Why I Church Where I Church.

For many years of my early adulthood I searched for a church home. I would scour the internet looking for a faith community I could call my own, but truthfully… none of them appealed to me. Dallas is home to Cathedral of Hope which is said to be the world’s largest gay congregation, but I just couldn’t get on board with that. I recognized the necessity of this community for a number of people, but it wasn’t what I needed. I didn’t feel different. I didn’t feel as if I needed a gay church. I wanted a community that reflected my actual life and though a number of them are, most of the people in my life don’t identify as LGBTQ. I wanted a place where these issues were important but not the main identity of the church. I would frequent gaychurch.org in hopes that I would find something that suited that need and finally in the summer of 2013 I saw a church on the list that had previously not been there. I found Galileo Christian Church, a Disciples of Christ community in Mansfield, TX. After months of liking facebook updates and a few messages to and from the pastor, I found myself in a dimly lit place in my life and worked up the courage to go to church. Quite literally as I was looking up directions, Katie (the pastor) sent me a message on facebook saying “Kyle, come to church, dude!” So I did. And nearly two and a half years later, I’m still there. So, here are just a few reasons why I church where I church.

  1. Galileo is non-traditionally… traditional. What I mean by that is that while you may not have ever experienced a worship service like ours, there’s still a strong emphasis on liturgy. We read the Bible. We say the Lord’s Prayer. We take communion and say words of institution. We just do things a little differently. We sing traditional hymns followed by some Johnny Cash. You’re likely to hear a “four letter word” in any given sermon. We don’t shy away from hard texts, in fact, we embrace them (we once had a series called “Monsters in the Dark: the Ugly Psalms”). Worship with Galileo is a truly unique and beautiful experience that provides a renewed idea of what worship looks like.
  2. When I’m not feeling worshipful, that’s fine. From the start of the worship service we encourage everyone to do what feels right for them. Whether that means participating fully in the service, walking around outside, holding a baby, or whatever else it may be that connects a person to God. There have been days when I’ve found myself in no mood to sit through song, scripture, and sermon. Days when I’ve had to walk out multiple times because my thoughts were too loud or my heart too heavy. But every time I’ve had one of those days where I show up knowing I can’t commit to being fully present in the service, God has sought me out and met me where I am (if you don’t already know the story, ask me about the time I planned on skipping communion).
  3. We take social justice seriously. I have personally had the amazing privilege of representing Galileo at a number of conferences pertaining to LGBTQ inclusion in the church. We march in pride parades. We show up for Black Lives Matter rallies and we truly believe that with all of our being. Our pastor has participated in an interfaith peace panel and we will soon host a discussion where two Muslim women will share with us what their faith means to them and how they experience life. We firmly believe in equality and justice for all people, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality, disability, income level, education, etc.
  4. We know how to throw a party. I’ll just leave these two links here. The Theology of Parties and Why we Play Cards Against Humanity. But seriously… We like to party. We’ll find any excuse to do it. Dos de Mayo. We survived the holidays. After church surprise dance party. Those are literally just a few of the parties we’ve thrown.
  5. I’m not required to check my brain at the door. That’s one thing you hear a lot if you come to Galileo, but it’s the truth. I’m free to explore my relationship with God with the confidence that I’ll be supported in my faith journey, regardless of where I’m at. I’m not asked to sit quietly and go along with everything that’s said and done. We encourage exploring the hard parts of life, questioning God, and developing our own understanding of the world. Growth requires learning, but not much learning is done when you’re told what and how to believe, which is why Galileo Church does its best (we’re not perfect) to remain open in how we receive others.

I feel so incredibly lucky to have found a faith community that allows me to be who I am and whose priorities align with my own. I know Galileo isn’t for everyone but it’s my hope that those who are seeking will find a place where their needs are met and where they are loved unconditionally. If you’re searching for a church home or resources that align with a progressive nature (I hate that term. Why is it progressive to view all of God’s people as equal? I digress…) I recommend checking out gaychurch.orgthe Gay Christian Network, and the Convergence Network.

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Why I Church Where I Church.

Everybody Knows

It took me about five days from the time I wrote my previous post about my personal issues with mental health to actually submitting it and sharing it publicly. I felt extremely vulnerable in sharing it so publicly but I almost immediately received amazing, loving feedback. The same night it went public, I learned about the struggles of somebody that I admire for numerous reasons. We created and shared a deeper connection because we pushed past our insecurities and laid it out. Another individual who I have only recently met shared some of her story with me as well. The community that is built from exposing your truest self and letting others experience you for the first time is such a beautiful thing.

