Keeping the Faith

I was raised Catholic, and have yet to actually struggle with reconciling being gay and Catholic until RR came along.  Even before she was born, I was plotting ways to get her baptized.  Plotting, you say?  Well.. see, those Catholic churches won’t baptize a baby being raised up in a same-sex parental household because, well, baptizing your kid is saying, “Hey!  We’ll bring her up good and Catholic.. thumbs up!”  And bringing her up good and Catholic with two mommies is contrary, at the least.  So my first plot was to have her baptized in a private ceremony up in DC by the Dignity folks up there.  Then, my other plot was to have her baptized in my hometown church, which is thankfully, liberal enough to overlook the whole gay thing long enough to dunk and bless her.  In her eight months of existence, neither has materialized, for one reason or another.

That said, it’s left me with more than enough time to rethink this whole religion stuff.  Not that I feel any less Catholic these days, but I don’t want RR to be brought up in a religion that will insist that her moms fundamentally suck.  And are going to hell.  Handbasket optional.  That will so wholeheartedly disapprove of her family.  Our family.  My family.

So what was sheer laziness in getting her baptized Catholic has come to a screeching, squealing, intentional hault.

So now what?  I suppose church-shopping is a good word for what’s next.  See, I like church.  I like the weekly services.  I like praying.  I like the pews, the quiet, the singing, and the smell of candles.  I want RR to go to Sunday school.  I want her to make friends who aren’t just the kids in her class.  I want her to have a supportive community of people who know her family, and approve.  Here in rural Virginia, it’s even more important that she have these things.  I also want to make friends.  Non-work friends.  Non-gay friends.  So joining a church seems to be a good idea, right?  Sure.

I did some research last week, and set forth yesterday morning in the pouring down rain to the local Unitarian Universalist church.  From what I read, it looked promising.  But… well, I couldn’t get into it.  I sat for the hour and fifteen minute long service, and then was pounced by a couple of new-people-greeters right after the service.  They were all super friendly, and talked to me about their religious education classes for toddlers through high school, and I got a tour of the nursery.  For an 11:15am service, I got into my car just before 1pm.

Without going into a ton of gory, religious details, I wanted to like the UU service, mainly because they’re super gay friendly and inclusive, and that’s super nice and awesome.  At the same time, I didn’t feel 100% comfortable, and left feeling a little hollow.  I grew up in a house with a crucifix on every wall and a statue of Mary on ever surface.  I was even an acolyte at my church when I was a kid.  So maybe it was a bit too much like going cold turkey.

That said, I think I might need a little more “church” in my church.  So here is where the church-shopping begins.  When did I turn into such an adult?  When my wife and I are spending our Sunday nights doing research on the differences within all of the Protestant churches.  Rumor in town is that the local Presbyterians are just as gay-friendly as the UU’s.  But the “Which religion are you?” quizzes online say I’m a closeted Episcopalian!

So I’ve set forth to try out all of the potential gay-friendly churches in town.  Or, at least, not the gay-shunning ones.  Here’s hoping that one fits.  I’ll even go back to the UU church, just to give it a chance to grow on me, but I’m afraid I’m gonna need at lease one or two crosses in my church.  It’s becoming increasingly important to have a church in my life, but more importantly, in RR’s life.  And if that means a little faith-reassessment, that’s OK by me.  Wish me luck!

Posted on March 7, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. The queer-friendliest ‘church’ of them all is the Friends, or Quakers. There’s an incredible little Quaker Meeting House in Lincoln, VA, which is neat where I grew up. I was already highly questioning at thirteen (late eighties) and I used to go into the meeting house before Meeting on Sundays to read about the Putney Friends Meeting up in Putney, VT ( near where I now live) which was, gasp, marrying same-sex couples. Whoa!Simply mind-blowing stuff to me at that point.
    But, if you want crosses, etc., Quakerism may well not be for you.
    Good luck in church-searching!

  2. I was also raised Catholic, and although I no longer attend church, the times when I have attended Episcopalian services, it has felt very familiar and very welcoming. Our (GLBT) choir has sung at a number of Episcopalian churches in our city, and I have often thought that, if I were to begin attending church again, I would look for an Episcopalian church.

    • Good to know. There’s a couple of Episcopal churches in town – they are definitely high on the list of places to go. It’s funny… it’s not just about the denomination-choosing, but actual church-choosing, too. Finding one that feels good spiritual-wise, but also community, too.

  3. Thanks for writing this! I grew up Southern Baptist and spent college and the years following in more charismatic churches. I, too, would love to be a part of a church again, but it just seems way too complicated. I’m too gay for the churches whose theology I agree with, and too religious for gay churches. Plus, I have a feeling any church that would be gay friendly even in our area would be over a 40 min. drive one way. And that gets old.

    Our friends here are trying the UU church, the wife is an athiest and the husband grew up in the a church in the south, maybe methodist. I’m not sure how you compromise on finding a church with an athiest 🙂

    There’s a preacher/prophet man I’ve known for over 20 years and he does some really cool stuff online, so I get a lot of of that, but it’s not the same as having a local congregation/community.

    Good luck, I really hope you find something!! Keep us updated.

