What a magnificent puzzle you are.

I write this late at night, with drooping eyes and in full knowledge that I want to write this better and with more back story and potentially hilarious anecdotes and or stories about dragons. I am also aware that this will seem hokey, and that I strive to keep spiritual speak out of here, usually. But I must write it now, pjamas and hoke or no.

I have been thinking a lot this past year.

A little over a year ago I became a member of the Uniting church, which was for me a very big deal. I wrote a little about why in a letter to the church, and I did so because I had fallen in love with my congregation and the glimpses of the wider church I got when I attended the National Young Adult Leaders Conference.

A year is a long time. I have been thinking a lot.

I decided to start a period of discernment a few months back*. I felt a little hypocritical entering the period at this time, coinciding as it did with my wading into a bog of doubt. I plan to write about the doubting itself at a later stage when I’m not sitting in bed on the nod, but suffice to say I was not exactly like the horse in Neverending Story, but I was close. I hadn’t necessarily fallen out of love with the church, but I had looked for the first time with any integrity at what that love sat on.

It’s been a stark couple of months.

A couple of weeks back, surrounded by gumtrees at our church camp, I met with God again. Truthfully, I had not fully surrendered Her. He was there in the gentle reminders of hope, in the stories of resurrection, in the faces of my church family, who are just about the most guileless and open-hearted people you can imagine.

Tonight, I sit in bed, one leg slowly numbing, weird hair pins lumps in my hair, near sleep, but elated. Today I was at Synod** with a whole lot of my church. Today, and yesterday and the day before, we wrestled with some awful stuff. We met with bad news and we entertained grief, and we encompassed dissent and were not satisfied.


Today I saw people who disagree vehemently with one another co-exist, and even like each other. I saw people change their minds. Religious people. I saw people be heard, and celebrated, and I heard us all reminded of hope, of the extraordinary Love we are drawn around like moths.

And today, I prayed earnestly to a God that I believe in, and that I don’t understand. Today I joined with others and we invoked the sacred name of our creator and that was something that I wanted to do. And whether or not you believe in God or organised religion, believe that this is a little like water to a dying woman.

Today I was a part of a church that wants to do better and that makes mistakes and is a bit of a fuck up but loves each other and more than that, really honestly wants to make you a cup of tea and have a chat and longs to hold your hand as you scream with anguish and wants to say that you’re OK and sorry about the times when the name of our Beloved was used to hurt you.

Today, we were finger painters. We made messes and the paint is in the grooves of our fingerprints and on some of the walls but we are trying our best to make something beautiful, and that is what I want you to know.

To those who hate the church, I’m sorry, we are trying.

To those who are in the church, know that we are trying.

To those who after today have paint on their faces, is it not lovely that we are trying?

To my church: thank you, thank you, thank you. I will keep trying.



* This is a time through which a person in the Uniting Church can examine their faith and calling with support from the church, to see if they want to enter ordained ministry or just to see where they fit, how they fit, how they are and who they are.

**Synod is the gathering of a particular Synod of the Uniting Church. For instance, my church is part of the presbytery of Port Philip West, which along with other presbyteries is part of the VicTas Synod. We gather to report to one another the things that we’ve been doing, to air concerns and chat about important decisions.

A note to LaTrobe University: we were not really finger painters.


To the Church, from a cynic, on the occasion of her confirmation.

Dear “the Church”,

I was born into you, raised by the faces of grown ups that smiled at me, collections of casseroles after church and of course obligation. You introduced me to The Lord and to your people, well meaning individuals who dressed neatly and said things like “Jesus came into my heart” and “I have a calling to go to Africa”. I learnt to raise my hands in worship and to try earnestly to remember how bad I was when instructed to think of the cross.

I went to many of your incarnations over time, and at some point along the way, I began to wonder what was actually going on.

Questioning the things your people said to me on a Sunday led to my feeling misrepresented and disconnected from and by you. Now this is nothing new, but led incrementally to distaste for you altogether. I am sorry, church, but I met too many people who didn’t understand what it was they were enthusiastically espousing and who blithely assumed that their truth was the only truth.

Added to this was your not insignificant betrayal of many people I know and love, including some in my own family.

I felt your denominations were irrelevant.

I wanted to be a part of the kingdom, not a man made institution that often seemed entirely removed from the world it allegedly wanted to help.

I kept attending a variety of your faces but always looking for what was wrong and the little that was right, my ear tuned for the mistakes that would be inevitably made and my cynicism about the whole palaver at the ready, should I need it.

I began working at Brunswick around 15 months ago now. I had concerns at first, though the job and my subsequent involvement in the regular meetings of your group here came at a time when I was ready to find a solution to my sparring with you.

I have to say, your little group here in Brunswick are lovely. They have been so outrageously welcoming and full of encouragement it quite literally shocks me. I often shake my head at my good fortune, and marvel at the lack of all that I despised about you before.

So Brunswick has taught me that while a congregation can be different from my experience and challenging in its views, it can also be heartfelt, authentic and gracious. I started thinking about membership a little while ago, mainly as a response to your people here.

That was shortly before I fell in love with you.

I went to a conference a few weeks back. I was scared of it, to be honest, on account of all the Christians that would be in attendance. We both know that I am not their type of people and they are not mine.

On arriving however, I found around 70 young people whose guileless friendship inspired and floored me and around whom I felt I was my most authentic self, cynicism and all.

During the week away I learnt a lot about you, and how you are, in your Uniting form, committed to the most basic and beautiful and important and life giving things imaginable.

I also realised with a shock, while watching Ken Sumner lead communion, that though I’ve never been someone who is ashamed of her faith, though I’ve not been afraid to talk about it, I have been so concerned about removing myself from all that I dislike about Christianity that I had at some point forgotten nearly all there is to love.

I had grown so competent at pointing out all that is wrong with you, that I had smeared my cynicism over all that was right, obscuring the possibilities you’ve been holding politely for years as I railed against your obsolescence.

I am sorry to say, I had let myself grow embarrassed of not just you but all connected with you.

As I watched Ken tenderly speak of this gorgeous tradition and remembrance, I realized for the first time, that I can actually embrace what I believe, and not become something that I hate.

I can celebrate with friends who believe and friends who don’t, because to celebrate my faith is to celebrate something both unique and beautiful and only found here, in me, and something that is a part of the ancient, the holy, the transcendent and the joyful. I don’t need or want to separate them any more.

So church, I am writing to apologise I suppose. I wanted to explain that though I have insulted you, and though I thought I had good reason, I want to give us another try, if you’ll have me, for in you I now see the face of my father.

I know you’re human, and fallible and sometimes dirty and broken and wrong, but you have the capacity for great beauty, and courage and wisdom and the ability to walk around in the mess of our lives, finding the lovely parts and making them shine and I’ve always been the type to believe the best about things anyway.

Lastly, I don’t think that church membership is the only, or the best way of doing life. But I have been placed in a fortunate position inside your monster, and believe that those that can unite to try in a corporate sense to fight for justice and mercy and love, to join the monster in its challenge against the empire, should do so. For me that means no longer pointing the finger at you in accusation, looking at myself as a part of this magnificent story and making sure that the change starts here.

With love,