A Bit Much

Hello Mr. Magazine - - BELONG TO SOMETHING - By Mitchell An­der­son

In the small city in Western Canada where I live, you’ll have some trou­ble find­ing twenty-some­things in the pews of the churches. When I rush in last minute just be­fore church starts on a Sun­day morn­ing, I grab the pew be­hind two sis­ters in their six­ties, across the aisle from a cou­ple in their seven­ties, and in front of an en­tire cast of other pleas­ant, mid­dle-class, mid­dle-aged-to­just-re­tired folk. There is – by the stan­dards of a Cana­dian church at least – plenty of di­ver­sity in this lit­tle con­gre­ga­tion: we speak about a dozen lan­guages, use a fair bit of Korean in our prayers and hymns, and have a large group from a group home for adults liv­ing with cog­ni­tive dis­abil­i­ties who are part of our com­mu­nity. But, for a church just a hop, skip, and a jump from my city’s univer­sity, there aren’t that many other young adults.

When I walk in, hair still askew from Satur­day night, I am bom­barded by rain­bows, pos­i­tively smacked in the face with this church’s com­mit­ment to be­ing Af­firm­ing, the lingo for be­ing of­fi­cially wel­com­ing of gen­der and sex­ual di­ver­sity: There’s the rain­bow tri­an­gle on the church’s sign, a ban­ner in­form­ing me I am safe here, a large rain­bow flag hang­ing off the pul­pit car­ried by a small army of church mem­bers who at­tend Pride ev­ery year, and a rain­bow-colored “di­ver­sity can­dle” du­ti­fully lit ev­ery Sun­day morn­ing on the al­tar. They go out of their way to make people feel wel­come.

It is all very nice of them. I like go­ing to a church where the tired de­bates other Chris­tians oc­cupy them­selves with are over and done. I like go­ing to a church I can di­rect my gay friends to, one I know I can get mar­ried in. It’s all very nice, but some­times I think they’re try­ing too hard.

When I chose this church, I didn’t choose it for the pro­lif­er­a­tion of rain­bows. I chose it for the same rea­sons that any­one chooses a church. I wanted a place where I’d feel wel­come – not as a gay man – just as a man look­ing for a place to wor­ship. I wanted a place where the mu­sic was good and the preach­ing was strong. I wanted a church that ac­tively par­tic­i­pates in our com­mu­nity. A church that was open to dis­cus­sion and com­mit­ted to jus­tice, one that would chal­lenge me to live a bet­ter life and sup­port me in that shared en­deavor. But more than any­thing, I wanted a church that felt like home, where I could be wel­comed and wel­come oth­ers. A group of people gath­ered to­gether to sup­port each other in try­ing to live bet­ter lives. A com­mu­nity.

I’m proud to tell my church that they’re all these things. I just don’t have the heart to tell them they might have gone a bit over­board on the rain­bows. Mitchell An­der­son lives in Saskatoon, where he is pur­su­ing de­grees in the­ol­ogy and busi­ness in hopes of be­com­ing a pas­tor some­day. Fol­low him @mjame­sander­son.

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