I want to write a letter to express my love, my admiration and my respect for you. Before opening your doors and entering your sanctuary in 2009, I did not think much of church, or of the people who attended church.
A little background. I grew up in a fairly atheist household, with some sprinkles of agnosticism. I never thought much about God or religion. I went to church with a friend when I was 8, a very conservative, traditional Catholic church and had nightmares for weeks about drinking blood and eating bodies. I have significant memories of my Mom telling me what the Christians “did” to Pagans, and about the pain and suffering that was caused by organized religion. Unfortunately, these stories and themes were generally confirmed or supported by the people I knew who were religious. I have a memory of a friend’s parent telling them that I wasn’t a good fit for a friend as my parents were divorced. They went to church every Sunday and called themselves “Christian”. It seemed to me that God was not very kind, and it did not seem a good fit for me.
Flash forward to my twenties. I met the love of my life, who happened to be a Christian from Texas. And also a woman. As it was the first same sex relationship for both of us, it was interesting to navigate the path of “coming out” to her conservative Christian family and my non-religious liberal family. The differences in the reactions solidified my opinion that Christians were unkind and unwelcoming, and I could not understand why my new girlfriend insisted on defending her God. The people who believed in the same God as her, who raised her, essentially disowned her and called us many names. After hours, days, weeks, months of dialogue and wrestling with what “faith” looks like, while attending various churches in San Francisco, I had a moment. A moment where I felt pure, true love wash over me. A moment where I could feel all of the holes in my heart and soul filled with God. It felt like acceptance, truth, love. Many things happened when I felt this for the first time. I started to understand that it is not God who is flawed, but the humans who claim to represent him. I started to painfully acknowledge that my life prior to this was pretty empty and spiritually void. I noticed that what I had been seeking, but never finding, was actually right there waiting for me the whole time. Even as I write this, at this very moment, the magic and light I feel when I recall this realization is very freeing and special.
Granted, I was found, counted, loved prior to finding Mission Bay Community Church. But finding the community of other humans who accepted, loved and welcomed me just as I am was an important key to the development of my spirituality. To have loving souls to walk with on your journey is not only helpful, but essential. We had tried other churches. Some were big and boisterous, some were small and closed to us. Ultimately, it wasn’t until we walked into MBCC that we found our “home”.
It was many things that made your place our place, MBCC. It was the kind smiles on the faces of the other church goers. It was the open dialogue during the sermons, where attendees actually had opinions to share, and things to learn from each other. It wasn’t that everyone was just like us. That was one of the best parts. It was clear that we came from various backgrounds and had different stories. But that our paths all lead to this one special place was God’s plan, no doubt. And after a beautiful sermon, we were welcomed to your table for dinner, where we got to continue the conversation over delicious food. We talked about many things. About God, the homeless, LGBT issues, racial justice. And we laughed! The humor that I found in your church was such a big part of why I call you home. I had not known it before, but I realize it now, that not taking yourself to seriously was one of my favorite parts about you. And I don’t mean that you are not a serious church. You are seriously spiritual, seriously kind and seriously loving. But you are also able to see that God made things funny!
So, five years later, I was elected to serve as an elder for you. To call that an honor is a grand understatement. It is one of the proudest moments of my life. And so this open love letter is meant to be an attempt to show my gratitude that places like you exist.