It’s been over four hundred days since I stepped foot in the Community Church of the Open Door, a small, nondenominational church in Hampden. It’s been over four hundred days since I left the church that had been a home to me for over six years. For a long time, I was angry. I felt betrayed. The truth was that I no longer felt welcome at Open Door. What happened over a year ago?
First of all, I need to say that the senior pastor had absolutely nothing to do with why I decided to leave. The senior pastor at Open Door is a genuinely nice man who I had a few differences of opinions with. However, the pastor seemed to remember as a pastor he was supposed to be a kind and compassionate man. However, another leader of the church was not. He was one of the adults I thought I knew best from the church. The day following the 2012 election, the leader slammed the outcome of the election, asking why the ‘stupidest states get the most electoral votes.’ I understand that freedom of speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment, but when somebody has a position of power, they need to realize that their words will have a greater impact than just trying to sound funny or get attention from their conservative friends. The motto of Open Door is that no perfect people are allowed…which is exactly the opposite of the impression I got from that status. While the pastor didn’t say anything about people not being welcome, knowing how he felt about the election, spoke volumes about how he viewed people he disagreed with.
Probably the main reason, I chose to leave Open Door because of my support for same-sex marriage. I supported same-sex marriage when it was on the ballot in 2009 and was mocked by my beliefs. Other teenagers who were going to the church told me that I was not a real Christian because I supported same-sex marriage and because I was quasi pro-choice. It was difficult being liberal in a conservative church. It wasn’t just the youth who made me question my views. One of the leaders of the church’s youth group told me that he would pray for me when I told him that it wasn’t a great idea to praise the gay marriage referendum failing because there were several people who felt that the bill was a good thing. The outcome of the election in 2012 was just too much. I also didn’t have many friends there who were my age anymore. A church should be about learning but most of the people in my age range had either gone away to college or I was drifting apart from. One of my friends also decided that enough was enough and left the church.
For many months, I was reluctant to find another church, because of a very busy schedule. I had spent such a big part of my adolescence at Open Door and was worried about starting from scratch. The summer before, I went to a Catholic Mass for the first time, just as a change of pace. While I enjoyed the Mass, I think I could have gotten more out of it if I hadn’t been so independent and talked to some Catholic friends about it first. I respected the faith but it just wasn’t for me. So from November 2012, until Easter Sunday of 2013, I did not step foot in a church. After briefly attending Bangor Baptist, which I realized was not for me when I figured out who the college-aged teacher was-a leader of the Christian Civic League who I heartily disagreed with on several topics, my family and I decided checking out the Rock Church over on Ohio Street. It made an impact on me right away. The music had so much enthusiasm behind it, something I hadn’t seen in years. I also enjoy the senior pastor’s energy. While I won’t outright say, I have found a new church, there is something about the Rock that gives me a feeling I wasn’t getting at Open Door.
Now, let’s get a few things straight. I’m a Christian and have been since I was five or six. I don’t think I will ever have all the answers. Nobody does. But it’s a shame that some Christians feel the need to put others down just because they don’t agree on every issue. To those who might be thinking, I only associate with people I agree with, my best friends are conservative leaning libertarians. We couldn’t disagree more about many topics, but we set them aside because we value our friendship more than our political ideologies. I just think a church should the same. I know there are going to be people who have different views. But we should all feel welcome and nobody should feel that they aren’t worthy of learning about God.