Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Spiritual Journey III

I know I am naive, but I have never understood why things have to change. Like Facebook layouts, trash haulers, and churches, changes are never really for the better. Just get to a good point that works, and stick with it.

Yeah I know, change is inevitable.

The church I attended in Kansas City, Trinity United Methodist, was a beacon of light and a bold, brash "screw you church establishment" institution for the majority of the time I attended. Standing firmly in the harsh wind of the Methodist hierarchy that said gays and lesbians were not compatible with Christian teaching, TUMC welcomed all who entered. Many churches say that, however there is usually a "but" attached to the welcome. Not so at TUMC. It was thrilling to worship with fellow gays, people of diverse backgrounds, perfect people and dreadful sinners alike. There was a sort of magic when we all came together. People dropped pretense and pitched in.

One Sunday was to be a high church day. We purchased new choir robes and they were to be dedicated with song and praise. As I arrived (by the way, the place was so special I drove 50 miles round trip to attend) fire trucks and police littered the street. A fire had heavily damaged a large apartment building near by. The refugees congregated at TUMC. It was a cool day and the people had on what they could escape with. So we cooked. Refrigerators were raided, errands ran and we made a vat of chili. Some got out games and played with the kids, some of us manned the phones taking calls from worried family members. We never did have a service that day; but in so many ways, it was the best one we ever had.

As people moved around, personalities clashed, pastors came and went, TUMC began to decline. It was not one person, or one thing, but a combination of events, people and weariness that comes in fighting a losing battle. The Methodist church makes it quite difficult for a gay friendly church to operate. Threats of trials and sanctions hover over any ordained personnel that dares to think otherwise.

Finally, in 2008, the last straw broke and I severed my relationship with TUMC and the United Methodist Church in general. I was sad, I missed my friends, the routine of the Methodist liturgy, hymnal and service. But I was tired of being a second, or even no-class citizen. A new pastor was clear that the hierarchy wanted to "straighten out" the place. Two years later, I am still embroiled in a mess created by the church; but a recent letter from the bishop of the UMC effectively told me to fuck off.

In the last months of my attendance at TUMC if Greg was out of town (thus I would not get scolded for not being at church), I would sneak off and go to another church where some TUMC refugees had landed. The church was led by an openly gay pastor... and it was ok with everyone. Great music, nice people, a denomination, the United Church of Christ, that was more liberal than I. We even served wine at church functions and hosted a drag show that was called "Wake the Fuck up, America!"

There was a heaven on earth.

But, just for a while. Sadly another example of heaven's transient nature here on this mortal orb. Some of the same things that killed TUMC were also happening there. I am not sure exactly what transpired, both sides still harbor resentment. Suffice to say I stayed away.

My last church service was on December 20th, when we performed the annual Christmas cantata. As I put away my robe and heard the negative chattering about the former pastor, I decided I had enough. Stealthily, I took my name tag off my robe and put it in my pocket. They had no use for it. It was a symbol of my departure.

Few noticed.

I have not missed going to church on Sunday, but I do miss the interaction with people, one of the few times I see people these days without vodka being involved.

Reading a response to a Facebook post, put a seed in my mind. Actually, watered a kernel that had been there before. To paraphrase, "You know, I have never known a Buddhist to cause trouble or grief".



Megan Highfill said...

Don, I have been keeping up with your blog on Google Reader, but it doesn't allow me to post comments, otherwise I would likely comment on every entry! You are a fantastic writer and I really enjoy reading your reviews and your more personal stories. The spiritual journey triad was both heartfelt and heartbreaking. I'm glad you wrote about it, and I'm thinking about you.

Unknown said...

A few days behind, I got caught up this morning on your blog -- funny, provocative, poignant and heart-breaking. Churches, and the sinners within, do come and go but friendships CAN be forever if tended to, maintained and cherished. You and Me.