My mom can sing. She doesn't have the best voice in the world, she hasn't been trained, and she won't win any Grammys, but she can sing. Years spent in Churches of Christ in the South combined with more than her fair share of hardships have given her a soulful, clear soprano voice that you just...believe. There are few things that say "home" more than to hear my mother sing as she peels potatoes or washes dishes.
I thought of my mom as I sang in church on my second Sunday back at Lakeview Church of Christ, the church that asked me to leave because I am gay. Somehow, standing among the congregation singing "Lily of the Valley" (acappella, of course) just felt right. It felt like home.
The sermon that Sunday was on community. The preacher talked about Lakeview, about what a loving, welcoming place it is, about the ways it reaches out and pulls people into its center. He was right about all of those things. Lakeview Church of Christ is a community of faith in the truest sense: people come together to be the church. They take care of each other, share limited resources, and reach out to the marginalized in the neighborhood around them.
The preacher went on to remind the congregation that we fail as a church when we begin to place doctrine above people. If we fail to honor the dignity of those around us, and think of them as labels and not individuals, we are not loving our neighbors as ourselves.
It was, to put it mildly, surreal to hear this sermon preached in a church that asked me to leave because of what basically amounts to a doctrinal dispute. The sermon seemed to come from a good place: as Lakeview prepares to include women fully in its public worship, congregants on both sides of the "issue" need to be reminded that issues are one thing and people quite another. But I had to wonder: what about the gay folks in the congregation? Are they people too, or just another doctrinal issue?
So I was left again with the tension. All the way down to my marrow, worshiping at Lakeview felt like a return home. It was like lying on the couch listening while my mom sings quietly to herself. But Lakeview (and the Church of Christ) can no longer be home because I am still an issue, not an individual.