I am fairly new here and just haven’t has the time to write out my story or be overly involved here, and yet, that is why I joined. So, what better way to spend an Autumn evening, eh?
I first found the church as a sixteen year old kid on October 31, 1982… sure, go ahead and do the math, I’ll wait for you.
Ok, now that we have that settled.
Anyway, on that Halloween so long ago, I had been invited to attend a local coven meeting by a friend who’s family was Wiccan. As an impressionable kid, I thought I was about to be initiated into the ways of witchcraft. I know now that I had been invited, to the public portion of their ritual and the party that followed. Becoming an initiate would have taken a lot of study and practice and time. My ignorance didn’t matter, in fact, it heightened my excitement I am sure.
I never made it to that coven meeting. It’s a shame, really. You see, that particular Halloween fell on a Sunday.
I had also been invited, by another friend, to attend church services with her at one of THOSE denominations that shall not be named. You know, the Voldemort of the ecclesiastical world.
I went with her.
There was a sermon, one of those famous Halloween sermons. (Why is the world at it’s most evil on Halloween? Is that in the Bible?)
There was an alter call.
I left my invisibility cloak in the closet. (Darn!)
I went forward. I became “born-again”.
I missed my coven meeting that night.
I fell into this Voldemort-Church with complete abandon. It was here that my early theology was formed, I believed. I believed it all. I spent time in study, prayer, youth group, winning souls for the Lord… the whole nine yards. What do they say about “training up a child”? Well, keep reading… sometimes, thankfully, it doesn’t always work out that way.
It was that particular October 31st morning that I received the greatest gift of my entire life. No, it was not Jesus. No, it was not eternal life. No, it was not the lottery (still waiting for that gift). It was Hell. Yes, Hell. Hell was the greatest gift anyone could have given me and I am grateful to that church to this day.
Now, I hear you saying, “What??!!”
Ok, let me try to explain…
You see, at the time that I was so involved in being a good little disciple I was also involved in discovering my sexuality. Seemingly, the two were not as compatible as one would hope. I was going to Hell. Of course, I didn’t tell anyone. I remained in this church for several years. I remained because I loved God and I thought this was the only way to express this love – through the tenets of the faith and the creeds of the church. But, as they say, an interesting thing happened on the way to Hell…
I knew that my sexuality could not be changed. I knew that I was born, CREATED a lesbian. I also knew that Hell could not be avoided. I also knew one other thing, that I was helplessly in love with God and God’s world. I can still remember thinking, “Well if I am going to Hell, then I had better get busy getting to know God now. I had better do all I can, while I am here on earth, to make this world a little better, however I can.” What evolved from these thoughts was the greatest freedom. Knowing that there would be no eternal life for me, no heaven spent in the glorious presence of God I was resolved to knowing that the only time I had, was my time while walking this crusty bit of ground.
What happened was I found the complete freedom to form the most incredible relationship with Spirit. My theology began to change and I felt loved. Period.
I left that church as a 19 year old who was secure in their relationship with God. Not yet able to order a drink in a bar and yet I had already tasted the New Wine. I got drunk on it. And, I vomited up all that was poison… Original Sin, Atonement Theology, Patriarchy, Heaven and Hell . It was all gone and I was free to live. Expecto Patronum!
There would be many, many things that would come between my 19 year-old self and the self that re-entered the church as a 30 year-old. There would be even more that would take me out of the church at 45. I’ll write more on a different night. It’s good to be here and It’s a good way to spend an Autumn night.
Regardless, Hell remains my greatest gift..