I’m trying to figure out how to write these posts.
One part of me feels like there should be a format or a rating system or something that at the end of this quest will make it clear what church … wins?
But I don’t think that’s how this quest is going to work. It’s not a quest in the traditional sense; there isn’t a holy grail at the end. There is a hope that I will find a church that I can call home, but after this morning, it’s really clear to me that the point of this quest is not the end result. The point of this quest is my willingness to go on this journey.
So don’t expect scores or any conclusions about whether the places we visit are good churches or even anything much about the theology of the sermon. If we stumble onto ones that appear to be LGBTQ affirming but don’t feel that way to us, I’m sure that will be apparent in my thoughts. This is a place to reflect on the journey.
This morning we decided to attend the 10:00 am Parish Eucharist service at The Church of St. John the Divine. St. John’s hosted Pride Church during Victoria Pride and attending their Pride Church Evensong service was the catalyst that led us to start this quest so it seemed right that our first stop would be there.
I was raised in a Baptist church. Not the really over-the-top conservative sort, but traditional enough. The closest that we got to liturgy was the inclusion of an advent wreath at Christmas time. I did spend time at university with good friends who were Roman Catholic and sometimes attended church with them so that type of liturgy isn’t entirely unfamiliar to me. But it’s fair to say that my level of comfort with a traditional Anglican liturgy is sketchy at best.
Some of the music was familiar, though the words were different from what I knew. I loved how their church bulletin made it easy for a “newbie” like me to follow and know what I needed to do.
I had an internal debate about how much to participate in the service. While faith is important to me, let’s be honest, what I believe in at this point is pretty different from what churches normally espouse. The thing is, it’s not that I’m certain I don’t believe the more traditional things as well. I’ve just stopped thinking about them. I decided to let my heart and mind be open and that I would participate as fully as felt comfortable in the moment.
It was a powerful thing to pray as a whole body, to speak the words:
to you all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from you no secrets are hidden.
I’ve prayed things like that before, but they’ve never felt so true or so safe. Those kinds of words used to scare me in ways I didn’t understand. I didn’t know I was hiding, but I knew being known was terrifying. Today, those words felt healing. Today, those words felt freeing.
While at one level I missed the informality and intimacy of the worship services I used to know, there was something freeing in being in worship that didn’t bring up old baggage exactly because it was so different.
There is a beauty in the language of liturgy. The care with which every word of the Prayers of the People were chosen. The warmth of the traditional passing of the peace, when it felt clear that the Rector made a point of greeting us even though we were sitting only a few pews from the back of the sanctuary. The kindness of the man sitting behind us when people started moving to receive the Eucharist who provided us with some additional instructions when he saw what I suspect were the human equivalent of “deer in the headlights” looks as we debated which way we should go. The simplicity of the kneeling to be receive the bread and the wine at the altar rail in the small chapel. The quiet words spoken as each element is given. The body of Christ given for you. The blood of Christ shed for you. The beauty of the stained glass windows with the reminder of one of my favourite passages of scripture.
Perhaps the most powerful moment was right before the blessing. I don’t know what it’s called in the liturgy, but hearing these words spoken proudly, enthusiastically, by the people gathered for worship filled me with hope:
We are all people of God
In the heart of Victoria we celebrate Christ
In joyful worship!
We celebrate Christ
By including everyone!
We celebrate Christ
By putting faith into action!
A church that can say that the way they did has the potential to be a place I could call home even though so much is unfamiliar. It doesn’t mean I’ve found a home, it just means that I have a little more faith that one could exist.
If you want to know about Church Quest, I recommend reading the first post in the series. If you have any suggestions about where we should visit on the journey to find a church home that is welcoming and affirming for LGBTQ people, or have stories about your own journey to find a spiritual home, I’d love hear from you in the comments below.