Tag Archives: Finding Faith

Looking for a Segregated House

I’ve been thinking a lot about going back to church. We essentially stopped going earlier this year. I wasn’t getting what I needed, so I just stopped going.

The UU church philosophy is a good for me, but the congregation we attended isn’t. I loved the pastor, who seemed to take a genuine interest in me and Hope after services on Sunday. Her homilies often cover topics that I’m passionate about like civil rights and racial reconciliation through a faith lens, but the congregation is not very diverse in terms of race or age–the mean age is well more than 10 years older than me. Additionally, our presence seemed to grow the congregation’s racial diversity by a third; on more than one occasion Hope and I were the only non-White folks in attendance.  I wish I could say I didn’t notice this, but not acknowledging that would be absurd. 

Then there was that one homily about Black Lives Matter that some of the congregants complained about at the little meet and greet right after the service. A gentleman asked me if I agreed with the pastor’s homily because he thought the pastor was getting way out of line with this BLM discussion. I was polite but firm that it was refreshing to be a part of a church with a leader who recognized the need to talk about race, injustice and how the fit in the practice of Unitarianism. He promptly excused himself to get some juice, and never rejoined the conversation he initiated. You can only imagine how welcomed I felt in that moment. #sarcasm

Shortly after the election of my discontent, I just became even warier of where I worshipped. Real talk: Honestly, it’s been a hard year trusting White folks. Yes, yes, I know #notall, but really as a larger block, White folks stayed disappointing me this year. The demographics that led to the election of the person currently occupying the American White House (I try to refrain from uttering his name, kinda like #Beetlejuice) undermined a lot of the interracial trust I’d worked hard to personally cultivate.  I found the number of ministers who spoke in his favor to undermine what little remaining faith I had in the clergy, and White clergy with national platforms that I held in reasonably high regard cosigning his foolery?? Don’t even get me started.  As we now ponder the upcoming Alabama election that includes a candidate who allegedly trolled for teenage girls at the local mall and thought this behavior was ok as long as he asked for permission from their parents, I am mystified by how many pastors have come to his defense. It’s hard to have faith in folks who are supposed to lead and counsel our moral compasses these days. #Istaydisappointed #whygotochurchanyway

So, yeah, I’m having a hard time reconciling what I believe and what I see in practice and how much I want to be associated with any of it and why on earth would I want Hope to be exposed. Seriously, this is a major thing when you ain’t sure you want your kid to go to church because the pastor and congregation may be publicly cosigning on some bullschnitt. 

After I was grown and owning a home of my own, I have cyclically gone to church. Every few years or so I would feel very strongly the desire to go and be in fellowship somewhere. And then that desire and/or need would fade and I would step down to couch worship and then no fellowship or formal worship anywhere. I’m starting to cycle back into wanting to be in fellowship somewhere, but everything feels very different now.

As an adult, I’ve been adamant about my desire to be in fellowship in spaces that were diverse and integrated. Sundays are the most segregated day of the week; I don’t want that for myself and I don’t want that for Hope either. I also want to be somewhere that was going to be progressive in its profession and practice of faith; I’m not checking for homophobic sermons, rants about liberals or a congregation that believes that American Christians are under attack, what with all the Christian privilege in this country. I’m also not checking for pastors advancing the prosperity gospel. I’m just not interested in these and a few other key things central to my faith, but that leaves A LOT of fertile ground to talk and teach about.

But there’s something else these days: I need to be in spaces that are spiritually, psychically and racially safe. I slug it out in very White spaces day in and day out talking about and promoting diversity, and it exhausts me. I love my job, but make no mistake facilitating discussions about diversity and inclusion is not easy work, and I don’t even think I’m on the real front lines of this work. I come home sometimes spiritually and psychically empty because it’s just that hard. And although I have constructed a life in which some of my closest ride or die friends are White (and I LOVE Y’ALL so much it hurts), the day to day grind this last year has worn on my racial identity more than any other period of my life. Sitting around watching young White folks carrying tiki torches at night talkin’ bout how threatened *they*  feel because some statues of Civil War losers erected purely to intimidate Black folks might come down will really mess with you. Hearing your mother, who integrated her high school 50 years ago, talk about having similar fears that she had during Jim Crow effs with you. Having a White House occupant who still believes in the guilt of the DNA exonerated Central Park Five and who will tweet nasty things at Black and brown folks who he doesn’t think are respectful or grateful enough just grates at you. Wondering what the worst case racial scenario when you’re brown or black in this country might look like in the coming years will keep you up watching the ceiling fan turn at night. These times…these times are or should be hard for the emotional and spiritually minded among us. 

