A Bit Much
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.