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JenniferB

My Journey into Exploring Christianity

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JenniferB

A couple weeks ago I attended a Unitarian Universalist church. I enjoyed it and very well may go back. In the past I would already be starting the process of being a full member. However this time I want to be more patient and look around. I plan to make a church my home church where it is part of my extended family and where I feel I belong. A co-worker told me that I should be patient and that I will know when I find the right one. Even if it takes over a year to find one that's ok.

Both my parents were involved in church before I was born, however I never grew up in a church environment. I don't think it was about their unbelief in God as much as not finding a place they felt they could trust. Nevertheless I grew up in a very caring and nurturing home. The first church service I attended I was in high school. It was Presbyterian and the one my best friend attended.

I've only been active in a couple churches. The First Assembly of God Pentecostal Church, and the Mormon Church. I think I joined the LDS church too quickly. It's not about whether it is right or wrong, I just didn't take time to let it soak in and understand what that kind of life really entailed and how much was demanded from me. They had considered me Golden (ready to become a member right away). By the time I started my Missionary lessons I had completely read the Book of Mormon and already knew the answers to the questions the missionaries were going to ask. Later when the luster wore off, it became harder and harder to keep up with what the church demanded to keep in good standing. I've thought about going back, but the fact that I'm transgender and their lack of support has effectively made me abandon that idea.

So I am broadening my horizons and looking around. I'm not going to join any church right away. I want to make sure I'm making the right decision. The church must feel like home first. So I'm testing the waters right now looking for the best fit. Of course it is mandatory that a church is open and accept LGBT members.

I had heard the United Methodist Church is accepting of LGBT members so that is the one I wanted to contact at this time. I called up the closest one to me. The woman who answered the phone didn't seem that friendly when I told her I was transgender, but went ahead and transferred me to a female minister. The minister was very open and friendly, but stated there might be problems going to her specific church. She said although the young members tend to be very accepting, there are over 500 members attending of all ages and many won't understand. So she suggested another United Methodist Church that is close by who is very open. Still she invited me to attend her church anyway if I wanted.

The church she referred me to is The Reconciling United Methodist Church. What makes this church special is it's openness to diversity. Here is their national website. http://www.rmnetwork.org/

What is interesting is right on their home page the first thing mentioned is:

Creating space at the table for all God's children.

Mobilizing United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to transform our Church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love.

Next Sunday I plan on attending a Reconciling United Methodist Church. Quite a few things struck me about this church. For one they offer a Tai Chi class and a meditation class. both I'm already participating in elsewhere. Another thing is that they are very LGBT friendly, obviously. When I called the church to find out more information, the woman who answered was very friendly, made me feel at ease, and told me not to worry about being transgender because she has been with her lesbian partner for 20 years, and that she will be at the greeting table after the service.

So they had a picture gallery of members and I wanted to see how she looked. Lo and behold I found out my gender therapist is a member of the church. I don't know if that is a good thing or bad thing. I need to make sure I leave her professional life at work. Yet she's retiring at the end of April anyway and she did say she would prepare my surgery letter when the time came (she has a PhD in Psychology). I just want to give her a great big hug, she has been so there for me.

That's twice in a row I know someone who goes to the church I've attended or are attending. I wonder what the odds are for that to happen in a metro area of over 1 million people.

I listened to the last sermon they had archived and it was an actual Muslim talking about inter-faith and how we become better humans when we understand the beliefs of others. He mentioned that Gandhi said it should be our duty to do so. And I wholeheartedly agree. I think we will find different beliefs aren't so different after all when examined closely.

The church is only three miles from my home.

There is a ton of things to become involved with where the church gives service to others.

This does look like a place I could mentally and spiritually grow. And a place where I could find friends and help overcome my social anxiety. I guess only time will tell.

I feel I'm off to a good start and we will see what I feel like after Sunday Service. In any case I do not plan to join any church until I've attended for at least a month.

Love,

Jenny

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Guest Risu

Wow Jenny! This church you're planning to attend sounds wonderful! If I had one like that near me I'd consider going myself!

It seems you are going to be fine with your search. Take all the time you need and find the right place for you. It sounds like this church you're going to this Sunday is very promising and I hope you have a wonderful time when you go!

I love the quote you shared about understanding other beliefs. I am going to pass that on to a friend who has been considering a world religions class! :)

Please let us know how things go this Sunday.

*hugs*

~Jade.

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VickySGV

You may be on the right track, what you have learned so far is hopeful and may well work out for you. The important thing in any church, is not where they meet you, but where they point you in growth in your spiritual journey. The GLBT crowd in Christian based churches is really quite in to the spiritual side of life, but is also a safe haven socially. We T's are a smaller part of the GLBT and the things I have found is that the other three letters are a bit puzzled by us. We have much to offer them and they will respond in very wonderful ways. Offer yourself as an instrument of God's peace to them, and you will receive it back greatly magnified.

