This Easter season got me thinking about my faith and the seasons of change that have made up my very personal relationship with my God. I was raised Roman Catholic. I found comfort in the church as a young girl. It was a place that I felt safety from the outside world and the chaos of my home. It was not what many have endured from the Catholic Church and misguided Priests who could not be the Men of God they were ordained to be but, for many, terror and torment.
You can only speak of what you know and, for me, what I knew then was a very loving environment that made sense to me and gave me a place to ponder the teaching and to think about who God and Jesus were in my life.
As I got older, I started to struggle with my faith. I left the church for awhile to look for a faith that felt more alive. If I had been fully aware of my feelings, I would have realized the alive I was looking for came in the form of a woman that I could not stop thinking about. She, however, was not so sure. I remember one time we prayed to make sure our feelings for each other were Agape love, and not Eros, (it was that bad).
What I was not prepared to hear when I ventured away from my childhood faith was the word of God being used to make me feel shame about myself. I never thought that it was possible to hear words so damaging and hurtful. How would I ever be enough? It was then that I realized the new faith I was looking for was based on emotions and had very little to do with spirituality.
In all honesty, it was not until I came to terms with my sexuality that I found myself wanting to return to my faith. This is where many of you will stop and say, “Why would you want to be a part of a church that has such a history of abuse and disregard for women?” I remember having this conversation with my late wife Kate and she felt that it was her home (her faith) and that she was not going to go somewhere else. She felt it was important to create change from inside of the church.
The Church we attended in Seattle, I can tell you, is not like most know in their communities. It was very open and affirming to who Kate and I were. Sitting in church, it sometimes did feel odd, but I kept praying that I would see the inspiration in the words spoken and the comfort I felt from my youth. For me, it became a time to be still and to sit by Kate and listen. It was a time for us to connect as a family and it was a time to be thankful for my blessings.
It was the people of the church that made me believe, not some out-of-touch man in Rome who has very little understanding of the church. Seeing the church (the people) of the Parish my late wife and I attended gather around me when she died and helped me with her funeral mass was “the church”. I remember being told by one of the ladies who was helping with Kate’s service say “Charlene, the church has been very wrong to you and Kate, and with this mass we will make it right.” As the tears streamed down my face, I knew she meant it, and the mass was a fitting tribute to who Kate was and how important her faith was to her life.
As this Easter season approaches, I wonder what it must be like for so many of us who have heard the words from the pulpits that bring pain and disconnect and I wonder if this might be the year that those that say they know the love of God truly hear the words with a heart of real understanding and know that each of us is a divine gift and a very important part of God’s family.
So, as we would say every Sunday to our fellow congregants, Peace be with you. Happy Easter.