There is a point when you have been in a situation long enough—a job, a school, a family, a dorm, a church—when the people and qualities of the place begin to enter your dreams. I have always been a very vivid dreamer. From nightmares to fantasies, from realistic to magical, I remember nearly every dream I have, and they haunt me throughout the day. Most of the time, I wish I did not remember. The good dreams make me yearn for things I can’t reach and the bad ones frighten me or make me sad.
On November 1, I visited an amazing church. It has taken me a long time to write about it because another church has continued to infringe on my spiritual space. I dream of my kids, my family, my friends back in Oberlin, but day or night, my former church keeps entering into my thoughts, preventing me from moving forward. Because my subconscious, unconscious, and consciousness are so wrapped up in the poison that is/was Country Club Congregational, every time I sit down to write about Broadway Church, I get caught-up in memories and grudges of my former life.
I played and sung a wedding of a dear friend at Country Club Congregational a couple weeks ago. The surreal experience brought me to tears more than once. There I was in a place where I knew every keyhole, alarm code, nook, cranny and secret room. I could work the sound system, turn on the lights, and direct people in the right direction. Yet, a place that I knew so well, gave me such a terrible feeling in my stomach. I immediately felt lost and afraid. I felt like I was living a scene from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I was entering a space that was once my home, seeing people that were once my family, but facing the reality that I never existed there. The home and family that brought me back to Kansas City was nothing more than a nightmare that felt so real, but no one else wanted to admit happened.
When I first walked into Broadway, the extravagant welcome was genuine and careful. I knew that this was a church that had dealt with those hurt by the church, a church that had been hurt by the greater Church itself. I told my mom as we sat down, “The thing I worry about, coming here, is that it will be too much like Country Club.” I don’t even want to be reminded of the good times I had there. I want to be separate, disconnected, and let-go.
But the church that Broadway reminded me of was not the exclusive, hurtful place that I had just left, but the spiritual community in which I felt most comfortable, Peace Community Church in Oberlin. Formerly Southern Baptist, Broadway Church had a long history of challenging the system. The pastor, who had been there for 40+ years, told me of their three strikes with the SBC (Southern Baptist Conference). Strike 1: He refused to preach about hell, damnation and sin. Strike 2: The church hired a woman to be their children’s minister and eventually their co-minister. And Strike 3: The church began to perform holy unions for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered couples. So removed from the family it once had, Broadway begin to function as a non-denominational welcoming community, “Where souls wake up,” as their bulletin said.
I have always been against the big projection screen, but the church used its white wall behind the altar to project song lyrics, in order to save paper (can’t really argue with that). The songs were mix of contemporary praise music with drums, flute/clarinet, piano and a couple lead singers, and a couple good ole’ Southern favorites, on which the preacher played the organ. There were two women spinning and dancing in scarves and skirts, one was playing the tambourine. I felt comfortable and happy. I’ve kind of been searching for something I could see myself being a part of, when really, I should be looking for something that already has a place set-out for me at the table.
The pastor used a Powerpoint carefully and conservatively to illustrate the limitations of the biblical temple. He educated as well as he inspired and my mother said, “These are the things I feel I should have learned all those years growing up in Sunday School, but I’m just learning them now.” After the sermon, one more song, and the fast 75 minutes was over.
I don’t know when I will stop dreaming about my former church…or at least, stop remembering the dreams. I am constantly reliving the abuse and the anguish and I believe it is preventing me from experiencing these other churches to the fullest. Sometimes I think if members of Country Club Congregational acknowledged the hurt they caused so many, including my entire family, I could move past it all. Apologies are unlikely, and even less likely is admission of responsibility. This is a barrier in my mind that I will have to tear down on my own, just like Jesus tore down the walls and curtains of the temple. Only then will I be able to reenter my relationship with God.