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Guest Gregg Jameson

Hi Jenny,

Congratulations on finding this church!

It's important any/all spiritual communities are inclusive, in my own experience.

I am glad you are taking some time when considering membership, as membership is an important decision. I know of people taking 6 months to a year, or longer, to decide on membership, while still participating fully. Sometimes it takes that long to truly get to know a church. (This process can be analgous to a period of dating and an engagement process, prior to taking marital/commitment vows.)

You will know the timing that is best for you!

We all want to enjoy a sense of love and belongingness. It sounds like the congregants at this church offer great potential for a group in which you feel accepted, comfortable in your own skin, may be of service and also will challenge you to continue in your spiritual growth!

I, too, wish I had an inclusive spiritual fellowship like this in my area!

Hope to hear how things are going for you!

How exciting!

Heart-to-Heart,

Brad

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JenniferB

I attended the church today I mentioned above. It didn't start out well though.

I was rushing myself a little bit to get there on time (I've got to quit doing that). So I was putting on lipstick just before I walked out the door. And, of course, I messed it up bad for the first time. So I had to clean the makeup off that area of my lip and reapply it. That meant I arrived at church 5-10 minutes late. I was wearing open toe platform shoes and I had to park way in the back in the gravel parking lot. For you who wear open toed shoes and have to walk through gravel and sand, you know what happened. I followed a couple up to the back entrance of the sanctuary, and after clearing off the pebbles clinging to the soles of my feet, I started to enter the back door. I then realized I couldn't see an open seat anywhere. The last thing I wanted to do was stumble around inside the chapel, looking for an open seat while the service is in session, and causing a disturbance. So I closed the door and started walking away. A kind lady had been observing what was going on and came outside and asked if I was looking for someone. In a voice close to the edge of tears, I told her it was my first time and I did not want to disturb the service, so decided I would walk back to my car and go home. She told me because the service had been full lately, she was there to look out for people like me and went inside with me to find a place to sit down.

I'm sitting alone during the service. I didn't say a word until near the end of the service, and the people sitting by me didn't acknowledge my presence until that time. Talk about social anxiety. Still that gave me time to observe the scene from an impartial perspective. It always amazes me in the protestant churches I've attended in how they are less structured. There are members dancing in the aisles, caught up in the spirit, and letting it flow. I'm used to a setting where everything is ordered. First there are the announcements. Then we sing a few hymns and someone says an opening prayer, then comes the talks about a specific topic, and finally another song and a closing prayer. One problem I'm going to have, and it definitely showed up here, is I have mostly a Mormon's perspective of scripture. So it's very hard to follow the songs they sing when I interpret the words differently than most of the congregation. Many times I get confused because I see the words as an incomplete idea instead of a plain and simple truth. As an example the word "love" is thrown around as if you just mention the word and that is enough. Love is an abstract word that is open to all kinds of interpretations. I like to think of love in more concrete terms. Like you show love for your spouse when you do things for this person out of desire, not because you are expecting something in return.

The sermon was the moment when I started to feel a little comfortable and felt I was starting to learn something. It was based on how being divided is the spirit of contention, and the idea of how we should learn to love our enemies. The specific example the minister used was from the statement by House Rep Bob Morris from Indiana attacking the girl scouts by saying they are now a "radicalized organization". http://newsfeed.time...?xid=gonewsedit Talk about divisive (and ignorance, and bigotry). Of course this didn't settle well with the congregation.

Things started going much better for me from that time forward.

Near the end of the service, when they were passing out the sacrament, I got to meet some of the people around me. Nobody I talked with even cared I was transgender and all of them were kind and glad I had attended and hoped I would come back.

After service I looked around for the person I talked with on the phone and I must say she was wonderful and welcoming. She (I will call her M) introduced me to her female partner, who acted the same way as M. The couple had adopted a boy who is now eight years old, and they seem like very caring parents. Everyone I talked with was genuinely glad to meet me, including the minister, and I felt very much at ease.

M is in charge of the library for most of the week and took me to the building to see what it was about and to allow me to meet a couple people there. They had just opened it up recently and I could tell she was thrilled that I wanted her to share this with me. I ended up talking with the librarian for almost an hour. She was wonderful. She said she organized it because she felt a calling to do so. The books had been left in storage, collecting dust for some time. . I swear the library could have been put up for me. A great portion of it is about religions of the world. And many have to do with their relationship to Christianity. This is so eerie because I just started reading up on Buddhism and here was a library with many books on the subject, and at a christian church no less. Plus in the last couple of months I gained a desire to learn about world religions. Anyway the librarian helped me fill out a library card and I will be able to use the library whenever it is open.

