Songs from Jacobs Well Find myself confused about church and faith, but I should start at the beginning.
Woke up early way before the sun and got ready for my day. Nothing much planned except church and the coffee shop. Since I got such an early start, I decided to go the the 9 am service instead of my usual 11 o'clock time. Hit the coffee shop (no line was a bonus!) and did a little reading and people watching. David and some friends from church were there, but I just said hi and took my usual table on the patio and enjoyed seeing the city wake up around me. Headed over to church while listening to some Il Divo (those guys rock) and had my pick of parking spots. The service was great, got to see all my friends, shared some great hugs. Seemed like everyone was loving on me extra hard? I guess some news travels fast. Deth finished the 6 weeks series on "We are Church" and I learned a little more about my own little place in this community that I am a part of.
Service let out, all my usual peeps started showing up for the next service and I got some grief over switching up my times. I guess I am pretty patterned and predictable at times. My friends know where to find me on any given day and time, unless I just get a wild hair up my ass and take off.
Which is what I decided to do...
Since I was out early I decided to visit another church that a good friend had invited me to several times over. I always had some excuse, but now with the space and time, curiosity got the better of me. A simple way to put it is this, he goes to a gay church. Now we have gay people at my church, duh...but this church is different. I would say it is the biggest church in the city that plays an inclusionary role in the LGBT community. They rent a building to the Gay and Lesbian Community Center and also host Passages, the LGBTQA youth group in Kansas City. So yeah...really gay. :)
What I found to be my experience has left me a bit stunned and confused about my faith, my church and my past ideas and concepts of practice. I drove up a bit after the service started, so as to avoid having to socialize with a bunch of strangers. I'd say about five minutes late. Plus I had to grab another coffee to settle my nerves. I grabbed my bag and walked in with the other guys who got a late start in the morning. Some of the were VERY cute, but never mind that. I was there to see what this church was like.
I was greeted at the door and given a bulletin and visitors card and then I found a spot near the back of the sanctuary to the far right. It was traditional church building, old and beautiful, but more modern than Jacobs Well. Amazing stained glass windows, soaring oak arches and thick solid pews that were comfortably padded. A glance around the congregation showed many couples, guys with guys, girls with girls, families, both str8 and gay and a large number of single people like myself. A pretty mixed crowd, though many more LGBT people than my church.
I had missed the group singing, but did note the hymnals in the pew shelves. There was a full choir up front and they even had choir robes on! That was kind of a shock. Grand piano, organ and small band up front. The choir sang an awesome song about being redeemed, full of the gospel, but definitely older music that I had become accustomed to. I knew it was going to be a different experience because I started recognizing faces from the gay community that I have known and worked with over the years. One of the managers from a local Chevy dealership was in the choir. He was dressed as a woman as he usually is when out and about though certainly not at work. He sang a solo and his clear tenor voice was amazing to hear. I didn't even know he went to church! I guess it would be more PC to refer to him as her, but I am not sure if he is Trans or simply just a cross dresser. Looking around more, I noticed that one of my bartenders was playing the piano and another one was in the choir. One of the guys I knew from political work was playing the guitar. I finally started looking around and really looking at faces.
I knew at least 40-50 of the guys at this church. I found that kind of stunning. In all the years I have known them, only a few of us have ever spoken of faith and God. The size of the gay Christian community in Kansas City was much larger than I thought, and this is just ONE of the gay churches in town. It is non-denominational and the other one is Baptist.
After a few announcements of a good drive, current activities and upcoming concerts (Ray Boltz...wow) the message started. The pastor spoke on the Rich Man and Lazarus. He preached powerfully about salvation, our calling to spread the gospel and also to minister to all of those who are "laying at our front gate". The compassion and conviction that filled his message gripped me, and I stopped writing in my journal and just listened. I was convicted. They used more scripture and doctrine in one message here than I have heard in the last few years at my church. I had expected some kind of unity, happy, peace and love hippy dippy bullshit honestly. But I was hearing the Bible preached powerfully.
The message ended and there was a few more songs and announcements and then it was time for communion. The entire service had been signed for the hearing impaired but the pastor who got up to speak and serve communion signed for himself/herself...still not really sure, but that is not important.
I have never heard such a compelling, heart rending and Spirit filled call to communion and its true story in my life. I cried again and then also decided to not take communion with them. I already had at my church but I think the real reason was, despite their open and loving invitation, I felt completely unworthy. This body of Christians lived Christ's love to each other and their whole service was saturated in truth and power. This was not some sham gay church. This place was real and many of the people there just happened to be gay. They were more conservative even that I am and held closer to a faith that I remember from my childhood.
I went out into the sunshine feeling very confused and kind of baffled. What just happened in there? What do they have that I am lacking? How could I have been so wrong about what I thought I would find? I said hello to a few friends I knew and kind of fended of the curious guys who wanted to know who the new guy was. I will just let my other friends fill them in...lol
I took off and went to Michael's club to grab a few beers and watch the Chiefs game. Not surprising that soon after I arrived to meet my friends than many of the guys from that church started showing up. Now I just don't know what to think, but I am pretty sure after my service this next week, I will visit again.
What do you all think about churches that welcome gay people in, not as some broken and twisted souls to be "fixed" but as full members and encouraged to be involved in all areas of the ministry? An open display of acceptance instead of the quiet who cares attitude and certainly not the hell fire damnation and hate so often seen in mainstream denominations.
I are confused all over again...but I think that is a good thing?