A Search for Church

Did you see it?

It was a blip in the news.

First Church in Cambridge
First Church in Cambridge

After Ireland’s historic vote to legalize same-sex marriage, the Vatican weighed in.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, a top Vatican official, said the vote was a “defeat for humanity.”

Gosh, that seems a wee extreme.

That’s the tough part of being raised in the Catholic faith and being gay: You’re continually reminded you are less than worthy.

The Church inflicts so much harm on its gay children, and it doesn’t seem to care.

And if the Church is supposed to be a sanctuary, as we are taught, what kind of refuge continually injures its most vulnerable members?

It’s a pain that can scorch your soul.

God made me as I am,  and God doesn’t make mistakes.

And so for many years, I have searched for a place where I might not only worship, but I might be welcomed.

A beautiful church, inside and out.
A beautiful church, inside and out.

I’ve come to call this “church shopping.”

I’ve test-driven a lot of churches – Unitarian, Methodist, Episcopalian, Congregational.

I went to one highly recommended Boston church for a year – a year – and no one ever talked to me. Not once.

In one Cambridge church, the minister walked around during every hymn with a live mic and would stick it in front of a random parishioner’s face.

Never have I been so terrified in a house of worship.

In another Cambridge church, the parishioners didn’t even bother to hide their cellphones as the service progressed.

If I want to be with a crowd of people staring at their mobiles, I’ll just go to the movies, thanks.

I seemed unable to connect with any congregation. The services didn’t feed my soul.

Welcoming. Affirming. First Church in Cambridge.
Welcoming. Affirming. First Church in Cambridge.

Just when I was about to give up, two years ago, I stumbled across First Church in Cambridge.

There was a Pride flag fluttering outside the door of the Congregational church.

That was encouraging.

Almost immediately, I knew I was someplace special.

The service was similar to what I remembered and cherished about the Masses of my youth.

Senior minister Rev. Dan Smith and his team wrestle with gospel readings and interpret them and tie them to our times.

There’s a tremendous concern throughout the church for social justice and spiritual growth.

Did I mention the people? The people are incredibly welcoming.

I almost bolted from my pew during my first visit when the congregation exchanged a sign of peace. If you’ve been to any church in the last two decades, you probably are familiar with this ritual: You shake hands with the nearest person and wish them peace.

At First Church, they take this moment seriously.

Everyone is up and about and roaming the aisles.

For a newcomer, this can be intimidating. The organist typically has to play a musical cue to get people back into their seats.

Each week, after the last hymn and the last blessing, the entire congregation sits down and the organist plays another number. It’s a moving, meditative way to close the service and send people out into the world.

Oh, and nobody is reaching for their damn phone.

First Church taught me something I never knew – how a congregation comes together in a crisis.

After I was hit by a car in October and trapped in hospital for two-and-a-half months, the church did more than pray for me.

Rev. Dan came by to see me almost every week. When he wasn’t dropping by, the new minister Rev. Karin Case was checking in on me.

The congregation kept in touch with a constant trickle of visits, cards, texts, Christmas cookies even.

When you are hospitalized as I was, these gestures are life-savers.

A gift from the church on the day I officially joined.
A gift from the church on the day I officially joined.

And it helped me realize something: You don’t go to church for God. You can find God anywhere. You go to church for the people.

On May 31, I stood in front of the altar and faced the congregation. Rev. Dan officially welcomed me into the church as a member.

A home, at last.

One thought on “A Search for Church

  1. Pingback: Church of a Lesser Clod – Far from Rome

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