I love my church…I love the way I’m challenged, encouraged, supported, and inspired.
For this gay man, that’s a pretty powerful statement to make. Like many LGBTQ folks, my history with “organized religion” has led me into some uncomfortable places, as I’ve blogged about before. I’ve belonged to a conservative “Christian cult,” (in my terms…), attended Homosexuals Anonymous (yep! there is actually a 12-step program to “make you straight), and skirted with Exodus Ministries and Sy Rogers, hosting him at the University of Michigan at a “launch event” for an ex-gay outreach I started my Senior year.
With that history, it’s no wonder it took a LONG time before I felt comfortable setting foot in a church, let alone one with strong ties to its middle-of-the-road-but-slightly-conservative mainstream denomination. But, growing up going to church, attending Sunday school and a high school youth group, I always knew that deep inside, some (healthier) spiritual life was important to me. I’ve always believed we are physical, emotional, intellectual and yes – spiritual beings. It’s just taken some grieving and courage to face the “demons” from my past that caused me to avoid church altogether.
Looking back on my journey, which has included 9+ years attending Broadway United Methodist Church, and several years finding my “own voice” and path forward in my recovery, which includes some powerful experiences, insightful readings and sharing in the “rooms” of several 12 step programs. As I’ve written before, while I don’t attend any meetings regularly now, those early days of recovery were critical in my “flip” – my re- acceptance of an active spiritual life.
So last year, when we worked through a creative Lenten experience together at Broadway, facing our own personal shame…I embarked on a personal spiritual journey to better deal and face my own shame in a somewhat unconventional way….picketing a local bakery whose story “hit the social media fan” right around the start of Lent, because of their refusal to make a cake for a gay couple.
Probably the single wisest move I made “taking that on” for Lent was from a suggestion from someone I consider to be my “BFF” / friend much more than I do my “Pastor.” Mike Mather has been an important part of my life journey in community. His coaching was to go in and talk with the owners first, before I showed up to picket their bakery.
That single act has made my “spiritual journey” and then Lenten decision much more powerful and personal. My Higher Power (God, The Universe, whatever works for you) has also taken my act of faith, and made more connections, insights and “knock on effects” than I could have ever fathomed. For that, I’m truly grateful.
So, I’ll close this piece with some recent follow-up articles that explain how this all has come full circle. I thank Randy McGrath for his courage to be honest and authentic; I appreciate Will Higgins ability to see deeper into the story being told between Randy and me over the course of weeks and months; and I will use the experience to look for more ways to engage in personal dialogue and curiosity.
As my one friend Stewart Huff says, “we are all scared, curious poets.” It’s powerful to admit “I don’t know” to certain questions, leading to the possibility of being “Flipped” — of seeing the world through a new pair of glasses. So, I’ll also close this piece with some cross-references to some other “scared, curious poets” who Flipped! my worldview…
- Will Higgin’s follow-up article in the Indy Star, updating the community on the reasons behind their decision to close shop. Having exchanged emails with Randy, the owner, I’m grateful for the perspective Will took with the story — capturing the true essences of how things played out for them and between us.
- The Detroit Free Press’ reprint of the Indy Star’s update. They included references to other articles and events around their State and the country on the subject…
- Another Indy Star article, building on the story as an example of why current legislation being considered in the State of Indiana is unnecessary…and even dangerous (IMHO)
Other Flips! in my journey:
- Peace through Non-Violent Communication
- A New Pair of Glasses, by Chuck C.
- The Book of Awakening and The Exquisite Risk, by Mark Nepo
- The Abundant Community and Community: The Structure of Being
- An asset-based re-write of the 12 Steps