Featured image: The picture on the front of the church program.
Title from Take Me to Church by Hozier
I have never been religious (see blog post: “Dear God“) but lately, I have felt inclined to go to church. I suppose it is because I am lacking community and a support system, and maybe because I feel like I am not being my best self.
I recently read “Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead” by Emily Austin, in which the main character gets handed a flyer on the street that says free mental health support. When she appears at the address, it is a church, and the priest who greets her thinks she has come to apply to be the church’s new administrative assistant. Although she is an atheist lesbian, she is too anxious to admit that she’d come there for help and takes the position. Her experience in the church wasn’t spiritual in that she suddenly believed in God, but she gained community and stability (momentarily).
I decided to look up churches near me after finishing the book. I haven’t been to a church since I went to a Mormon one in 7th grade with one of my friends. I am not baptized, and a part of me feared I would burst into flames in some of these extravagant catholic churches. But I found one nearby that was “unitarian universalist” — which is sort of an open faith that is accepting of LGTBQ+ and is not based on Bible teachings and does not have a giant Jesus Christ staring down upon you. There’s no confession. There’s no judgment.
When I arrived there, I saw an older man with a rainbow stole and an older woman handing out the program. I was sweating from being so nervous (and because the walk was entirely uphill). I saw a table for visitors, so I grabbed various pamphlets about the church, signed in, and made myself a nametag. On the sign-in sheet, it had a line to ask if you wanted the minister to speak on anything specific or if you wanted someone to reach out to you. I took quite a while to decide what I wanted to write down — loss? depression? anxiety? sexuality? So many things brought me here, but I was too embarrassed to admit that I had been struggling and needed a reason to get out of bed on Sunday mornings.
So I wrote “Maybe?”
I sat down in one of the pews, and some deeply terrifying organ music was playing. The young blond female minister and the possibly gay minister at the front, however, made me feel like I was in the right place. They began with a welcome to everyone and had everyone wave to the camera for the viewers at home who did not yet feel safe coming in.
The first reading was an excerpt from “Friendship” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. The first line states: “We have a great deal more kindness than is ever spoken.” I teared up thinking of my lost friendships, and of the kindness I was lacking in my life.
After a song, a reflection on what joys and sorrows some of the congregation had shared, and a moment of silence for the 9/11 victims and survivors, there came a reflection called “Days of Awe” in which the minister spoke about forgiveness, and apologizing.
And I sat there thinking of what I could apologize for. But I couldn’t get myself to do it. I sat there thinking of who I could forgive. And I could not. Does everyone deserve an apology, and does everyone deserve forgiveness? I wasn’t sure, and I nearly rose my hand to ask. I thought about how if I apologized, would I be given forgiveness, and if I would receive an apology in return, and if I would be able to forgive in return. I realized that I was not ready for any of those apologies and none of the forgiving.
Some of the congregation had brought a sample of water from their travels this summer and it was to be combined, like raindrops into a puddle, to be used in ceremonies this year.
The director of education then read a piece called “Sea Glass” by Bernadette Noll. It mentioned wishing to be sea glass, to be brought to shore to rest and taken back out to where one is supposed to be, and to be shaped, with sharpened edges rounded.
At the end, the three each read parts of “High Tide, Low Tide” by Elizabeth Tarbox. It described moments at high tide, times of activity and taking risks, and times at low tide, where reflection, acceptance, and inactivity was due. Each of which is equally important.
I realized that I am in the low tide. I am reflecting (maybe too much), I am trying to accept, and I am taking things slowly as I ease myself back into deeper waters.
I got ghosted again. Well, an attempted ghosting. After slowed down texts and then three whole days of nothing, I sent him my blog post with no context: There’s No Such Thing As A Friendly Ghost. He ended up telling me he had feelings for someone else. So it goes.