“Amazing Dedication…”

For the last several months I felt a strong desire, no really a need, to dedicate Hope at our church. I’ve been really thinking about the need to plug in there and root us firmly in the church I’ve been attending for the last 4 years.   I sat on it for a while, thinking maybe it’s just a little too extra to want a dedication for Hope. Maybe it’s really just me wanting something else instead. Attention maybe? I dunno.

Each week I really set about to pray on this. I went to the altar to pray for my little family. Every week the person praying with me would go through the “Ohhhs and Ahhhhs!!!” of my faux-sainthood in adopting an older child.

(Oh yeah, apparently Red Bull isn’t the only thing that will get you some angel wings, adopting a teenager is apparently the 2 miracles needed to get you right on the fast track of sainthood.)

Every week someone would glow and pray for me and for Hope. In one prayer that I really believe was a turning point for me, one of my associate pastors, after the “Ooooh/Ahhh” thing, ministered to me during a really rough week about how indeed the Holy Homeboy does give you more than bear just so that you will return to him for help. He’s got you, you aren’t in this alone.

I can’t tell you how much that thing hit my heart. I have shared that with my friends and family as a real testimony. It moved me.

The part about not being alone really, really touched me. It also led me to this place of realizing that I needed the fellowship and support of my church in raising Hope.

I also suddenly felt that this desire to give her back to the Holy Homeboy as a dedication wasn’t just some weird thing I had come up with that didn’t make sense. It was meaningful to me spiritually; it was a part of our bonding and our healing to celebrate our family and for me as the head of this home to dedicate her and to commit to raising her in a manner consistent with my faith. And although she is of an age where she can decide to follow or not, her life journey before now…well we both have felt like her journey on this path of considering what all this means is just beginning. Being dedicated I think is a part of our future journey.

I still didn’t immediately contact my pastors though. I’ve been involved in a church in some way most of my life. I’ve often struggled with the rigidity of dogma and routine. I’m a nonconformist by nature and believing in something like a major religion demands some adherence to some pretty rigid stuff sometimes. Organized churches have long annoyed me with the resistance to change and the inability to understand the unique needs of individuals in the congregation. My church experiences have sometimes included a lot of othering of members or groups. We lost people; we lost souls. And all of this was and is inconsistent with some of my personal beliefs about equality and humanity and the type of work I do every day. So occasionally I’d drop out of the church scene. I just can’t with a bunch of isolating foolishness. I can’t, and I won’t.

A few years ago, after taking my first classes towards my EdD, I concluded there was no way I was going to get though the program without being hooked up in a place where I could get my soul nourished regularly. I found a great inclusive, progressive church, and I have flourished there.

And here I was now with my little family, afraid to make a request to have my family blessed, to formally and publicly commit to raising Hope in a way that supported her spiritual growth.   I was afraid that now I would be othered in a place I loved and that I would be told that I we didn’t fit here.

I finally made the request and I waited.

A week passed.

Then more days went by.

Then I got an initial response about my “amazing dedication” to my daughter and that while dedications were really for babies, they would round up the pastoral staff and see what they could come up with for me and Hope.

Hmmm, ok, already feeling othered but praying and trusting that whatever they came up with would be…I dunno, right.

Last night I got the email. I read it. I read it again.

And then I called Sister K and I sobbed until my nose ran.

The email laid out their view of dedication in three parts:

1) Dedicating the child to God

2) Parents dedicating themselves to raise the child to love God &

3) The Church dedicating themselves to the family to support them during the child’s raising.

The email went on to say because Hope was 13, it really wasn’t appropriate to do a dedication for her.

Sigh, ok.

But because they wanted to do something special for us, they would be happy to pray with us privately; oh yeah, we could invite a few people if we liked, but they felt a private prayer ceremony would be more appropriate for our unique situation.

The sender even included a smiley emoticon.

Sigh.

I know I’m writing about my church, but let me take a moment for some ABM realness:

WTH?

I questioned why would the Holy Homeboy lay this on my heart so strongly only to have me and Hope hidden behind an office door after a service. I questioned whether this was all some ish that I convinced myself the Holy Homeboy laid on my heart in the first place. I questioned why I didn’t take Hope’s approach to so many things in life and just give up before I even asked, because I had already decided it wouldn’t work out. I wondered why I bothered to have faith in this thing at all.

And in the midst of all this questioning, I sobbed some more.

I know that writing when I’m angry or upset is probably not a good thing, but I really wanted to get some thoughts on paper and so I drafted a response to my pastoral staff.

I thanked them for their consideration and asked for time to pray on this “private”ceremony offer.

