I’m not a church goer anymore, yet I promised myself I’d attend a Christmas Eve service at my sister’s church to support her and my nephews during my visit to them over the holidays. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how difficult that decision would end up being for me.
Let me begin by saying that there was a time when I really did love going to church every Sunday. That started well over two decades ago now when I found a very lively church in Washington D.C. to attend called The Metropolitan Community Church (MCC). There, my Spirit moved every Sunday and I always looked forward to attending the services there. Yes, I was one of those who would raise my hands and praise the Lord, and no, it wasn’t a fake thing, as I truly felt that much joy in my life in serving God. Frankly, it was such a major shift from the previous church I had belonged to, that being one of those revival churches with a live band and a projector on a big screen, as they had rejected me when I came out of the closet and told me I was a sinner. Nevertheless, I spent the better part of a decade affiliated with MCC and even became a deacon during my years of membership there. After a period of a few years where I moved to the middle of nowhere and wasn’t able to find a church to be a part of, I came to the Boston area to be closer to my sister and attempted for the next several years to find a new church home. Sadly, I’d experience three separate rejections in the process, each because of my sexuality, and each being one of those revival types of churches. While there were a few churches I attended that did accept me for who I was, I didn’t feel my spirit leap at any of them. Regardless, I became fed up with all of it and began to forge my own path of hope, faith, and spirituality with God, one that didn’t involve being a member of any physical church.
So, in light of all that, when my sister asked if I wanted to attend a Christmas Eve service at her church during my visit there, I said yes, only because it had been so long since I’d been to any service and also in that I wanted to support my youngest nephew who really wanted to spend as much time with me as he could. As I sat there in the service with him and the rest of my sister’s family, as well as my partner, I watched a number of people raise their hands and praise the Lord just like I used to do. I wish I could have felt what they were feeling and boy, did I try to feel some of that. All I could feel though was sadness. Sadness for all the people who have been rejected by so many churches that have looked and felt just like this one. Sadness for all the health issues I continue to face and the silence I continue to feel from God about it. And sadness for feeling so darn alone inside, even in the midst of all that joy.
I wasn’t present during this service at all really, and found myself jotting down my thoughts on their bulletin while there, which led to me writing these very words here. About the only time I was present was when they asked if anyone wanted to come up during the service and be prayed over. I waited and waited and waited while that part of the service was going on, yet kept feeling a desire within me to go up. I honestly had a battle in myself during that time and eventually found the courage to walk up. I don’t remember what was said during the prayer that this 20-something guy said as he embraced me, but what I do remember was the tears flowing from my eyes, tears that yearn for a closer presence from God, tears for all the people who have felt rejected from God because of conservative religious people, and tears for all the pain I still have to live within this body.
When the service ended shortly thereafter, I have to say I was very much relieved and was glad to head back to my sister’s home. While I would love to be a part of a church again, especially one where my spirit moved with upbeat music and plenty of fellowship, I truly struggled to feel much of that there. Whether that was because of my past or present circumstances I don’t know. What I do know though is that I hope to one day be a part of some church again that practices the unconditional love of Christ, one that doesn’t look at things like homosexuality as a sin, and one where all are welcomed no matter what. But, for now, I know God knows I tried my best to be present at my sister’s church, and hopefully one day I will find a congregation again I can call home…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson