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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Ann

messy communion;

Updated: Feb 17

Decades of religious trauma pulse energetic in my sinew.

I can’t decide if continuing to attend church is brave and essential to my eternal spiritual welfare, or masochistic and twisting metaphorical knives deeper into my spiritual wounds.

Is this conflict the point of faith? Or am I being bled dry. Do I need to whiteknuckle myself to somewhere safer? Perhaps, my safety will never come from a chapel.

While I do believe that conflict is conducive to spiritual growth, as long as we filter our response through Love, and that the capacity to do that comes from Jesus, I also believe that the trauma recovery journey towards wholeheartedness is in part, cultivated by boundaries that protect us from what harmed us in the first place.

When I was a young girl, I drew trees on everything. I have this cloudy memory of being confused about parental rage I received because I kinetically colored a forest landscape scene on my trailer park closet door. Even now, I don’t understand what their problem was. Why could they not see that I was just bringing the Divine closer to us. God knows we needed it.

I have this theory that we are all given one crack at humanity, but that our spirits spend a jaunt or two as an animal, or an aspect of nature. Whatever non-human form we encapsulate prior to, inspires and informs our human experience, and whatever non-human form we encapsulate afterwards is in response to our human experience.

I think I must have been a tree, and that’s why I feel kinship in the forest. The forest is where I commune.

Anytime I attend a church service, I spend it in a haze of furious journaling about my discontent, disillusionment, and disagreements.

I'm making quite a mess, here.

Rest assured, I love Jesus.

I consistently witness Him pull people out of the metaphorical water, myself included. I don’t think He ever intended for church to be a home of hurt. Or a ridiculously enlarged bank account. I have a dream that every wealthy religious organization transforms into a street ministry, investing in their communities by funding affordable housing, mentoring, substance recovery and reintegration programs.

“Social work is my spiritual practice”. Christina L. Erickson, Environmental Justice as Social Work Practice.

One of the reasons I quit attending my childhood church was the billions of dollars they hold onto while I go to work everyday to glimpse into the souls of those entrenched in homelessness because our societally constructed structures, institutions, and norms - systems that certain religious organizations actively participate in - are miserably failing those that need support the most.

I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Matthew 25:36

I left my childhood church during the height of the pandemic, and am now supporting my son to attend a humble, evangelical congregation of his choosing. The people are kind, the sermons only usually mildly infuriating, and the worship songs unknown, stirring a nostalgic ache for the green hymn book of my childhood. Damn that hymnal I love so much that resides in a church that sliced knives into my spiritual sinew.

This is all very messy.

I have resolved that I will likely not ever feel like I belong to any formal congregation. I value communion, wherever I experience it. I am a daughter of the trees. My last name references a knot in wood, spots of injury that the tree persevered through while growing, creating beautiful swirls of protective covering.

Last week, after a particularly deep therapy session, my therapist likened my journey to the art of kintsugi, where precious metals are poured between cracks to preserve broken pottery, intensifying the beauty and value of the ceramic. Her sentiment was immensely kind, and steeped in Love.

A church might always be a house of horror to me, no matter how beautiful the architecture.

Just like I might always yearn for sermons rich with encouragement from the wisdom of Historical Jesus to engage in social justice work, alongside parables, including those from gnostic gospels, and the wild embracing of dark green theology, with humility drenched appreciation for the meaningful influence of Paganism on Christianity.

And that's all messy. And that's okay.

flirting with heresy,

e

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