating and revering and connecting with that LOVE. All of us in ONE love.

Which brings me back to the affirmation. If you employ the same synonyms I do (and there's no reason you would) it reads like this:

We are not alone, we live in ONE world.

We believe in LOVE:
who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus and Buddha and Allah and so many others,
ONE Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and other by the ONE LOVE.

We trust in LOVE.

We are called to be the church:
to celebrate LOVE'S presence,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
and Buddha, the enlightened one,
and Allah, the prophet of LOVE,
our judge and our hope.

In life, in death, in life beyond death,
LOVE, transcending time and space, the universe in ONE, is with us.

We are not alone.
Thanks be to God,
Thanks be to LOVE.

RPJ


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