In thinking about all of that and feeling the need to be in fellowship somewhere, I know that more than anything I want to be in a safe space on Sunday morning. I need to be in a safe space on Sunday morning. I need that safety so that I can manage the other 6 days of the week. And #notall churches are safe for people who look like me. #reallyrealtalk

So, for the first time in more than 20 years, I’m going to start looking for a Black church to attend. I realized this after a lot of thought. It kind of goes against all the things I believe in related to diversity, but I’m at this place where…I worry that this is the only way I will make it through this particular spiritual cycle. I need to be safe, I need Hope’s spiritual journey to be safe, and my trust factor has fallen such that my desire to worship in a broader community has taken a backseat to my need for safe spiritual food.

I mentioned it to Hope recently and found that my daughter wants that kind of safety too. If she goes, she wants to be in a space with people who look like us (which by itself should be the topic of another post since how she engages and identifies as a woman of color is fraught with some serious baggage). 

What does it say about the state of things when folks who really want to integrate must segregate for their own safety? Well, it doesn’t say anything new; it just says that this has been the way for so long and it’s just bubbling up and affecting more people.

And what else does it say when churches aren’t safe spaces for everyone?

Hope and I are making a list of local Black churches and will commence to visiting soon. 

I’ll say this…it will be good to hear some high-quality gospel choirs. I’ve appreciated the diversity of congregations I’ve joined or visited, but the music…um, it was just ok. Nobody does gospel like Black churches, so… yeah. We look forward to visiting.

There is no guarantee that we will find what we are looking for, but I’m hopeful. Still, I do really need to sit and reconcile how this diversity professional has been run off from worshipping in diverse spaces because it’s just potentially too painful. Looking for a segregated house of worship wasn’t a part of my plan.

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It’s Been A Year

It’s been a year since we left our old church. And to be honest, it kinda feels like I’ve been wandering around the desert ever since then. We visited a number of churches over the last year, but in the end, we landed at the neighborhood Universal Unitarian church.

We are there because Hope likes it; there are a couple of kids from her school who attend and unlike our old church, she seamlessly slipped into the social scene at the UU church.

Me? I haven’t; but I’m realizing that I’m not much of a joiner. I’m constantly intrigued by how my neighbors all seem to know each other, but despite my living here for 15 years I don’t have to many close relationships with my condo neighbors. #IDigress

It’s cool though, this church thing isn’t about me, and my discomfort at not being at a distinctly Christian church isn’t really that big of a deal. I have been creative about making sure that we get Christianity infused throughout life.

In the midst of all of these developments, I kept getting mail from the old church.

Each flyer, giving statement, newsletter cut me like glass. It has taken every bit of this whole year to try to get past the heartbreak of feeling rejected by my church.

It’s taken the whole year for me to wrestle with the fury of anger and the tears of sadness. I felt like there was a mini setback every time I got something in the mail.

Shortly after I received the last giving statement for the year that I would use to finish my taxes, I received a “reminder” about the pledge I’d made at the beginning of the year on behalf of myself and Hope. I gave towards the pledge until we left.

Last fall, when I received a “reminder” I sent them an email about how we were not in fellowship there anymore and that I was allocating those funds to another house of faith.

And then I got the last “reminder.”

And I let it sit.

And sit.

And sit.

I called Grammy to ask about her opinion. Let’s just say she hasn’t worked as hard as I have to forgive. Lest we forget, not only did they hurt me and Hope, but they denied her and my father a public opportunity to embrace Hope and join me in committing to raise her faithfully.

There’s quite a bit of pain in that too. We all hurt.

So, today, I sat down and wrote my former pastor a long letter. I talked about how I came to attend that church, how my being in fellowship there definitely marked a major chapter in my life—starting and finishing my doctorate and becoming a mother. I shared how I felt all during the 7-8 months it took for them to grow a pair and say we just weren’t the cute adoptive family that everyone wants to see. I shared about the times the pastoral staff were condescending. I shared about how ironic it was to hear adoption used as a Christian metaphor so often and what that irony felt like. I shared about my last conversation with the family pastor who was dispatched to share the news that Hope and I didn’t fit the motif of the church. I shared how we were attending a UU church now and how Hope was thriving there.

I asked to be completely erased from the mailing list. It’s simply too hard to have stuff from them coming to my little crazy sanctuary.

I printed the letter. I printed an envelope. I peeled the stamp. I licked the enveloped. I dropped it in the mailbox.

And a burden was lifted.

Just in time for Easter.

I am grateful to totally close that chapter.

