Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Prayer

After Easter 2 days ago, I've been thinking again about prayer.

"Religion is for those who don't have the courage to deal with life on their own" I once heard.

But I was raised in the Jehovah's Witness religion and was taught to pray often. "If you can remember how many times you prayed today, you didn't pray enough" I learned. And it wasn't those memorized prayers either. As a JW we prayed 'original' prayers, straight from the heart. And with all those 'extra' prayers I said requesting a cure for my homosexuality, I had probably prayed more at the age of 30 than most people will pray in their entire lifetime. Indeed, I am no stranger to prayer.

But when my faith was stolen from me as a result of my 'coming out' and leaving the JW religion, I stopped praying for a few years. I felt like God belonged to religious people, and I wasn't religious anymore. I felt like I was 'on my own' for the 1st time in my life.

Later I met a fellow volunteer at Food & Friends, an organization that prepares and delivers free meals to home bound people with AIDS, who changed my mind. We worked side-by-side every Mon evening for months and something he said caused me to learn he was a Catholic priest. He wore regular street clothes and seemed too young to be a priest. He was also gay. So 1 day I asked Don if he would mind talking with me about being gay and being a priest.

We met at a little hole-in-the-wall vegetarian cafe that was quiet enough to talk. Unlike everything I knew about Catholics, Don stood in sharp contrast. I explained to him how I'd been abandoned by my family and friends when I came out, and that I felt disconnected from God, as if my relationship with Him had been hijacked. He told me that God loves us all the time and wants us to love him too. We also talked about scriptures that are commonly used to view gays as sinners and Don shared some ideas that put these texts into perspective. When I left that meeting with Don I had an entirely new outlook. I started praying again.

I decided to visit the church were Don belonged. He was just one of several priests at the large church. I really couldn't connect with the Catholic mass and its rituals and chants.

I decided to visit the MCC (Metropolitan Community Church) which I knew to be run by and for the GLBT community. This was a much better fit. I attended regularly for over a year and sang in the choir. But when I moved, just prior to meeting Spouse, the church was too far away so I stopped attending, but continued praying.

Spouse & I began attending a Presbyterian church in 1997 that was "welcoming to everyone with faith and with doubts" and really felt at home there. The pastor was a strong influence on the small congregation that was changing from a dying, senior citizen church to a small but growing church for all ages. Spouse & I served on various committees, I sang in the choir, and we were happy there for several years until the pastor retired. Although very nice and seemingly competent, the replacement pastor was very different and the Session (the group of decision-makers for the congregation) decided to shift its focus a bit. We began to feel less and less connected to the new mission of the church.

About the same time the Religious Right and Fundamentals had basically given Christianity a bad name. In the news it seemed everywhere we looked there were sex scandals, embezzlement scandals, churches refusing to allow out gay people to take communion, child molestation accusations against multiple Catholic priests, and even within the liberal Presbyterian faith a ban on out gays serving as pastors, deacons, and elders passed. Spouse & I had had it. We stopped attending church and I stopped praying.

Its been a few years now since we've been to a church and I've enjoyed the ability to sleep in on Sun mornings. But sometimes I miss the feeling of being connected to a larger community, a faith community where I can feel I am a part.

Spouse says he has never stopped praying and feels he is still a very spiritual person. For some reason, I don't seem to feel that way unless I attend church. I doubt we will resume attending a church until something changes for us.

Crush du Jour: Tim McGraw

7 comments:

Stephen Rader said...

God is here for all of us, no matter what anyone says. I've often felt that they have hijacked Him too, but He's much closer to us than we ever imagine.

Beautiful post.

David Dust said...

Darling Mark - I didn't grow up going to church (much to my Lutheran grandfather's dismay), so every once in a while I feel like I've totally missed out on something. The older I get, the more I think that I might give up sleeping in on Sundays and find a church to attend.

I DO pray, and I do believe in God...but sometimes I feel like I should be more "official" about the whole thing.

Great post, as always.

And BTW, I walked right past Tim McGraw and his wife WhatsHerName on Central Park South here in Manhattan about 1 1/2 years ago. He is HAWT in person!

XOXOXO

DD

Jeff said...

I'm like your spouse on this one. I was brought up Baptist and went to Sunday school and church every Sunday as a kid. I knew all of the Bible stories and whatnot, but it never really resonated with me.

I haven't been to a church service in many years, but I still do pray sometimes, especially when I'm flying!

Seriously though, I do believe in a higher power and consider myself a spiritual person. The organized aspects of must religions just doesn't do it for me.

I think Stephen is right in that God is closer than most people imagine.

tornwordo said...

It's funny, I went to mass for the first time in probably 20 years last year. I was shocked to realize I still knew all the words to all the ritual phrases repeated by the congregation at Catholic mass. I also liked the connection to the community. I pray differently now, but I still have a dialogue with the universe.

Java said...

Well this is interesting. Faith and the worship community seems to be a theme running through my week, especially today. I avoided church throughout Lent and Easter entirely. I participated in Advent and Christmas, though. I'm very upset with the church, with Christians in general right now. I'm OK with God, got no gripes there. But his people are a pain in the ass. I can't seem to settle down in church, even in the one I attend now that is very accepting. My therapist says this may be a season for me to not attend church, and not to fret about it. I'm trying.

Anonymous said...

Markles, great post. I am, I suppose, an agnostic now. I don't really believe in a loving God, or a guiding force in the universe. I am beginning to think that "God" is some kind of collective conciousness. That's the only way I can verbalise it, but it's vague and a weak description. I still go to church, because it's something me and M do and enjoy doing together. Sometimes I'd much rather stay home too. I do think it's important to be a part of a church community, and I suppose you can get that elsewhere but I haven't found it or figured out what it is. I've talked to Pastor Dee about it a little, and my brother, Jason. I blame the Bush administration for the loss of my faith. ;-) Yet, another Bush related tragedy.

Clarkles

Bugsy said...

Liked the post. I think if you split your past history with what you think God is, then pray to that, perhaps you will find a connection.

God cannot be taken from you, nor held from you. God is everywhere and everything.

Its appropriate to pray whenever, if ever.

We all connect in our own way, but I don't believe that you have to go somewhere or be a part of a bigger group in order to pray or be spiritual.

I run along the lines of what Clarkle said about God. My perspective took a little turn watching Babylon 5 -- where the Universe is God. One of the repeated sayings was "I'm where the Universe wants me to be" - well roughly.