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.