I tried to meaningfully explain two points. First, Hope, though at an age where she can make a decision about her belief in the Holy Homeboy was being raised by me—she wasn’t a grown up and her history left her maturity level well below where it should be—and based on the views that guided dedications, we met the criteria. Second, a private prayer, while lovely, isolated us from our church family; we were hidden and it felt like it was because something was wrong with us. If I had adopted an infant or toddler or had a biological child we would be in a position to publicly celebrate the arrival of this child we were dedicating to the Holy Homeboy. Doing this prayer, not dedication, privately served to just isolate families like mine—older child adoptive families–in ways that just compounded our loneliness in the last place where we were supposed to ever be lonely. I can only imagine how many other invisible non-baby toting, differently made families are invisibly existing at my church now.

I admitted that I am not a theologian, so I’m sure in over my head on this one. Maybe I’m totally and wackadoodle-y off base here.  But I was as Hope would say so eloquently, “butt hurt.”

The idea of rejecting a prayer from a pastoral staff for which I have great respect seems so disingenuous, but I just can’t do this. Not this way.

I read and reread my draft, felt it was respectful but clear about how it made me feel and cut and pasted it into an email and hit send.

I got an email back pretty quickly about how really this offer was just to get the dialogue going (this is a negotiation?) and that maybe we could do something a “little more known” like with Hope’s student peers and our family.

Then there was a bunch of stuff about never intending to isolate, go God, and how amazing my sainthood candidacy is going. Blah, blah, blah.

Sigh.

And honestly, I’m over it. I really am. I am clicking the “lalalala, I can’t hear you” button for a minute.

I don’t feel like being an adoption advocate right now. I don’t.

And I don’t want to feel like I’m fighting for support and recognition for my family from my church.

I don’t feel like negotiating to be supported.

I don’t want to be hidden.

I don’t feel like explaining how we need other people to see us as a family—it’s not like it’s a secret. I’ve been going there for 4 years; I go for special prayer every week, I email for prayer and one day I showed up with a tween and now she’s with me every week.

I’m exhausted, I don’t feel like begging for support as a parent raising this traumatized child to trust the world again and to trust that the Holy Homeboy still loves her despite all of the schnitty stuff that’s happened to her.

ABM’s down, man. ABM down.

I don’t even want to engage in the “process” of dialoging about negotiating anything at all.  I just want to kick my rocks with my kid and click the off button on this whole thing.

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About AdoptiveBlackMom

I'm a single Black professional woman living in the DC area. I adopted tween a few years ago, and this blog chronicles our journey. Feel free to contact me at adoptiveblackmom@gmail.com, on Facebook at Adoptive Black Mom, and on Twitter @adoptiveblkmom. ©www.AdoptiveBlackMom.com, 2013-2017. All rights reserved. (Don't copy my ish without credit!) View all posts by AdoptiveBlackMom

26 responses to ““Amazing Dedication…”

  • Diane

    I’m sorry. I’ve had similar experiences as a parent of older adoptees. I was so hoping for a church that embraced your request.

  • zeenadash

    ABM, I first have to say how inspired and moved I am by your blog. As a black woman getting approved for foster adoption, your words have really served as an important text for me.

    I am so upset with the response you received! I really tried to go to bed without commenting on it, but couldn’t. I work as a chaplain and spend a lot of time creating rituals for people to mark significant times in their life. It is always very powerful to let story drive and expand ritual .

    I want to just affirm your instinct for Hope’s church dedication. Your congregation is truly missing an opportunity to communally and creatively celebrate your family and your commitment to the christian nurture of Hope. I truly believe that when worship and ritual are divorced from pastoral needs, churches are missing the mark.

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      Thank you Zeenadash.

      *Ritual!* Yes, this is the word I’ve been stumbling for in trying to articulate what we need.There aren’t any for us it seems. This experience hasn’t been a good one and I guess it’s all the more hurtful because I suspected that it wouldn’t be. Thank you for affirming that pursuing a dedication isn’t crazy and that there should be space for it in my place of worship.

  • Instant Mama

    So sorry to hear this. My hubby, a pastor, kind of feels like it’s a bit weird to do the older child dedication thing. But I’m so glad to say that on a couple occasions he has put any reservations he has aside and gone with the parents’ request. Once was for a family that didn’t become Christian until their kid was like 7 or 8, and they wanted to still dedicate him or her. The other was for a foster type situation that I didn’t know all the details of, but it wasn’t as permanent a place as adoption. But they wanted to commit the child to God and commit themselves to raising her for God. You can’t argue or disagree with that! And so we’ve done it a few times. You’re invited to come on over! (Though since it would be about a 17 hr car ride, I’m guessing you probably won’t take me up on the offer.). Blessings, and I hope you find a better space (mentally, and even church-wise if it needs to come to that) to hang out in soon!

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      I’m glad that your hubby has supported those families. If you were like 6 hours away–I’d be there!

