So that was strange. I went to church for the first time since pre covid and I lasted less than five minutes before I left. Now I know religion is a tricky subject, it means lots of different things to different people. Some people think religion is wonderful, others think it is frankly evil. Religion is definitely a marmite thing. And today as I marched into town, to church I was all ready to share the wonderful things I love about my faith. I love some many aspects of my faith, I love prayer, community, grace, forgiveness and kindness.
Today though in mass two things happened…
1. Love or Charity was not top of the priority list.
The priest opened with a statement about todays reading. ‘It is the single most important mission of the church to go out and baptise the world in the catholic faith, to make disciples of them. Where are you on this mission?’
This did not sit right with me. Yes I know most religions have a focus on growing their community, but to state this mission above all others, above forgiveness, charity, love. And the way in which it was said. I can’t describe it but immediately my alarm bells started ringing.
I have been reading an amazing book called this book is anti-racist and it talks about how many awful racist acts are dressed up to be something good. It talks about how we should act when we see action that which it not inclusive. This felt one of those times. What do I do?
As I stood there contemplating my options the second thing happened…
2. Please let it not be all my fault!
They opened with the usual prayer. “Forgive me father for I have sinned, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault.” Whilst banging your hand over your heart. I noticed I had frozen like a dear in head lights. I knew the words they were written into my fabric like a seam sewn in metal wire. But I said nothing.
My psychologist has been talking to me about how it is ok to feel what I would describe as unkind feelings towards others. That given some of my childhood trauma I should feel anger and even hate towards at least the events. I have been struggling and there it was staring me in the face. For years I have been directing all of those feelings in only one direction… inwards, towards me. For years it has all been my fault.
I understand there is truth in the statement that I am not without sin. I understand I have made mistakes. I understand I have wronged others. But again to put those statements so strongly at the start above all else did not sit right with me. Previously I believed that this level of chastisement toward one’s self helped me to be better, to be kinder, to grow. But now I think I can grow without it.
So what did I do?
I left. I stood up, said excuse me to the parishioners in my row. They asked if I was ok, I made no reply. I bowed a final time to the alter and as the rest of the church sat to pray I walked out. Daft as it sounds that took looks of courage. I had contemplated just sitting quietly for the rest for the service. And if it had not been for the book talking about the importance of action I would have. I know it was only the smallest action but imagine if more people did that, stood and walked away.
Where does that leave me…
Not sure really I still have faith and I always will. It is not the first time I have considered myself without a church. Maybe I will go back one day, for now I will just say a prayer quietly tonight and ask god to help us all to be kinder to ourselves and welcome everyone into our hearts.