Sunday, July 27, 2008

Coincidence ... or not?

I'm a big believer in fate. Not so much in looking ahead, but when I look back at my past, sometimes it's just the only way to explain why things happened the way they did, or why I was at a certain place at a certain time. For example: once, many years ago, I woke up on a Saturday morning only to find that my coffee maker was dead. Completely and utterly dead, even though I had just used it the day before. So I decided to get dressed and walk the 2 blocks to the 7-11 to get a cup of coffee. It was early in the morning and this was a residential neighborhood, so there wasn't any traffic and no one was out and about yet. So it took a moment for my mind to register that someone was saying very softly, "Help. Please help!"

Across the road I saw a man standing behind his station wagon. And as I walked over I saw that his hand was caught between the jack and the bumper. And his face was as white as a sheet. He had been changing his tire when the jack began to slip on the gravel, and he had reached in to stop it. Yeah, bad idea. I think he was aware of this at that point.

Despite those stories of super human strength at times such as this, I couldn't move the car. So I told him I would run back to my apartment and call 911 (this was pre-cell phone days). As soon as I did that, I ran back again. And when a white panel van came up the street, I flagged down the driver, who happened to be a big burly guy. Between the two of us, we got the car up enough to get the guy's hand out, just as the ambulance came screaming up the street.

Turns out I didn't really need any caffeine to wake me up that morning!

In the years that have passed, I still think about that day a lot. Why did my coffee maker die on that morning and not the next? I read somewhere recently the description that "coincidence is God's way of keeping a low profile." Feel free to fill in the word "power of the universe" or however you see this. When you look back at your life, are there times where you wonder how you ended up where you are today? My life has been full of "one thing leading to another."

And today I feel like I'm at a crossroads again. Or at least at another "guy with his hand in the jack" moment.

We went to church this morning because it was the very last service of the Rector who has helped us through this terrible time of losing Unnamed Partner's brother John, to cancer. The Rector came to John, who in turn asked us to go to a Sunday service with him. We did, although we knew next to nothing about the Episcopal Church. But we've met some wonderful people in the congregation there, and participated in baking food for Movable Feast. We started to feel welcomed there. Losing the Rector has felt like losing John all over again, because she has been so important in our journey through the grieving process.

However, the congregation at this church is a little bi-polar. On the one hand, the inside of the bulletin proclaims that "We welcome all ages and abilities, classes and cultures, races, genders, and sexual orientations." Yet, in the monthly newsletter it's reported that a group of 20 met to discuss questions of division and exclusion. The article says "All answers and/or experiences were positive. However, we did not commit to being included on the list of friendly churches for persons of other orientations."

So, you're welcome here, we just don't want to advertise it.

Unnamed Partner and I discussed this last night and went through a range of emotions. We tossed around the idea of getting a busload of queers for next Sunday. We talked about feeling like we're being treated like second class citizens, and that maybe we should stop attending once the Rector is gone. But today after service when I had a moment with the Rector, I (a) thanked her for standing by the ordination of openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson, and (b) told her that we would be watching to see what happens with the Episcopal Church and this congregation on this issue. And here is my moment of "fate": she said, "have you met X? Because he is very interested in this also. He feels that he has been called here for this."

So. I can stop going to this church. Or, I can continue to go, and work with X to engage members of the congregation in this issue of acceptance and inclusion. I can be there. Just be there. Because as every gay and lesbian knows, the majority of the people in our lives who still say they're "not comfortable" with homosexuality will be the first ones to say "oh, but you're different -- you're normal." It's the best way to battle discrimination -- to be present in people's lives so that they have to face the reality of what they're saying when they say they don't believe in equal rights. I am the reality. In all my boring ordinary life -iness.

So. To be continued, no doubt.


Sara said...

You go and you make a difference.

You go.

It's your home, too.

See, they don't understand what they are doing. I can promise you that. and that is way too small a group of people to decide such a thing.

When we can, where we can, when it feeds us in some way, we have to stand up and be counted. This place gave you two something really important.

don't let it go.

Sue J said...

Thanks Sara.

And the church's 6 o'clock bells are ringing as I read your comments. Spooky!

m.e. said...

thanks for your thoughtful post. i've given up on churches completely, but i remember very fondly the congregation at St. Peter's in Chelsea when i lived there in the early 90s. belonging there, and being accepted by those very diverse, wonderful people, saved my life. i haven't found any church like that since, but they exist, and what makes them the lights they are is their whole-hearted, unpretentious LOVE.

you are probably part of the love that makes that church a haven for someone.

Cootamundra W said...

If you feel comfortable with this church and the people, go. If you go only to be there, think about it some more.
IF you go to the church to work on quelling discrimination (whether quietly or not so quietly)and if you have the strength and support of others to work within the church, do so. But don't let yourself get burned out. Make sure you get something from the process as well.
(I WISH my head were clearer - I hope you get the jist of what I am writing....)

Sue J said...

M.E., thank you, what a kind thing to say! And part of my quandary/ question to the universe is that I did not go in search of "a church". It came to me, in the form of an incredible person who has impressed me week after week with her sermons and with her compassion and intellect.

Cootamundra w., my feelings about this church are complicated. On the one hand I feel absolutely no emotional investment -- I have no connection with the Episcopal church. But on the other hand, I have felt comforted and supported by many in the congregation these months as we cope with John's death. Unnamed Partner and I have always been completely open about our relationship with everyone we've met there, and we have been warmly welcomed.

I am moving forward with eyes wide open. But I'm going to move forward and see what happens.

Mauigirl said...

Sue, it sounds as if X being there is one of those "meant to be" things. Hang in there and continue to make a difference, as well as receive the spiritual support of those who do welcome you there.

Sue J said...

Thanks Mauigirl!

Mary Ellen said...

By all means, sue, continue to go to the church and help to bring the members to understand the reality that a those who are gay are no different in the eyes of God than a person who is not gay. If they really believe in God they should know that His creation is perfect---there are no "mistakes" and we are called to love ALL.

I hope it all works out for you, I have no doubt that you can bring a voice of reason into this argument. I only wish the Catholic Church weren't so far behind in their thinking on this.

Border Explorer said...

This blog is one of my very favorites, and I've only discovered it recently. Thank you for sharing your experiences in this post. I hope that you will receive the direction you need to move where you need to be for you at this crossroads in your life.

Sue J said...

Gosh, thanks Border Explorer!

(I'm still not sure why you people keep returning to this blog, but am honored!)