My spiritual life and faith journey are extremely important to me, but I have a restless heart and a questioning mind that have prevented me from settling into faith traditions that seem to be passed along without much thinking or reflection.? That?s why I call First United my church home.? There, I can question.? There, my faith can partner with my intellect.? There, I can follow Jesus without having to swallow traditional Christian doctrine that I do not believe.? It is the church and the faith community I have been looking for all my life.
I come from a non-religious and non-spiritual family but found myself intensely attracted to Roman Catholicism in college.? I went to mass regularly with Catholic friends and then, when in my late 20?s, decided to join the Catholic Church.? In my early years as a Catholic, I was captivated by the liturgy, the saints, the incense, the mysticism, the traditions, the physical beauty of the churches, and perhaps more than anything else, the sheer ancientness and supposed unbroken apostolic succession of Catholicism.? Since the focus of my graduate studies in Comparative Literature was the European Middle Ages, I often felt as though I was somehow inhabiting the very material I was studying in my classes every time I went to mass.
This enthusiasm and visceral attraction sustained me in my early years as a Catholic, but soon, changes in my own life coupled with a growing awareness of the many problems in the Catholic Church led to serious struggles for me by the time I was in my mid-thirties.? For example, as a feminist, I could never accept the Chruch?s prohibition of women in the clergy; nor could I abide the anti-choice position of the Church.? To me, a woman?s right to full control over her own body was non-negotiable.
I also had big problems with the Church?s view on homosexuality, which were exacerbated when I came out as a gay man at 34. ?From the moment I came out, I never for a moment felt anything less that fully human and equally deserving of all that life had to offer; yet the Catholic Church told me that physical expression of my sexual orientation was abhorrent and must be avoided.? To me, this prohibition represented a fundamental compromise of one?s humanity.? Why would God ask anyone to do such a thing? ?And what kind of church would believe and teach such things?? Certainly no church I wanted to belong to.
And yet, I stuck with it for another 15 years.? I didn?t want to quit.? I didn?t want to leave the beauty and traditions behind, and I justified staying by telling myself I belonged to a liberal parish whose priests? social values were liberal and aligned with my own.? These mollifications seemed to work until I finally realized that even more than the inimical Catholic doctrine toward women and gay people, what ultimately drove me away was the complete void of intellectual content or challenge in the mass, week after week after mind-numbing week.
I stopped going to church altogether for a while and then accepted Caela?s kind invitation to attend First United during Lent a few years back.? To my great satisfaction, Jack and Caela preached insightful, challenging, researched sermons that were also emotional and deeply human every single time.? In their sermons, they offered ideas that would be considered heretical in other Christian contexts, ideas that I found exciting, liberating, and insightful for my own faith journey.? Finally, finally after so many years of emptiness, I went home from church on Sundays rejuvenated and challenged with exciting ideas pertaining to faith, life, and community as practiced by followers of Jesus.? Of course, it doesn?t hurt that First United is a welcoming and affirming congregation or that its two pastors are woman and man or that it has wonderful music or that the community is warm and loving.? But honestly, more than anything else, it is Jack and Caela?s tireless commitment to brilliant sermons and the community?s unswerving affirmation of my full humanity that keep me coming back for more.