If you can’t find a community that feels like home, you have to build one.
That’s what people have told me over the years, and my mother in the sky agrees. For me, that community, well, I think it should be a church.
I impressed my minister in confirmation class when I was 9. I gave my first sermon from the pulpit when I was just 12. I took my last communion at West Park Monestary when I was 17 when it was clear to me that the Episcopal church was no place for people like me.
I’ve sampled most of the churches in the area that define themselves as lesbian & gay friendly. They may even call themselves LGBT welcoming, but that doesn’t always mean they know how to welcome a tranny, or really, that they even care to.
All this sets me to thinking of course, as most things do. What kind of church would I want to attend, to participate in, to shepard?
I love ritual. I love the power of the familiar and deep, the touchstones that we go back to again and again, the milestones that let us measure our lives, the foundation stones that give us grounding, and the millstones we rub against to scrape away the chaff and find the kernels underneath. These are solid, routine and potent, and are what most people look to in churches.
But I also love novelty. I love new ways to see the old; innovative visions, playful explorations, delightful flashes of insight, joyful revelations, and power of the surprise. Laughter is always the best social lubricant, making hard lessons go down a bit easier, and surprise is one of the best ways to generate the burst of laughter that no only opens the mouth but also opens the heart and mind.
My favourite surprises have always been when someone showed me something inside of themselves that I had not yet seen. Those sparks of growth, those leaps into something new, those pops of wisdom and wit you see from someone you thought you knew, well those are always a delight. In fact, they are the delight that parents may enjoy most, seeing a kid grow up in a bound, vaulting over an old limit and being new and better.
So, if I was putting together a church, I would want lots of good, solid, stable welcoming routine. It’s important to conserve the best, to value the basics, to have a solid foundation.
But as or more important than that routine, I would want to honor, value and encourage surprises. Open my eyes, make me gasp, trigger my laughter, get outside my expectations, show me the astonishing, let me feel a flash of the divine.
The Church Of The Divine Surprise. That’s what I want on Sunday morning, not just the affirmation that there is a community and a universe that cares about me, but the delight of a place where it’s safe to move beyond the conventional, to take a shot at being new, to commit to supporting the transformation of others and of myself.
I have said before in this blog that if a preacher doesn’t help release your strength to address things in a new way in the coming week, then she hasn’t really done her job. Every church worth its salt holds out the hope and the promise that humans can get better, more righteous, more centered, more loving, more compassionate, more caring, and more connected. How can we become new, though, unless we are willing to invite the new into our lives? How can we commit to moving beyond past expectations unless those expectations are challenged by surprises, surprises delivered with consideration and with love?
A Course In Miracles reminds us that miracles are not something external to us, rather a miracle is the moment when we change our mind. “OK, God, where is the miracle in this challenge, what learning are you offering to me by this turn of events?”
It’s tough when you go to your community of faith and say that you got a surprise this week, and they respond by pitying you. What I want is for them to respond by helping me see how there are gifts here, how this is part of a cycle, to help put the surprise in context and to help encourage me to engage it and learn from it. It’s when you want to render judgement, to decide if things are bad or good that it becomes easy to try to raise the walls, close in the fear, defend the status quo. It’s when you look at surprises and see the context of a creation myth, accept the process, and engage the possibilities that your world opens up and you can go beyond old barriers to claim new territory, new options and a new you.
The community I want isn’t one where we can whisper about how uppity, insensitive and odd someone is, it is one where bold choices are honored, attempts are respected and success is seen as a gift to us all. I want a place where surprises aren’t seen as challenges, but rather as divine gifts that give us the opportunity to choose again.
Can you help me find someplace like this?
Or do I really have to build it?