Monday, August 3, 2009

Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors. NOT

Disclaimer. I am about to bash a Methodist Church. Let it be known that this experience was exclusive to the church where we went Sunday. We have had the opposite reaction at another Methodist Church ten miles away.

The original intent had been open hearts, open minds, open hands. As Peter DeGroote points out in his blog,
The decision was to replace “open hands” with “open doors,” thereby sabotaging purpose, clarity, and effectiveness. Church doors were already open; the question was (and is) how people were treated once they got inside. “Open hands” dealt with human community, “open doors” with public access to a building (the corrupting influence of mixed metaphors!
Cameron and I certainly ecountered the open door/closed hand this weekend. Light is visiting us this weekend, kindly helping us with major reorganization of our home, and we promised to take her to church Sunday. We were headed thirty miles south to our Episcopalian church, when I suddenly took a left hand. Since the door was metaphorically slammed on Cameron, she has never gotten photos of her murals for her portfolio. Light has a professional grade camera and will soon be photographing Cameron's work for an upcoming website. Without any pre-thought, I turned, we parked, we entered. Sunday school was going to be begin about ten or fifteen minutes. I figured the bustle would mask my intent.

I had forgotten just how breathtaking her work is there. She has a temple scene where Mary and Joseph are presenting baby Jesus. Simon is about to take Joseph and child to the inner court. My favorite: the prophetess Anna is about to take Mary to the women's court. Spiritual mentor between women is a powerful, but forgotten, theme of this text. I stood and wept at the beauty of the work, and the power of the Crone/Mother image.

Cameron had been greeted by the youth director, who made us welcome but quickly had to excuse herself to go put out fires. Another woman followed, who was intensely uncomfortable with me. Maybe it was pentacle. Maybe it was because she knows I am Cameron's partner. The minister quickly appeared, once she left, although I only learned his identity later. He made Light and I horribly, horribly uncomfortable and seemed intent on seeing us out the door as quickly as possible. It was a terrible, terrible experience and I was horrified.

When we got to our own church, hugged and welcomed by Father Mike and Mother Linda, made welcome by friends we hadn't seen in several months of an intense schedule, the stark contrast made me painfully aware of the contrast between the churches. It finally struck me that had that Methodist minister been doing his job, he might have introduced himself, made us welcome, invited us to the service. Or any one of a number of other people!

A few months ago Cameron came across the last check this same church had issued her several years before. In the chaos of the time, she had neglected to cash it -- about $250. Enough to have made a big difference in our current circumstances. She contacted the church, they assured her that it could be replaced by a current check. She took the old one, they said come back the next day for the new one. When she went to pick it up, Cameron learned that the minister had stopped the issuance of the new check...there's more to the story of this minister, but it's Cameron's to tell.

It breaks my heart that a supposedly open minded church could be so rejecting. I still have my membership placed with a Methodist church in Atlanta. I think its time I write a letter to move it, but also to those higher up. I am disillusioned by the church of my early childhood that I had held so dear to my heart.


  1. Dreamweaver,
    Unfortunately your experience is not any faith. I'm not speaking to how you were treated, which was abominably, but to the differences a leader and a congregation make to a place of worship (wow, fun trying to dance around faith/sect terms). I have visited many places of worship in my life, having traveled in all but one state (Hawaii), and lived in 12 I think. The one thing that stands out is that the people make the place of worship, not the other way around.

    I've met a Catholic parish run by a rebel Jesuit priest with wild ideas that were as far from mainstream Catholicism as you can be. A wonderful open minded congregation, accepting of all...and still part of the greater Diocese.

    I've been to MCC's that looked down on anyone not dressed right.

    To Mormon gathering that were open and accepting of all.

    To a Unitarian Universalist that was just as predudiced in it's way as any foursquare church, while the one 15 miles away was the complete opposite.

    Many of these had precepts that rang some chord in me. Unfortunately in any religion or faith you find those who use the words, but never get around to understanding the meaning. You can't judge a faith by a single congregation, good or bad, but only as a whole. Conversely, each congregation and place of worship needs to be evaluated on it's own.

    And from those I've known and been involved with, as well as comments you've made in this blog, that goes for the earth based religions like Wicca as well...

    Be safe and well,
    It's a journey, not a destination.


  2. That's horrible!! I'm sorry you had that experience. I understand why so many people, LGBT folks particularly, have such a negative opinion of the church. Makes me sad...

  3. Too many churches and their congregations are about judgement and exclusion, for whatever reason. I'm glad you have a place to go that is not like that.