My life recently has been in constant flux and transition. I was laid off from my job of 12 years, and my partner and I, after almost 20 years together, made the mutual decision to split up.
Because of these changes, I find myself simultaneously excited and vulnerable in this new space. Historically, when I find myself in flux, I will commune with God and seek his infinite wisdom. But due to the severity of these conditions, I needed something extra, like a safe church to land and feed my spirit.
My good friend, Shannise, had been asking me to join her and her family at New Life Fellowship, where the Rev. John P. Kee is pastor.
I have shared that I grew up in the church, but at some point when you are trying to reconcile both your sexuality and faith, there are many religious environments that not only make this difficult but near impossible. So like many folks in similar situations, I made the somewhat traumatic decision to leave organized religion. And just so that I am clear, I said organized religion, not God, for he has been my constant companion.
I have attended mainstream LGBT churches, and while I applaud their efforts, there was still something missing. When you grow up in a Southern Baptist environment, there is a certain feeling you get from worship service that cannot be replaced with simple ritual and rhetoric. In short, I need to hear a choir with a fierce soloist, an organ, a piano and folks who holler out their joy (speaking in tongues and laying of hands optional), all so I can seriously get my praise on….lol.
But back to my Sunday service adventure.
Second service was scheduled to start at 12:30, but Shannise assured me that folks would be on CP time and that it might not start until 1 p.m. It was a rainy morning, so CP time really pushed service to start at 1:30.
I was a bit nervous, I have to admit, but I immediately felt at ease as we entered the sanctuary. Most folks were dressed casually, and everyone had a pleasant and welcoming demeanor. I was also pleasantly surprised to see so many gay and lesbian folks among the congregation.
Both choirs that morning showed up and showed out. As we approach Mother’s Day, I have to confess that since I lost my mom, I have been a little scared to enter a church because, as much as I felt I needed some spiritual healing, I was afraid that the environment would unleash emotions that, once tapped, would be impossible to stop. I did almost lose it when the choir began to sing Tamela Mann’s “Take Me to The King.” But instead of deep sorrow, I felt an overwhelming feeling of calm.
Kee’s ministry is not only inspirational, it is affirming. The fact that his church is among a community that the city would like to ignore is more than admirable, but he also preaches financial autonomy and leads by example. New Life Fellowship has been able to build and grow not by traditional means and bank loans but by partnering with the community and his congregation.
What I experienced on Sunday is what I believe a church and its ideology should be about, and that is serving and supporting your fellow man without judgment or condemnation. This was a church that welcomed everyone, regardless of socio-economic background, education, pedigree or sexuality.
I have always been amazed by Christians who will quote scripture and text to highlight your so-called sins, not remembering that we all fall short of God’s grace, but offer very little in support. If you are so righteous in your beliefs, would you not want to share them with others? Even in this column I have been demonized because of my sexuality and have had countless scripture quoted to me, but other than maybe one reader, no one has ever invited me to join them for Sunday service to experience.
What I experienced at New Life Fellowship was a reminder of what true Christian values should be -- inclusion, support, love and God’s infinite power and grace. Thank you for the message, the spiritual healing and a renewed faith in organized religion.