Their annual water ceremony took place today, and I got to take part. It was like communion, except we were giving, not receiving; processing forward from the outer aisles rather than the inner one; returning through the inner aisle rather than the outer ones. This water will be used for child dedications/baptisms throughout the coming year. The whole service revolved around water images, including the story at the beginning involving raindrops personified. One of the raindrops was brave enough to leave his tree branch and fall alone into a bucket for the sake of the parched ground below, even though all the other drops thought he was nuts and refused to join him. The earth grew desperately dry, the flowers becoming pale and limp, the grass turning brown. After a while, another drop beheld the lonely drop in the bucket and decided to join him. Another drop saw this and followed suit, then another, then another, till the bucket was brimming and another bucket was needed. After many buckets were filled, a great wind came and blew over all the buckets, drenching the parched earth. Before long, the wilted flowers stood up again in vibrant hues, and the grass was once again green with life.
Afterward, there was a scheduled "information session" for newcomers, and I chatted with one of the new ministers as I waited for the session to begin. By the time it began, the pastor, the minister I was talking to, and a church member were joining in; two more people also wandered in as we sat talking. Each person introduced herself/himself to me and told me a bit about how s/he came to be in that place, in that faith tradition. Then they invited me to tell them about myself, and I did.
I began to tell them about my educational background. It was easy enough, at first. Then it happened. All the anger and sadness of being denied my call to ministry by the sexism of the Roman Catholic Church, my church, came up too high, and it spilled out of me in hot tears and jagged breaths. Before I knew it or could contain it I was sobbing without any ability to stop. I kept apologizing, but they listened, and they listened some more, and I felt as though each one of them was holding me perfectly in her/his arms, just letting me be there as I told my terrible, painful truth.
A part of me scolded myself when I was on my way out of the parking lot a little while later--scolded myself for allowing myself to be so vulnerable in the midst of strangers. But the stronger part of me stopped the scolding voice, making it clear that I'm done hiding my heart when it comes to matters of faith. Those people were there for me--a stranger--in a most tender moment. I won't dishonor their presence to me by claiming that opening of my heart to them was inappropriate.
In this church I've found living temples of my merciful God. They exhibit, in concentrated form, the qualities that I have been drawn to in every community of faith I've ever been part of: hospitality, generosity, vision, prophetic presence, dedication, and abounding love.
I feel like I've come home. Not that the Roman Catholicism isn't my home--it is. But my home is also much larger, much broader, much more inclusive, and loving in many more ways than the home I've always known. And that is breathtaking, world-shattering, and heart-opening. I am ready to step outside the gate and find my way anew.