      There’s something meaningful about dedication, even for our older kids, and I long for that with Hope. But ‘negotiating’ for it is just not something I’m going to pursue. I’m seriously considering just sending an email to drop the whole thing. It feels tainted now. And while I have been so comfortable at my church and loved it these last 4 years, I’m not sure that I will be able to reconcile this and stay there. Suddenly I just don’t feel welcome and don’t want to be there.

      I guess it’s a classic case of “Add Water and Stir.” 😦

  • AdoptiveNYMomma

    I too am upset by the response your received. Why do all things have to be traditional. My kids were not baptize

  • AdoptiveNYMomma

    sorry baptized till later. I hope they do something special for you both as Jesus always welcomed ALL HIS CHILDREN !!

  • Moore Than Fashion

    I’m shocked and sadden by their response. I expected that they would have jumped at the opportunity to pray with you guys and acknowledge this journey that you guys are on; to welcome Hope; and let you guys know that they support you!

  • SerialAdopter

    So very sorry to hear this. I just have no words. I have to believe that God’s heart is breaking with you over this. I wish there was some way those of us who are with you in spirit could be with you in person right now.

  • Anonymous

    As a very progressive Christian…I know an Episcopal church that did a service for a transgender friend for her gender transition. She said she went back to the church for that because it felt like too big a life change/moment to process and take in without some ritual. Traditions are how we cope with and process and just…FEEL a big change – birth, death, marriage, graduation, conversion. Ceremonies exist to help us take in and experience the bigness of life. I feel like your clergy has really missed the point.

  • faithcbrown

    When I was a Children’s Pastor, we always let families dedicate no matter how old because it is about your commitment to honor God’s will in your life as a parent. I explained to older kids that they have to make their own decision regarding a relationship with God but that the parents were committing to do their best to raise them to love God and church would partner with them. Sorry your church took this stance.

  • JJ

    Reading this made me so sad; I can’t imagine how it feels to you and Hope. It seems so needlessly cruel to say that Hope is “too old” to be dedicated but she can still be baptized. It’s like saying she isn’t “innocent” enough to be dedicated but she can still repent of her sins??? What a terrible message to send to a little girl with so much fear and rejection already in her life.

    This could at least be a great opportunity to develop a ritual for new families that aren’t formed by birth or marriage. Like something that lets the family say, we are committing to be a godly household as a new family and lets the church publicly commit to supporting them. Instead they pushed you away. 😦

    I’m so sorry this happened. I will be thinking of you and Hope and hoping for your strength as a family.

  • momto3sugars

    Amen sister! You seriously have the right to feel this way! I am so on the same page as you and would totally throw a F.I.T. (I am so not kidding) if my church tried to pull this with my family (if we ever do get to adopt someday, praying we do!). I say, do not give up! You two deserve this and you need to educate these crazies about adoption… They obviously do NOT get it!

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      You know I’m hurt and disappointed more than anything. Whatever is supposed to happen will happen. I just want to recalibrate/refocus on what’s important here. I hope they come to a place of seeing us and embracing us; I pray they will. I’m serious about being exhausted–this isn’t a battle field that I anticipated on this adoption journey.

      • momto3sugars

        And it shouldn’t be! The church is where you should be welcomed with open arms! Praying for you and Hope! There are plenty of “us” out here that are rejoicing with you and your new family!

  • onewomanschoice

    I can’t believe that your church responded this way. How very disappointing. But know this; this is not the word, the way or the law of God. There is a message here. I don’t know exactly what it is but I’m certain it will reveal itself in time.

    I think this is wonderful that you want to dedicate your daughter (as long as she is supporting this too) to God. Keep the faith.

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      Thanks. Yes, I do believe this is disappointing to Him as well. We are a flawed people.I think at some point there will be some type of positive resolution, hopefully. i just don’t want to be the test case or trailblazer. I’m tired; this isn’t a conflict that I anticipated. This journey some days is really hard. I’m disappointed.

  • Katie

    I had to come back and read this again after seeing your latest post.

    You said:
    “The email laid out their view of dedication in three parts:

    1) Dedicating the child to God

    2) Parents dedicating themselves to raise the child to love God &

    3) The Church dedicating themselves to the family to support them during the child’s raising.

    The email went on to say because Hope was 13, it really wasn’t appropriate to do a dedication for her.”

    I am not religious, but I don’t see the connection between their view of the purposes of dedication above and the conclusion they came to. How are 1, 2, and 3 not just as applicable to an older child joining a new family?

    Sending support to you and Hope!

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      Yeah, that’s what I thought/said, but apparently “child” = infant/toddler and not older “child.” When I received that email I just cried. I can’t even really cry at this point. Just too disappointing. 😦

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