 

 

Everybody Knows

Getting Better

Mental illness is something that I’m very familiar with. A number of my family members suffer from depression. I have friends who battle very public battles with anxiety. And while it’s not my forte, psychiatric nursing holds a very special place in my heart. I believe that mental health is too often overlooked and dismissed by health care professionals and society alike. We are doing a disservice by not taking these conditions seriously and therefore not providing the much needed relief to individuals who desperately need it.

So while this is by no means a revelation to some of those closest to me, I’ve never discussed this in such a public manner. I’ve allowed stigma to silence me for far too long. But in keeping with my desire to be honest with myself and those around me, I’ve decided to not let myself be silenced anymore.

I fight a very real battle nearly every day. I struggle with mood fluctuations, anxiety, and occasional bouts of crippling depression. 

I remember being in elementary school and having extreme anxiety at bedtime. I tried to adhere to a strict nighttime ritual in order to ensure that I was asleep by a certain time and slept enough for the coming day. Of course this almost never went according to plan. I would find myself unable to fall asleep and would have, what I now recognize as, panic attacks. It was such an asinine thing for an eight-year-old to get worked up about, but I did. And I still do to this day. If I have an early morning, I still get worked up over the thought of not waking up on time or not getting enough sleep. This just makes it even harder for me to fall asleep, which in turn produces an even greater deal of anxiety for me. In addition to the aforementioned, I find myself questioning almost everything I do. It’s incredibly hard for me to feel certain about, well… anything. It gets tiring not being able to be confident in my decisions but that’s my reality.

I had a lot of anxiety in middle school but it wasn’t really until high school that I was able to recognize that I was struggling with depression. I sought help from my PCP once during that time frame, but because I was under 18 I had to be referred to a psychiatrist. I was too embarrassed to admit that there was something so wrong with me that I needed THAT kind of help. So I never went to see her. And when questioned by my PCP at my next visit, I simply said “I’m fine now.” After much reflection though, I think a lot of my depression during my adolescence stemmed from being gay. I’ve usually told my coming out story as a generally positive experience, but the more I’ve thought about it recently, the more I remember the shame and doubt I had felt leading up to actually coming out. I’ve always said that I felt moved by God to come out to my mom when I did and that remains true (if I haven’t shared that with you, just ask). However, I only now recall the years leading up to that point. The years that I would get on “prayer chats” and confess my confusion about my sexual orientation and ask for prayers that God would change me. The years I looked very seriously into conversion therapy. I managed to push these thoughts aside for a long, long time. I pushed them so far aside that I actually believed the story I was telling people. That I never felt disconnected from God because of my sexuality. That I never doubted God loved me. But that’s not true at all. I was scared to death of what God really thought about me. I was terrified of going to hell. Luckily though something changed. I wish I could pinpoint when that happened or even why, but I can’t. I just know that something changed and I no longer felt that God was against me nor I against God. I believe it was this change in my thinking that helped alleviate some of the depression I was feeling. I continued to struggle off and on with bouts of depression through high school and into my early twenties, but never to the point that it was causing disturbances in my life. The severe bouts started occurring a little over two years ago, though that’s a story for another day.

Similar to the experiences of pretty much everyone, I go through ups and downs. However, I have an extremely difficult time finding balance. It’s hard for me to feel stable in almost any aspect, and after enduring some major turmoil this past fall, I found myself even more unstable than usual. I experienced shifts in my mood literally from minute to minute. I can remember meeting with my pastor one morning and feeling confident and empowered as I left the coffee shop. By the time I got to school twenty minutes later I was in hysterics, questioning everything I had done to get to where I was. It was that day that I promised myself I would seek help, though it took me another two weeks to work up the courage to follow through. See, one thing I know about myself is that I’m stubborn. I can advise other people all day long. I’ll advocate until I’m blue in the face. It’s in my nature to take care of other people. But I don’t always take care of myself. I don’t advocate for myself in the ways I should. And I definitely don’t follow my own advice.

So, the night of my pinning ceremony I was on an absolute high. I had graduated nursing school with honors and won three awards. The next day however, as I sat in a dark movie theater watching Sisters, I found myself struggling to keep myself together. I was crying in the middle of a comedy. There was something wrong. Something more than just getting over a breakup or not getting the job I wanted. I was scaring myself. I finally decided I would never get better if I didn’t try and within the next week I was started on sertraline (Zoloft) and began seeing a counselor.

In the short time since seeking help, my mood fluctuations have been less dramatic. I don’t go from high to low quite so easily, but on occasion I will still find myself quite emotional. I still struggle with doubt and the occasional sad day, but I’m getting better. Day by day, I’m getting better.

Getting Better