Joining Franklin Circle has been one of the best things to happen in my life in a long time – and it was never supposed to happen. When Jake and I met and started dating, I told him – in no uncertain terms- just how unhealthy his church was for him. I had nothing against organized religion… it just wasn’t for me. I voiced my disapproval at supporting a church that didn’t accept him as he is. He spent a great deal of time and lots of prayer about whether he should walk away from a church that he had invested so heavily in and he soon came to the same conclusion. He was now churchless. Jake and I had been together for 7 years when he decided that he really needed to fill the spiritual void in his life. He had talked about it many times over the years, but never started the search for a new spiritual home. Last winter, he asked if I would go with him as he “test drove” a few churches that were “Open & Affirming” because he wanted my blessing when he found the “right” one.
He scoured the internet for churches listed as Open & Affirming and got recommendations from friends. It is actually a lot of work to find a church that will welcome a gay man. Sure, you can attend any Catholic mass or walk in the door of any denomination and be welcomed as a visitor – BUT don’t you dare hold your partner’s hand or even let anyone know that you are more than just friends. That will get a one-way ticket to Hell shoved in your hand before you are tossed out on your ear. The only church that I KNEW was really open to Jake was a U.C.C. in Chesterland that had the courage to put a gay pride sticker on the large sign by the intersection at the corner of the church property. I always remembered that church because of that relatively small sticker. The only reason that we crossed that off the “to be visited” list was its location in the snow belt.
We eventually went to an Episcopal, a U.C.C. or two, and a couple of others before finding Franklin Circle. I was leery because it wasn’t in the greatest neighborhood, but agreed to check them out. You, the congregation, passed my first “test” on the first visit. You welcomed him as he was, and made me feel welcome too. I went with him for the first month and watched you all very carefully. I was ready to drag him to the car, kicking and screaming, at the first hint that you were not going to be the healthy place he was searching for and that I demanded. It never happened. You were as genuinely friendly and loving as you were on that first day. He told me he wanted to join and I told him that I was all for it. He joined the next week and my job was done.
I spent the next half dozen Sundays enjoying the peace and quiet that only three large dogs can give. Jake went to church. Perfect! Then something weird happened. I missed the people who were so open and loving. Next thing I knew, I was in a pew on Sunday morning. Still reeling from that surprise, I found myself helping out in the Disciple’s Closet and then serving meals to the lonely and needy in the area. I’m still not sure how it happened, but I am on a number of teams, made a conscious decision to join the church, and if you can believe it… a regular at Bible study. I tell my friends that Franklin Circle Christian is “a one night stand that went terribly RIGHT.” Thank you, members and visitors of this wonderful church, for giving a home to one who wasn’t even in the market.