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In my early adolescence, when I was busy trying to separate my meaning from my mother’s I found a church-going family who helped me in this task. They -like I- were quick to point out her sacrilege: her poverty, her politics, her single parenting (they did not know, like I did, what the alternative would have looked like). And I, like them, became spitefully critical of the church she’d taken me to when I was a child: A place marked as irreverent for its open willingness to negotiate through the beauties and follies of a number of faiths.

I borrowed the criticism of the Unitarian Church, like I borrowed the criticism of my mother. I refused her christianity, and so she made a new round of it, refashioning her faith in a new space that I did not snub at the time (though I wouldn’t put it past myself now, knowing my history).

I began looking too, sure that the “real” church could provide what I needed in a community and faith, if it was so self-assured and critical of everyone else. After years of looking around, blinking dumbfounded at congregation after congregation, often as numbed and insensitive to me as I was to them, I came to question the right for religious institutions and their spokespersons to point fingers.

It has been a long time since I’ve stepped into a church building. In my time away, I have let my imagination run wild with the grotesque possibility that all churches– indeed the buildings themselves–would represent everything I wouldn’t want a church to be: exclusive, apolitical, self-protective, anti-humanistic, gold-plated and in the clouds.

I walked in this weekend to wood. To the smell of it. To walls, darkened in places with old oak knobs and lit with the honey of split planks. There was a wooden rocking chair in the tall ceilinged meeting room– in case someone like me, wandering in, would want to keep a small child with me, rather than turn her over to strangers. And in all that crafted wood, and the murmur of forested voices, there was a whisper of worship at the pulpit- but worship, identified in working hands and good rest, in the richness of the land and the possibilities of music.

The man picked up that old book, laughing, laughing and proceeded to tell us the things in it that he found useful: A young prophet, politically radical enough to have been executed by the state. A message of peace and disarmament; the pounding of weapons into ploughshares and scythes.

This is not the first time I have realized a need to restitch myself to a history I rejected in my youth, but its the first time I’ve considered that task to be spiritual. Something in me feels deeply drawn to the idea of building a community in a place that wrestles (faithfully) with environmentalism, human rights, and peace, in ways that have been instilled in me since my childhood. I see room here, not for me to agree with everything, but to set a course down, and learn from others, in a community of people who hold on to whatever point of religiosity seems to make the most cultural sense to them, while still insisting on sharing a conviction that there’s something spiritual about the loves and joys and politics that we might live together.

When I arrived home, I called my mother, to tell her I knew something — some little thing– of what she’d lent me in life. and to apologize.

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