A sense of belonging…

Not long ago I wrote a blog about religion and how I associated it with a sense of community and belonging and that this is something I have always craved but never felt.

I also spoke about how I have struggled with religion throughout my life because of the negative aspects that are portrayed in the news. I feel that acceptance within a religious community is conditional and that there are quite strict rules to abide which can be very much open to interpretation. I also feel that religion can be used to mould and manipulate especially by leaders who may abuse their power. It is a shame as equally religion can bring together people, communities, and societies to share common beliefs and be something rather special.

With that thought in mind and knowing that I still have hope that this does exist alongside with the fact that faith is important to my partner I was intrigued and open to going along with her to a church service. I don’t think I have ever been to a normal church service, and I know I have never been to Holy Communion. However, I was open minded, and I wanted to share something that means a lot to her especially as her church is an inclusive church and openly LGBT+ friendly.

On arrival we were greeted by warm friendly faces, I had no idea really what to expect or how I would feel.

The service started and the woman stood there with a smile on her face, welcoming us all to sing the first hymn. I have always liked singing so this is a part of church services that I knew I would enjoy. However, I have to admit that it didn’t take long for me to feel slightly uncomfortable. I’m not 100% sure why but I feel it was partly down to how ‘official’ it felt (I can’t think of a better word to describe it) as there were a few people in full religious attire walking around the church with a large cross and swaying incense around or the fact that I felt the service was a little preachy, especially when the service mentioned sins and sinning.

I found myself zoning out throughout the sermons and felt as though this was almost an enforced time of quiet reflection.

As I sat there, I had this deep sense of feeling lost and suddenly I felt a little sad, but I forced myself to be in the moment which worked for so long. Then everyone was invited to partake in the Holy Communion and again having never experienced it I wanted to try it and for some bizarre reason it was when the two women leading the service smiled at me, said ‘the body of Christ’ and placed the wafer in my hand that I could feel my eyes welling up. I sat back down trying my best to stop as I felt a few tears trickle down my face and when my partner noticed she took my hand in hers.

When the service ended as we went to leave the church the woman who led the service came over to say hello and introduced herself to me. She was very warm and welcoming. I haven’t been to church often, but I have to say that this was the first time that I felt genuinely welcomed, that the people felt friendly, and I also felt acknowledged even though I wasn’t a member of the congregation.

As we drove away my partner asked me what had made me feel emotional and I felt like it was an odd thing to say that the service had made me realise that I feel a little lost and that it was the first time in my life that I had genuinely felt welcomed, included, and accepted for who I am by strangers.

I can’t say that going to church on a regular basis is something that I feel is necessarily something for me, but I am pleased that I went, not only to experience something important to my partner but also to see for my own eyes that religious people can be accepting and that it can be inclusive and create a sense of belonging.

I have been left with a sense of hope and faith in people which is something that has been wavering within me as I have felt that there are less and less genuine people in the world and that friendships and relationships are often conditional or fickle. However, I am determined to remain positive and hopeful and to share my life with those who are genuine and who love and accept me for who I am, unconditionally.

I feel that sometimes especially when our confidence and self-worth has been knocked it can be all too easy to hold onto anyone and everyone in our lives even if we know deep down that may not be the best for us as we can be afraid of being on our own or being the one to walk away. However, we are all worthy of surrounding ourselves with people who add to our lives rather than drain us and who value us as much as we value them.

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