    • I didn’t dislike the UU service as much as it just didn’t seem like a fit? I definitely felt a little too religious to be there, though. I’m fortunate enough to live in a big enough small town (contradictory enough?) that there are several churches to choose from, so I’ll hopefully not have to hike too far.

  4. Have you considered a UCC church? A friend of mine (gay, former Southern Baptist, needed more religion in his religion than the UU church) is a huge fan. We up here in Boston have them by the boatloads, but I’m not sure how prevalent they are down south. Good luck and thanks for blogging about this; I know it will be a question mark for my soon-to-be wife (former Southern Baptist) and me (raised Catholic) with regard to our future little ones.

    • Thanks for bringing the UCC church to my attention – we have one in town, and I’ll certainly add it to the church tour. It’s definitely a subject close to home for me, and I will definitely keep writing about it. Organized religion (in the Christian way) and being gay don’t have to be such strangers, I think.

  5. I was going to suggest Episcopalian even before you mentioned it. I used to go with an ex of mine. I’m Pentecostal (not the hairbun and skirt kind, or the snake-handling kind; just the speaking in tongues, loud and raucous kind) but church was very important to him. He lovingly called his religion “Catholic Light”. If I hadn’t read the sign out front, I wouldn’t have known the difference. His priest was gay. Can’t get much more gay-friendly than that. There were several older gay and lesbian couples in the audience, too.

    Just make sure you don’t go to Anglican–that’s the branch of Episcopalian that split off when, among other reasons, they allowed gay priests and parish.

    • Good to know about the Anglicans! Do some churches “out” themselves as Anglican, or is it something you find out after going there, I wonder? Catholic Light – I’ve heard that before… sounds fitting. 🙂

  6. Definitely wishing you luck and thanks for blogging about this.

    I grew up Episcopalian and still love that church, but my wife and I have really warmed up to Unitarian Universalism. It took me a few months to feel comfortable there, but now it’s been a few years and I LOVE it. It really works for us and we feel good about providing this kind of community for Yogi. Many UU churches have individual faith groups that provide the opportunity for folks to gather together in smaller communities.

    I hope you will continue to write about this.

    • I’ll continue to write, for certain. Everyone’s input has been so fabulous so far! I’ll definitely try the UU church again, if only to give it another shot or two to win me over. I really liked the people – they were super nice.

  7. I’m going to jump on the “Episcopalian” bandwagon as well. It’s got a fair amount of the “high church” feel of Catholicism, without as much of the… more narrow-minded aspects, shall we say, of the Catholic Church. (Provided that you don’t go to one of the churches that split off to join the African Anglican (or is it Episcopalian? I get a little confused at the terminology) church in protest when the rest of the Episcopalian church started letting openly gay people be clergy.)

    This is all from an outsider’s perspective, you understand, as I was pretty much raised as a total heathen and have basically continued on in that manner. I can understand the draw of organized religion, though, particularly in terms of the community and the structured contemplative time.

  8. I found UU churches to be not churchy enough because of the all inclusiveness of their programming. I am currently working for and attending a United Church of Christ (UCC) and they are extremely gay friendly, old people friendly, service oriented and a great bunch of folks to congregate with. I was raised Southern Baptist and my other half is Catholic. We’ve found a good, welcoming place here. If there is a UCC in your area, I highly recommend them.

    • Thanks for the UCC recommendation! I do believe there is one in town – good to know that they are so gay friendly, and that they served as a common ground between you and your other half.

  9. you might want to try methodist. We were both raised catholic and changed when we had our daughter. They are very friendly and Kid focused

  10. We’ve been in the same boat – we want our kids to have the gift of faith and comfort of prayer, plus we want them to have knowledge of the bible in case someone tries to use it against us. But the churches that will have us aren’t a good fit either. We’re going to try the Apostalic Catholic (not Roman Catholic) church. It seems to have enough ceremony but not be quite so crunchy.

  11. A little behind here… we do the UU church here and we love it. we have had the exact same issues with Lucas, as you can imagine–wanting a baptism, hell/handbasket, etc. I even went so far as to ask the priest at Sibley to come and baptize him after birth, you know– get that Original Sin outta here pronto–but they wouldn’t do it, as I wasn’t *tithing* at his parish. Whatevs. They did bless him. So, we baptized him ourselves with a little solo cup of hospital sink water… not exactly the same, but we’re doing UU these days and really liking that. But, I get you with this church need… Oddly, it never showed up before, but now that our son is here, we want that same thing we had. But more accepting, of course.

  12. Any real “Christ Follower” is not gonna judge you on sexual preference, any more than they would because you sometimes gossip or smoke or exaggerate a bit. “Let he without sin cast the first stone.” Remember?
    Forget organized religions and find a ‘disorganized community’ of believers. Go non-denominational, perhaps.
    Definitely check out – it’s all about the “teacher” (Rabbi, Priest, Pastor, etc.), if they are biblically solid, challenging and motivating… does the ‘branch’ of Faith make a difference?
    One way to discover a neat place might be to first find an author/teacher with whom you vibe. (Check out Anne Lamott, Erwin McManus, Donald Miller, etc.) Then research THEIR church (wherever it is), call them, tell ’em your situation and ask for a recommendation of a community of faith near you.
    My opinion? Your sexuality (or if a church ‘supports’ G/B/L/T) should not be a determining factor in where you go or how you are treated there. Period.

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