My faith journey has been a long and winding one. Although I don’t know if this will become my permanent home, I have found a place where I fit with no uncomfortable gaps or “stuff” hanging over the edges. Funny enough, it’s almost back to where I started.
My parents were both Presbyterians, but when they moved to Oakland, Maryland, when I was two, the nearest Presbyterian church was over half an hour away. Instead, they chose to attend St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Oakland. Since this is what I was brought up in, it was a good fit for me. I participated in the life of the church, believed in what I was taught, and was comfortable. At the same time, I was fascinated by everything surrounding religion; I began a life-time study of the history and doctrines of the Christian religion, and of other religions.
Life happened. My parents separated and then divorced; I went to college, fell in love, and moved away. The man I fell in love with (and have been married to now for thirty years) is an agnostic (raised Catholic). Somewhere, in the midst of all the change and growth, the faith I’d always held no longer fit. I didn’t belong anywhere and, when I did attend church, at least half the time, my teeth were set on edge by sermons that assumed that only those who believed as “we” did were saved. The smugness angered me and drove me away.
None of this stopped my need to connect with God, my desire to learn more about the Divine, or to understand about the different ways He is understood and worshiped. In the process, the more I read, the more I found that the historical basis for the existence of Jesus as he is described in the New Testament of the Bible is much thinner than I had realized. At the same time, I began to believe that the only way to call myself a Christian was to believe in a specific and literal understanding of the Bible, to be “born again”, to “accept Jesus as my personal Savior.” None of this fit any longer, and I no longer called myself Christian.
I spent over a decade focusing my studies on non-Christian religions, especially the Neo-Pagan reconstructions. There was much that resonated with me as true: the emphasis on the Divine as multi-faceted, as rich, complex, diverse, and ultimately unknowable seemed right to me. The emphasis on the Divine as female also struck a chord in me. I grew up during the Women’s Liberation movement in the 1970’s, and the harsh rejection of women as equal that we often see just under the surface in our society meant that the ability to worship Goddess as well as, or even instead of, God was very attractive. Unfortunately, I am someone who is a little obsessive when it comes to details, and the Neo-Pagan/Wiccan emphasis on magic finally led me away again from this group of religions.
Through all of this, I had continued to look for a place where I would “fit” in. The fact that, the older I become, the less I am willing to be anything other than honest about what I believe means that wherever I landed, it had to be willing to accept someone who had a non-orthodox view of the Divine, made things more difficult. So did the fact that my shyness made entering a group social situation more difficult, and my usual help with this, my husband Edward, as an agnostic was even less likely than I was to “play nice” to belong. I hadn’t figured out the solution; I just knew I needed to find one.
Then came November 8, 2016, and Donald Trump was elected to the Presidency of the United States. In addition to everything else, I got angry. As I started articulating my political beliefs, more publicly than I had before, I realized that those beliefs are almost entirely based on my Christian upbringing. When describing why I thought we should be doing something politically, I found myself quoting the Bible. So, I reclaimed the label of Christian, with my definition, as one who follows His teaching.
Edward and I had reconnected with some old friends of ours, who are very active in their church. They invited us and we began to attend, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. It’s a small congregation, but very welcoming. Edward can be himself. He sings the hymns, but doesn’t say the prayers or go to the communion rail, and–wait for it!–he’s left alone to do so. I’m still getting used to the more liturgical services, but the political emphasis is much closer to who I am.
Which gives a broad overview of where I am now and how I got here. I plan on writing more posts describing my beliefs in more detail, and analyzing the prayers, creeds, Bible passages, and other things that attract my attention. Yes, I know this I welcome discussion on any and all, but I insist on good manners.