(Pastor’s Note: Trixie shared with me one of her essays for a college application. The question Trixie was to answer was “describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?” Her reflection strikes me as the perfect E-pistle for Christmas when Jesus came to make his home with us that we might make our home with God. Thanks, Trixie, and all the best in this college application process! — M.C.)
When I was three years old, my parents drove into the parking lot of our church, Old First Reformed, and I declared, “We’re home!”
As adorably misguided as that statement might seem, it wasn’t entirely unfounded. At that point, my mom still worked full-time as the music, youth, and outreach director for the church. I spent a lot of time there, playing hide and seek with who ever happened to be around, taking naps underneath pews, coloring quietly behind the pulpit, making up elaborate stories to explain the point of the murals on the wall.
As I got older, the church buildings remained the place that I felt most at home. I was the white kid in a predominately black school and neighborhood, I had two moms and an adopted black brother, and I preferred to read in a corner instead of play house with the other kids. I didn’t seem to fit in anywhere else.
The motto of our church is, “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” And it’s true. We currently have a gay pastor, and trans men married to cis-gendered lesbians, and a horse that shows up for the blessing of the animals every year.
We have a live crèche complete with donkey and cow on Christmas, and a couple of Easter’s ago, Pastor Michael drove the custodian absolutely mad when he decided to introduce a method of celebration that involves breaking confetti filled eggs on people’s heads. Our church is not even remotely normal, and that’s what makes it wonderful, and special, and the home of a close-knit group of people who are completely different and yet some of the kindest in the world.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I don’t feel perfectly at home at church because of religion, because I feel God’s arms wrapped around me, or anything like that. It’s far more because of the community, because of the acceptance and love that is present in the people.
I am not remarkably religious. I believe, abstractly, in the presence of some sort of something bigger than humanity, but whether that’s a god or aliens or a flying spaghetti monster, I don’t know. I don’t really think it matters. What matters is the family that I have at my church, and the familiarity of the place itself.
Nowadays, I’m not alone anymore. Central High School, unlike my elementary and middle school, is exceptionally diverse, racially, ethnically, and socio-economically, and most people there not only understand me when I start talking, but can actually carry on a conversation without getting that glazed look that suggests I’m going on for too long, or that I haven’t picked an interesting enough topic for them to be suitably entertained. I’m not alone anymore, and yet when my family drives into Old First’s little back parking lot, I still feel like I’m coming home.
Thank you, church…