The Background on The Church Thing

An Amazing Dedication

Being Gracious

An Adoption Blessing

Radio Silence

About Face

About that Church Thing

Supporting You from the Back Room

Finding a House

 


Finding a House

So after the fiasco that culminated in leaving my previous house of worship, I just took some time off from church. At first I applied a lot of pressure to myself to find a place that would hopefully offer Hope and me a place to fit. Aunty Therapist convinced me to just take some time off; she was right.

It gave me a little time to breathe.

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the neighborhood Unitarian church. I was intrigued by and attracted to the progressiveness, the commitment to social justice, the inclusiveness of believers. It all seemed to suggest that it might be a nice place to visit and to try out.

So, Hope and I get there and…we diversified the church by a factor of 200. I mean, I was looking for diversity, but I didn’t want to exclusively be “the” diversity. Also, the congregants were…older, a lot older.

And I struggled with the service. I was raised Christian; I identify strongly as Christian even though I believe a lot of other things that many folks believe are counter to Christianity. I have never been in an organized place of worship where I could also be open about all the other stuff. I also missed the routine of a more traditional Christian-oriented service. I like it; I know what to expect and generally what kinds of things I’m going to hear. So, despite being curious and interested, I found myself overwhelmed by being in a new space and not knowing anyone, overwhelmed by the service being so different, overwhelmed by my being so different than the other congregants. People were very nice, but it really didn’t feel like…I just didn’t think this was home.

And so then we didn’t go back.

Until this yesterday; off we went to the 10am service to try again.

Hope nearly shut down when I announced that she was expected to go to the Religious Education class today. I sensed her anxiety and yet I pushed her off anyway; we were really going to give this Unitarian church thing a chance.

So, the service…yeah, I’m still not connecting the way I would like to, but ok. It was nice, really nice, but just really different. While having snacks after the service I chatted up an older couple who joined the church about five years ago. I had my little visitor tag on and shared what I was kind of looking for and how I was also a little anxious about how Hope fared in the RE class. I shared that we were an adoptive family.

The gentleman smiled and shared that he was adopted many, many years ago.

I smiled. We smiled. And I got the sense that he got me and that he appreciated that I was looking for something for me and Hope that I still struggle with articulating after the drama of our last church.

I breathed, and I smiled again.

And then Hope breezed by, casually saying, “Hi mom” as she headed to the snack table.

I was nearly slack jawed, staring at my usually withdrawn kiddo as she amiably chatted with other teens, giggled and perused the snacks.

missjay

Hope didn’t run to me. She didn’t cling or give me dirty looks about making her do this thing she didn’t want to do 90 minutes ago.

I just watched her. She strolled over to me confidently, bringing me a piece of cake that I didn’t ask for but secretly desired, just because she knows I like cake…a lot. It was even a corner piece because she knows I love frosting.

Who is this kid??? She brought me a piece of chocolate cake for gawd’s sake??? I thought to myself, well, this is the shock of 2015. Stunning really.

I introduced her to the folks I spent some time chatting with earlier.

And then, she asked, “Hey the kids are going to IHOP after church, can I go?”
So, clearly this Unitarian church is the church of the body snatchers because I have no idea who this kid masked in Hope’s clothing is right now. I’ve fantasized about moments like this. moments when Hope asked to ditch me in favor of hanging with peers.

The other kids breezed over and all these teen eyeballs looked at me expectantly.

And I said hells yeah sure. I told her to call me when it was time to be picked up and practically threw $20 at her. I said good bye to new people I met and I left. I totally ran bounced to the car.

I left my kid with folks I don’t even know, kids she met at church, kids she actually asked to go hang out with. In retrospect it sounds a bit irresponsible to just let her go get in someone else’s car and drive off, yet I lost, like, no seconds of sleep over the decision to do so.

OMG. Seriously, Hope asking to hang out with other kids was a fantasy come true.

And about 2 hours later she texted me to come fetch her. She went on about how the kids went to IHOP and then to Starbucks. One kid is a rising 10th grader at the school she will attend in the fall and also in the band! The young man who is the youth mentor/group leader is also an adoptee. Hope gushed about how much fun she had, how accepted she felt and how she looked forward to going to another event.

She begged to go to the game night the church is hosting for the teens in a few weeks as I picked her up. I had Yappy with me so all of the kids came out to the car talking about game night and how it would be fun.

More expectant teen eyeballs looking at me for an immediate answer.

Um, yeah, sure!

So, looks like we’ll be hanging out with the UU folks for a minute. I hope this continues to be a place of growth for Hope. I am excited for her.

I’m also excited that I might have some time to myself without paying the nanny.

Yeah! #fistpump


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