“…Do not let your hearts be troubled & do not be afraid.” –John 14:27
If you had told me five years ago that I would someday be quoting scripture and a real member of a real church, I probably would’ve done a spit-take.
I’d never been one for religion when I was younger. I thought it was weird, I never quite had a grasp on why it mattered. My parents never forced it upon my brother and I, despite of (or perhaps because of) my mother growing up Methodist and my father’s Catholic upbringing.
When I had my very first church experience in Colorado Springs back in 2013, I didn’t know what to expect. It was a Catholic congregation, and I’d gone with a friend of mine because at the time I was having trouble being away from my biological family and needed a distraction. (Thousands of miles will do that to you–especially when you’d never been that far away before.)
It was welcoming, but it was frightening. I didn’t know the steps; Catholic mass is like an waltz: intricate, intense, delicate. You must be careful not to step on any toes.
As a visitor (nearly a heathen according to their beliefs as I am a lesbian), it was hard to grasp onto the ways of the church at first. Standing, sitting, standing some more… It was difficult, complicated. I felt like a jigsaw piece that didn’t fit. Maybe it was the wrong puzzle. Maybe I was just in the wrong spot. Maybe it just wasn’t my time to fit in yet.
I continued on my journey of life. My quest for a spiritual home seemed to end and I had been perfectly fine with that.
Earlier this year, I found myself wandering toward the televangelists’ programs late at night. I couldn’t sleep and needed something dull and boring to drown out the buzzing thoughts in my head. I found a prayer request show and continued tuning in. I liked the pastor’s voice and the cast of odd characters that were seemingly frequent flyers on the hotlines were soothing. Scripture and teachings from the Bible were what start out the show, but once you get to the callers, that’s where the real learning happens.
People from all walks of life–from all parts of the country–find their way to this show. They find their fingers on the keypad dialing this number to ask for prayers and for salvation. There is a cast of characters that recurs, that continues to come back day after day, week after week. Their lives enriched by faith, but their troubles continue. But faith keeps them coming back.
I switched to some other shows in the early morning hours and starting my day with prayers and a bit of scripture was what I needed. It starts my day with a positive feel; sets my intentions toward having a good day, having a positive attitude.
As I continued, I realized I wanted a church of my own. I wanted to have a space, to have somewhere where I could go and pray. I remembered hearing all about this one church in Northeast Washington, DC. A reconciling congregation–one that would be accepting to me and to the way that I live my life as a woman who is in love with and planning to marry a woman.
By going to this church, in person, for the first time on Easter Sunday, I learned about “radical hospitality.” Radical hospitality, where you are allowed to go where you wish (in this case inside the sanctuary of a beautiful church) as you please. No matter your race. No matter your gender identity. No matter who or what you love.
I fell in love with the idea of radical hospitality. I fell in love with this church and the pastor who taught me all about radical hospitality and opened her heart and her church’s doors to me and the women like me who were uncertain of where we were on our journeys of faith and love. She, and the entire congregation, believed that we (as LGBT+ persons) are also God’s children and are worthy of His love, grace, mercy, and protection.
And so, on Sunday, April 24, 2016, I became an official member of this church. I joined the congregation. I was baptized. I proclaimed my faith. I ran full-speed into the open arms and hearts of this congregation.
My heart is full and happy. I have a church home. I have a place where I can go for prayers and support if need be–and of course it has been a difficult few months with my fiancee’s father’s passing and my younger brother’s car accident and subsequent recovery. There have been prayers abounding and I firmly believe that the prayers of my church and those around me have helped my family and I really get through this tough time. And I will forever be grateful for that.
I have embraced the radical hospitality and I have a new found(ry) family that I will forever be grateful. I have never felt so welcomed, so privileged, so loved by someone that is not my family.
And like John 14:27 tells me…my heart will not be troubled and I will not be afraid. Because after all, I am now home and I am always welcome. That is the true sense of “radical hospitality.”