I grew up Christian—rather fundamentalist Southern Baptist, actually. While I’ve slowly migrated to the liberal and liturgical end of the spectrum—eventually being confirmed as an Episcopalian—Christianity has remained my root identity as a spiritual and religious person.
Even when I’ve not been active in church (which has been true now for much of the last seven or eight years now), I still think of myself as Episcopalian and as a Christian. Given my exploration of other traditions lately, especially shamanism, I have had the urge lately to revisit whether I am still in reality a Christian.
I spent some time recently researching local Episcopal churches, and selected one in the city that seemed like a promising match. It is the only church in the city that is rated by Integrity (the LGBT organization within the Episcopal Church) as being a “Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregation,” meaning that it is actively inclusive of LGBT members. Their website states that 25% of their members identify as gay or lesbian. It seems to me that if this would be the perfect place for me to explore whether there is still room for me within the Christian fold as I come out as a lesbian.
If that weren’t enough incentive, they also have a Co-dependent Anonymous group that meets at their church one night a week, if I should ever choose to go that route.
So I got up early this morning to go visit and see what they are like (their only service is at 9:30 am and they are all the way on the other side of town). First, I got a phone call from the yoga studio where I have been hoping to take yoga teacher training as I was walking out the door. She wanted to do my phone interview to determine whether or not I would be accepted to the program. Not wanting to miss the chance to go to church since I was so close to making it out the door on time, I asked to be able to call her back later this morning. Fortunately, she agreed.
I made a quick stop at Starbucks for free coffee and scone as a treat to myself for having the courage to visit someplace new by myself and headed on with just enough time to get there on schedule. Then when I was about halfway there, I made a wrong turn and became hopelessly lost. I spent some time navigating only by general direction (thank goodness for a sunny day and a good sense of direction when I can see the sun!) and finally found my way back to someplace I could navigate from. By this time, I was rather stressed since it was clear that I was going to be late. I pressed on, deciding that I would slip in the back if only a few minutes late.
I made it there at 9:35 am, relieved and ready to push myself to attend anyway only to encounter a completely empty parking lot. There was not a single person there. Not one. I checked the sign again as I left, and it still advertised Holy Eucharist at 9:30 am just as the web site had indicated. I tried driving by another Episcopal church on the way home in hopes that maybe they would have a 10:00 am service that I could attend, but their sign did not list service times at all.
As I’m sure you can imagine, I was feeling quite discouraged at this point after spending over an hour in the car with nothing to show for it. I came home (after running a couple quick errands) and sent an email to the email address listed on the church’s website asking whether their service times had changed. I got an instant response: “Delivery to the following recipients failed.”
Talk about the sound of a door closing in my face! After all the struggles to get there, there is not only NO ONE there, but I can’t even reach them by email! I can tend to be a bit “clue resistant” at times, but this feels sort of like a 2×4 upside the head. I’m guessing that it’s time for me to let go of the idea that I am a Christian anymore. This is not easy despite several years on non-attendance. It’s still a major part of my heritage and my self-identity. I am feeling very much like a spiritual orphan tonight.
I did manage to find another email address later in the day via the diocesan web site that appears to have worked, but I have not yet received a response. I am curious to know what the deal is, but I don’t think it will make much difference to the message that I take away from today’s events.
Incidentally, I did call the yoga studio back when I got home, and I am now enrolled in yoga teacher training to start in March. I will be a registered yoga teacher come Fall. Is this the next step on my spiritual journey? My next home? Time will tell, I suppose.
Right now, I am still just hearing the echo of the closed door ringing in my ears. For the moment, I am content to wait in the emptiness that is left behind to find out what comes next. Waiting is not normally easy for me, but in this moment I am content to rest in this in-between space, to sit with the emptiness. And watch for an open window.