Thursday, August 30, 2012
A friend recently posted a message on Facebook that she was seeking a church. Her litmus test for said church included that they needed to support same-sex marriage. She is straight, but obviously not narrow on matters of human sexuality. In fact, she warned anyone who might respond, “You can’t support ‘gay’ marriage and be a Christian,” to simply move on and not waste her time or theirs.
Most who answered her were enthusiastically touting the Unitarian Universalists. I, on the other hand, told her to check out The Episcopal Church and was clear that she needed to seek out the “Episcopal”, not “Anglican”, Church. Trouble is that, unlike the Unitarians who were happily evangelizing the wonders of their denomination, I was not able to bring myself to do a hard-sell of The Episcopal Church. Not because I don’t love our liturgy and rejoice at the amazing work The Episcopal Church has done as a mainline Protestant denomination in knocking down the human sexuality stumbling blocks. I am proud of those things. But I found myself stopping short of banner-waving because I know that in her particular diocese, the good works done at the national level of the Church simply aren’t welcomed. The bishop has made that clear.
I believe that when one goes questing for a spiritual home, the path is not to a “church”; the path is to God. What the church provides is the common community of believers who are also wandering and meandering their way toward God. It should feel like a safe place where one can go and be who they are, whatever that is, and no matter where they are in the journey toward this One Love. In God, in Love, whatever political or social beliefs we hold are meaningless because the table that’s spread before us is for us… all of us. Nobody gets a better seat, a nicer view, more food or drink than the next person because at this table, we are all the exalted and welcomed guests who will eat and drink to our great satisfaction. That’s the reality.
But I know that there is another reality, the “on earth” reality, which puts the flesh on the spirit-body. And in that reality, it does matter to the seeker of God what the side dishes will be at the table. Will the sermon condemn me and the ones I love and value in my life? Will the people sit with me and greet me? Will the prayers acknowledge that we are all connected and are part of a larger picture than just our individual and egotistical interests? Too often, I’m afraid, it is not the main course that sours the meal; it’s those side dishes that don’t seem to compliment the entrée. And that can lead the seeker to refuse to return.
I think it’s incumbent for all of us to strive to better our church institutions and make them places where a seeker can feel what it’s like to be fed a complete spiritual meal. And this needs to happen at all levels of the church, not just among the laity. I hope my friend is able to find the place that will give her best food and drink there is. And I hope whatever sides she gets with that meal enhance its flavors so that she truly can taste and see the goodness that is God.