Why Going to Church is Importnat to Your LGBT Family
by The Rev. Robert Warren Cromey
Editor’s note: The author uses the term “church” here in his article, please note that in the suggestions listed below “church” would also include temples, synagogues, mosques or any other houses of worship, regardless of your specific religious affiliation.
The church needs you, not just your money and membership. The church needs you to lead the church in doing its real work: social justice. The church says it is inclusive, loving and forgiving, but in fact, many times it is not. Most churches are segregated by class, race and sexual preference. Many churches outside of major cities fear homosexuals, and have no contact with gay men, lesbians or same gender families. When you bring your family to church, you heighten the awareness of people who need enlightenment on lesbian and gay rights issues. It takes courage to bear witness for justice and against exclusivity. You may find fear, rejection, hostility but you might also find sincere inquiring fellow parishioners eager to welcome you.
But what is in it for you and your family? Many LGBT families desire some contact with straight people, people different from themselves. Churches provide community for all who come, inquire and perhaps join. I can speak only for Episcopal Churches, but I am sure it is true for many main line denominations. They can’t officially keep you out. A church must take all who come and worship. It is unlike a private club, which make rules excluding certain classes of people like African-Americans, Jews, Asians and women. That is one of the great things about the church, it must take all who want to worship and join.
In a church you will find many welcoming people who want to be in a loving, forgiving, compassionate, justice-seeking community. Like everything else the church community is full of imperfection. But its goals are clear.
In church you will sing. A friend of mine loves to go to church to sing, to “give a good shout” and relieve the tension of his being a busy bank vice-president. Singing opens the throat, lungs and heart. It gives pleasure to the breathing and the sounds of melody, unison song and harmony. It is a pity that there are so few places in our society where real singing takes place (other than the shower!). So much of our entertainment is passive.
In church, if it has good architecture, you will find beauty, a sacred space that delights the eye, with stained glass, fine proportions and lovely objects of art. Even if the architecture is not great, a church building can be a place of quiet, solace and peace.
In church you will discover ancient teachings from religious history and the Bible. If taught well, those teachings can be relevant to one’s life today. The great human questions are explored. What is the meaning of life: my life, my children’s life and the world? How do I deal with joy and sorrow, pain and suffering, sickness and death? How can I forgive those who hate and hurt me? All these areas of human concern are presented and discussed.
In church you will find interest groups that you might enjoy. Sewing, books, environment, prayer, mother’s and father’s groups, childcare, education, teens and the elderly. None are perfect, many are helpful, and you get to choose the areas you are interested in.
In church you may learn to worship: God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, the Church, the last things. You will find there are few pat answers but the opening for discussion, doubt and ongoing and ever-changing faith with others of like minds as well as different perspectives.
How to start going? Ask your friends for a recommendation. What churches attract news stories? If they are anti-gay, anti-abortion and anti-non-marital sex, that helps your decision making right there. If they are for peace, caring for the homeless, hungry, poor and sick and dying, that too will help your decision-making. Make an appointment and go talk to the clergy. Be frank about your interest and concern. Try going to the service and see what childcare they offer. Is the church clean, well kept, friendly, welcoming on the first time you go? Does it feel like home or an alien land? Trust your instincts. If one seems promising go to it for a month before scurrying away. Give the church a real chance to show its stuff.
Pick and choose, shop around, and try some out. Go to the church with an attitude of how can I help this church as well as thinking what it can do for you.
Religious people have gathered for worship for thousands upon thousands of years. There is a religious dimension in all people. It is that sense of transcendence, something beyond one’s self. Scientists have it, priests have it, mothers and fathers have it as they see the wonders of the world and of other human beings.
The Rev. Robert Warren Cromey is a priest of the Episcopal Church, retired and living in San Francisco. He is also a Marriage and Family Therapist, licensed by the State of California.
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