Monday, December 15, 2008

Church Post

By they way, this is not a particularly religious post, and it does have something to do with foster care.

We all went to church yesterday. Roland has been attending regularly. I haven't mostly because whenever I go I cry. Services tend to strip away whatever emotional defenses I have and I feel whatever I am feeling very strongly.

For those that don't know here is an extremely brief history of me a church. From 14 to 40 I was Lutheran. I stopped going to church for a while and then the local Lutheran pastor helped me find my way back. Then he decided it was time to go to a new congregation, which I understood, but it was so hard. Then my beloved Lutheran congregation voted, contrary to national rules, not to allow a gay man to serve communion. Then they ran off our pastor and we resigned. We joined an open and affirming UCC congregation where I was mostly happy except that I missed the liturgy so much it hurt. There were some other Lutheran refugees there and we comforted each other. At the end of the service one of us would whisper/yell to others "Go in peace. Serve the Lord." The rest of us would whisper back, "Thanks be to G-d!" I did like the pastor though. But then she had some never-explained conflict with the lay leadership and resigned while I was on vacation. She just disappeared.

Since then every time I went to church I cried, so I didn't go so much. It was hard to feel safe. I was angry at people for whatever it was that happened, but I didn't even know who I was angry with. Everything annoyed me. I mean everything. The candle lighters are always in a mess because no one knows how to use them. If they had acolytes and trained them that wouldn't happen. Why can't we get a couple of ten-year-olds, put them in a white robe and teach them to light a stupid candle? And why couldn't we ever sing the songs I loved?

But this Sunday the pastor that was being presented to the congregation as potentially our new pastor was going to be there. So I went. I liked her, which is a sort of scary thing. What I really like is that she has a history of coming to churches that have had internal conflict, including two congregations who had just run off a pastor. She used to be Episcopalean but ended up in the UCC because that is where she could be ordained. She appreciates liturgy and won't push it on us, but she does like to use it every now and then.

She seemed to be everything I wanted in a pastor, everything our church needed. Everyone really liked her. I liked her. Realizing that I liked her, I felt my stomach clench. I caught myself holding my breath and trying not to cry.

We had an opportunity to ask her questions and I wanted to ask, "Will you stay? Will you promise to stay? And if you go, will you promise to say goodbye? Because I just can't do this again."

I want to make myself go back. I think it is the right thing for me to do. I need to make that connection again.

But it is so hard to let myself trust and attach again. It is much, much easier to stay home.

She gets that, by the way. When some people asked her about Exciting New Projects she cautioned them, said a congregation that had been what we had been through needed to rest and take time to heal and reconcile. So she understands, which is something else I like about her, which is another reason that I could get attached to her, which means it will really hurt if she leaves, which means a very large part of me just doesn't want to bother.

It would be easier if she was sort of a jerk or something, if Icould be more confident that I could keep some emotional distance from her.

That's all I wanted to say. I'm sure you can make the connections to foster care all by yourselves.


  1. Makes sense to me. And if it helps, I completely understand the tug-of-war between the more traditional congregations where I love the sound of the liturgy and it puts me in exactly the right emotional space, even though I disagree with a lot of what they believe, and the more liberal congregations where I like what they believe but don't enjoy the services as much. It's interesting how difficult it seems to be to find both in one place. And I say this coming from a different religion altogether.

  2. I completely know where you are coming from on this. I've had my struggles too with religion and feeling "at home" and it is such a difficult thing for me as well.

  3. We left our church in June after sixteen years. It was painful, awful, heart wrenching, you name it. I like our new church, but I am very reluctant to get really involved in any of the ministries. Even though I know in my head that the conflicts that led us to leave our last church were years in the making and a result of deep seated conflict that isn't likely to happen here my heart is holding out. It is especially hard during Christmas to get used to things being different. So many of our traditions were centered around the church and the family we had there.


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