To sum up I find the people here are wonderful and overall I enjoyed my experience. Around town the church is known as the "gay church". The minister said that is because others don't understand that the church strives to do what Jesus commanded and love your neighbors as yourself, without any classifications or exceptions. I desire to return, more for the people than anything else. If I can get used to the "celebration" at the beginning of the service and reconcile my beliefs with theirs I might be able to call this place my spiritual home.

Love,

Jenny

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VickySGV

Good heavens, that must have been quite a sermon!! The linked item to me is a hoot since two of the girls in my church were delivering orders of cookies during our coffee hour after our service. The parking lot adventure was just to keep you humble in your religious journey!! :D

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JenniferB

I've been looking up on what UMC thinks of Mormons since technically, I am still a member albeit inactive for over 20 years. And it still has an affect on how I view scripture.

I have to say I would go back to the LDS church if they would accept transsexuals for who they are. However the highest level of the church forces my hand and I will not go through reparative therapy and detransition to be accepted. Pain and misery is not the answer to acceptance, no matter how much of their doctrine I believe.

However when I look at how the United Methodists deal with Mormons who want to join, I feel just as jolted. Their idea of Mormons is this http://archives.umc....ptid=2&mid=3558

Here is a small exerpt: A Mormon seeking to join the United Methodist Church must undergo a period of intense study and be baptized.

Intense study? To me that is another way of saying that I need to go through reparative therapy. I must give up what I believe. In many ways I'm confused enough when it comes to Christianity, and this would make it far worse. If I did this I would become more depressed. I believe in Jesus and I believe in his atonement and resurrection. What more is required of me? That I denounce others who feel the same way even though the beliefs don't mesh? There seems to be a battle here that I don't want any part of. And if all protestant beliefs acted the same way I won't be a part of any of them. I believe truth can be found everywhere and anyone who professes it's my way or the highway, I will always choose the highway, and follow my beliefs alone if necessary. My relationship with God is personal and I won't allow anyone else to get in the way. BTW I have already been baptized twice, and both for the same reason. I won't do it again.

HOWEVER, I've been researching the church I visited and they do seem to be different. For one they ARE totally accepting of LGBT people, and actually accept all human beings, no matter what their belief.

Here is some of what this church believes as related by their minister. I'm not going to link to this page because frankly it's local, shows personal information, and likely won't pertain to you. This is the description of the church Strange Theology Unrecognizable to Most Christian UMs (United Methodists).

More from the minister:

I believe that "movement" is dependent upon our willingness to recognize our oneness with each other (male, female, gay, lesbian, straight, Jew, Buddhist, agnostic, atheist) and with all creation. I also believe this recognition is inevitable....

...We believe that God is that "Force" that constantly goes before us -- leading us through all "wilderness" experiences into the promise of what we were created to be. Though we attempt no definition of God, thereby limiting what cannot be limited, we do like Brother <edited> description of God as "SURPRISE!" We strive to be open to those surprises as we explore new expressions of sacred scripture as they are revealed to us through the Bible, through others, and through our sacred Earth (trees, animals, plants and rocks).

We believe that the Bible is not the end of the revealed Word of God. The Word continues to be made flesh in the activities of our day. We are committed to developing a vision that reveals this sacred Word.

This I can live with and if they accept me for who I am and what I believe, this path seems far more promising than it was a short time ago. IMO this church is always searching for truth, and I am too.

I can provide the link for those who want it. I just don't want to make it public.

One last statement I feel I should make. I felt the Holy Spirit before I ever became a Mormon, and strongly. I know some won't understand unless they have felt this, but it was a specific prayer I said in sincerity. I admitted I wasn't perfect and asked for help. There was a peace that covered me that I will never forget. Even my parents noticed its impact at the time and they weren't religious. Still I never knew what to do with what I found. This is actually part of what adds to my confusion. I've felt the spirit in both the Protestant and Mormon Church.

Enough of my crazy ramblings.

Jenny

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VickySGV

The "intense study" meant in the UMC literature simply means getting acquainted with the Methodist Church history and doctrines of how it is run, and their own views on clergy and laiety. It is not a "repairative therapy" type of thing. My ex wife's family were long time Methodists and I got a pretty good idea of what went on since my father-in-law was on the church council for many years at their congregation. I think that most pastors recognize Baptism from any source as legitimate today even if it is from a non-Methodist source. (My baptism as and Episcopalian would be.) I got asked to leave a Presbyterian church as a young adult, and went over to an Episcopal Church where I had to go through a period of instruction, which I actually enjoyed to become a full member. Like you, my spiritual center is not entirely dependent on which church I wrap around it, it will exist without a particular decoration of wall or Cross shape.

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