Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Tale of Three Churches

Today, I had a particularly acute glimpse of how broad and dysfunctional is the body of the Christ.

Early on Sunday mornings, when I'm on the way to my own church, I often listen to services from a large church in a nearby major city. This church has often been somewhat of an epicenter of Christian fundamentalism. Their services are these tacky, mind-numbing, loud, evangelical-traditional, happy-clappy sorts of things which tend to always amuse me. Anyway, it comes the preachers turn to the mic and then he starts sputtering some arrogant nonsense about what he believes to be hell--which turns out to be a very convenient place to which he can damn all of the people that he and his flock do not care for.

Then I arrived at my church where I spent the rest of the day and most of the evening. While I could go on about the things that annoy me about my own church family, I do love them and they seem to love me. We are an odd and peculiar bunch of folks, all with different problems and different gifts to bring to the table. The thing I love most about this congregation is the absolute lack of pretense in any of the things that we do. Most of us are genuinely concerned for each other and earnestly trying to discern what we are to be doing as a church. I long to fully be a part if this group--to be as transparent with others as many have been with me. I wish I could call for help with my own burden while I'm trying to help others with theirs. I wish I could break the silence of all the people who cannot speak in this congregation, and to unveil the eyes of these people who don't even realize the hurt they allow to happen in their own community.

Then that brings me to the last church that I observed in action today. It was a glimpse of of hope for me--hope for the Church, and for the world. It happens to be a large "gay" church in the same major city as the first church I described. Its worship, which I often watch online, is also loud and rather happy-clappy (relative to other churches in their denomination) with a certain evangelical feel to it. However, it is VASTLY different from the first church I mentioned in that the congregation is mostly gay and they are totally affirming of gays and lesbians and their relationships with each other.

I often watch the services from this church, but the thing that caught my attention in today's service was the baptism of two baby girls who along with a young boy were the children of two gay men. One of the most beautiful pictures I've seen lately was the image of a lesbian pastor standing between two gay men, giving a blessing to them and their young family. Here are three beloved individuals who have been broken and crushed by society, yet have survived to lead a congregation and to raise a family. Here were three living witnesses to the dignity and worth of the redeemed human soul! As soon as the baptism was finished, the congregation sang this beautiful, simple song that was a perfect proclamation of God's love and healing for a broken people:

O tender Mother, hear our prayer,
as we your children gather near.
We offer you our wounded souls,
for your caress can make us whole. (Michael S. Piazza)

Then, at the end of the service, the hundreds of people in the congregation joined hands together to sing a song that Christians all over the globe--gay, straight, conservative, liberal--sang on this day:

"How great is our God.. sing with me, and all will see how great is our God!"

But for some reason, I really believed these people when they proclaimed that when they sing together, the world will see the greatness of God. That greatness is so often clouded by the ones singing it--by hatred, oppression, ridicule, ignorance, and exclusion. I don't believe in much of anything these days, but, for a moment, a group of complete strangers, hands held high, showed me something great to believe in.


renzmqt said...

JX, are you able to share the denomination of your home church? I'm also curious about the denomination of the "gay" church. I was raised Roman Catholic and knowing who I was and what the RC's said about homosexuality, I decided I was done with church at 18. Of course, the RC's also had me brainwashed into thinking they were the only TRUE church so I didn't even think to shop around as it were. When in my late 20's I decided I needed a spiritual home, I finally started to check out the alternatives - Quaker meeting, gave the RC's a last chance, checked out MCC, checked out a Methodist church, but found a wonderful home in an Episcopal church on the north side of Chicago - All Saints. The priest was a quietly but not closeted lesbian priest (her partner of many years resided in the vicarage). The congregation was about 1/3 older, 1/3 young families and 1/3 GLBT. I really liked being in a mixed bag. It was an awesome place to worship and feel part of the family. My heart aches for you, remembering what the perpetual outsider feeling was like before I was able to share.

Peace to you,

KJ said...

Beautifully said, JX.

I remember all the years that I thought that I was the only Christian gay man on the planet. The freakin' planet! And then my amazement to learn how false that was as I headed into a new community that said, "Welcome home!"

I am often moved by the faith of those rejected by the church, who in spite of that, do not give up their hope in God.