So why did I go?

While at the retreat, I was fairly open about the fact that I follow another religious tradition rather than Christianity.  When people asked me if I attended a church[1], I answered that I did not and continued by saying that I follow a different spiritual tradition.  When one or two asked what my faith background, I said something like “Well, I grew up in a small American Baptist Church and attended a Full Gospel or charismatic church while going to college.  Since then, however, my spiritual journey has led me to follow another religious tradition outside of Christianity altogether.”

Not surprisingly, more than a few people asked me what led me to attend the conference, given it’s Christian focus.  Just to be clear, they were all glad I was there (and not just because it meant a chance to convert me).  Instead, it was pretty clear to me that they seemed to operating under a sense of wonder at my choice.  I think the leader of my community group, Jason, gave voice to that sense of wonder when he commented that he wasn’t sure he’d be brave enough to attend the conference if had been in my shoes.

To be honest, I asked myself the same question several times before the conference and even a few times during it.  “Why am I doing this?”

First and foremost, I went because I wanted to meet Wendy.  I had been talking to her for quite some time online[2] and had come to admire her and appreciate her friendship.  As a result I’ve often wanted to meet her for a long time.  In fact, I kept telling myself that if I ever found myself going up to Toronto and had the time in my schedule to support it, I’d contact her and ask her if she had the time to meet someplace for a cup of coffee.  So when the conference came up and she asked me if I’d like to attend, I took that as my opportunity.[3]

Another reason I went is because I wanted to see firsthand how (and how well) Generous Spaciousness worked in person and in a community.  I knew Wendy did a great job (at least online, and I had plenty of reason to believe she was no different in person) at embodying Generous Spaciousness herself, but I also feel it’s easier for one person to do that, especially when they’re dealing with people on a more one-on-one basis.  I was curious to see how Generous Spaciousness fared in an environment that involved multiple people, each with their own views, needs, and understandings.  (Short answer:  It works quite well.)

You see Generous Spaciousness represents hope to me, a hope that I most desperately want.  As I told a number of people at the retreat, I’ve made my peace with the faith of my past and the fact that my journey has taken me down other roads, roads my old faith communities would find strange and possibly more than a little terrifying.  Where I struggle, however, is dealing with the members of my old faith communities, especially those who I am still in relationship with and wish to remain in relationship with.  My parents, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews are all Christian.[4]  I have friends with whom I have a long history who are Christian, and there are times when I struggle with how to live peacefully with them in a way that still allows me to be authentic when I’m with them.

Sadly, right now, that sometimes means limiting the time I spend with some of those people.  That’s not a solution I particularly like.  Sometimes, it means hiding parts of myself when around some of those people — thereby sacrificing my own sense of authenticity to some degree. That is not even a solution and I loathe that choice even more.

Generous Spaciousness offers a possible alternative to those choices, and it’s an alternative that I want to place hope in.  Going to the retreat was, in many ways, an attempt to gauge how much hope I should allow myself to put in Generous Spaciousness.

Notes:
[1]  Come to think of it, I don’t think anyone asked me what church I attended, but rather if I attended one.  I find that interesting now that I’m thinking about it.  I suspect (thought can’t be sure) that even among LGBT people who maintain their Christian faith, it’s common to walk away from faith communities for a period.

[2] I participated in the Bridging the Gap Synchroblog back in June of 2009.  I think I started reading the BTG blog a month or two before that, though a quick scan of the post titles from back then didn’t help me narrow it down any better.  But I can say for certain that I’ve known her via online interactions for nearly four years, perhaps slightly longer than that.

[3] I’ll admit that before I signed up, I asked her if she was sure it was a good idea.

[4] For many of these people, my sexual orientation and my choice of how to respond to it is a bit of a sticking point.  My religious choices are a sticking point for all of them.

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