Our church prides itself on its reputation as the most liberal church in our diocese.

That our diocese itself is somewhat of a traditional haven in an Episcopal Church that, frankly, has gone off the rails, is a major reason why we have not been driven to another denomination. The dismal state of the American Episcopal Church is not just my opinion, but that of most of the world's Anglicans. However, contrary to what happens in many denominations, the very structure of its services keeps it from going too far 'round the bend in any direction, and enables people of great diversity to worship freely together. I would hate to lose that.

Why, one might ask, do we not seek out a parish that is more in line with the diocese and less with the national leadership? After all, a church that was our home for many years, and which we still hold dear, is just that. It would be disingenuous not to mention that it is 45 minutes away, and our current church less than 10. But there's another, more important reason for being where we are:

We don't fit in.

I don't mean we feel unwelcome. Ours is a friendly church, and almost unmatched in the way children are respected in the service. A nicer bunch of people than our choir you'll not find anywhere. We share a lot in common. But there's no doubt that when it comes to many political, social, and theological issues, we are among a small minority.

One of the greatest dangers facing America today is that we don't know each other. We hang around, in both our real and our virtual lives, largely with people like ourselves. A community of empathetic people is important, even essential. That's the success of 12-step programs and other support groups formed around a particular need. We all need the encouragement of people who have been where we are and are going where we are going. We need a place to be at home, to be ourselves, to be fully accepted, to share inside jokes and to let down our defenses.

But too much of that can also lead to insularity and inbreeding. While we're not likely to forget that there are people who disagree with us, we're all too likely to forget that they are no less human than we are. You think that's crazy? Look at America today. We have become a nation of divisions that each think the others subhuman.

Is there a remedy? The best I can think of is to get out of our comfortable circles and work together with "the other" on something constructive. To find opportunities to meet together on common ground, to see each other as people with jobs and families, with trials and victories, as people who bring us meals when we are sick, and to whom we take meals in their need. People with whom we can learn that discussion is not war, difference is not division, and disagreement is not hatred.

Church, where we already have much common ground, and choir, where we have common work, are obvious places for us to find this interaction, at least at this stage of our lives. Is it frustrating at times, and lonely? Yes. But I've been there before, many times.

Who am I kidding? I've been there all my life. I've never fit in. I grew up a nerd, was the only girl in some of my classes and activities, always preferred classical to rock music, was considered an anomaly by my peers for refusing to lie to my parents, was a feminist until it became popular and then jumped ship, and developed decidedly unconventional attitudes towards birth, childrearing, and education—even in homeschooling I was philosophically an outsider among outsiders. So I'm accustomed to it.

And if I'm not going to fit in, our church is a great bunch of people not to fit in with.

Wait, that didn't come out at all the way I meant it.

They're a great bunch of people, and they don't mind if I don't fit in.

For now, this is where we should be. Will it always be so? Only God knows. As long as we are only swimming upstream and aren't fish out of water, I'm okay with that.

And hopeful for America.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, June 12, 2017 at 10:24 am | Edit
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My relationship to the church has been a long one, since childhood. I have played the organ and sung for quite a number of denominations. After 10 years (during my 20's) in the most theologically and morally conservative church in Puerto Rico, where women are not allowed to wear pants, must only wear closed shoes, blouses with long sleeves, not cut their hair, not wear make-up or jewelry, men and women sit on opposite sides of the aisle, there are services every day of the week, including fasting, prayer, and vigils, and if you want to exercise any office (from usher to president of the council) you must attend at least 3 services a week, I swore I would never ever become a member of a church again. I gave up on organized religion, period. I would now describe myself as a New Age Zen Buddhist Jesusitarian.

I did, however, continue my musical relationship to churches in general, worked as a church organist since age 15, and later, choir accompanist, and played weddings and funerals for everybody. When I was called by the heard of the Vestry of the St. John's Episcopal Cathedral Church in San Juan to substitute for an ailing elderly organist (ultimately becoming his assistant), I found that the Episcopal Church had become gay friendly. I became a member in 2015.

Why is gay-friendly important to me? I have a gay half-brother, a gay cousin, a lesbian granddaughter, and I myself am bisexual. Bisexuality can easily fit into society. I married a man, and the issue of other partners has never come up, but my bisexuality has remained to this day. After witnessing the bullying and ostracism suffered by LGBTQ+ people over the years, I cannot, in any way be a part of any group that condones, ignores, or foments such viewpoints.

Theologically, my views on who Jesus is and the meaning of His death are quite different from orthodox Christianity.

I have never "fit in" either, and frankly, I prefer it that way. I am a happy a hermit. I know I am not "alone". I am that I am. ("Tat tvan asi.") I am God wearing Diane Villafane's face.

People who are different must find a crossroads. Music can be such common ground.

Posted by Diane Villafane on Tuesday, June 13, 2017 at 8:03 am

Do you find that being "comfortable in your own skin" makes it easier to understand and accept those who are different from you?

Posted by SursumCorda on Tuesday, June 13, 2017 at 10:07 am

Understand, yes. Understanding comes from putting oneself in their shoes. However, I will not abide anyone's insistence that I must be like them or adopt their views. :D

Posted by Diane Villafane on Wednesday, June 14, 2017 at 8:41 am
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