My church in my hometown was founded by my great grandfather along with a few cousins and other black folks that lived close by. The church was about a tenth of a mile from my family’s land. My elementary school sits on land donated by my church. The grocery store we frequented was across the street from the school and church. My life as a child consisted of moving through a very sheltered and small triangle. 

I grew up going to Sunday school, devotional, and then the regular church service. We spent a minimum of 6 hours in the tiny air condition free church sitting on hardwood benches. The sermons never seemed happy to me as a kid. I feel like I always heard about what bad things awaited me if I didn’t live my life according to the Bible. 

When my mom was pregnant with me, she had to stand before the congregation and ask for their forgiveness. I can’t imagine having to apologize to people for doing something that was none of their business and had no impact on their lives. This was life going to a small town Baptist church. 

When I left home for Atlanta and leaned into my sexuality, my visits back made me uncomfortable. When my grandfather passed, one of my second cousins preached his homegoing service. He spoke about being a responsible role model and what could happen to kids without one. Somehow that lead into homosexuality, and that’s when my sister nudged me. I wasn’t completely out then, and I remember giving her the death stare. 

That whole experience shook me to the point where I tried dating men again for 3 months. It was the most miserable I have ever been in life. I found myself trying to force connections until one day, I just said fuck it. I could no longer live my life like this. I was so unhappy. I decided i that moment that God didn’t want me to be unhappy. God didn’t put me here to suffer like this. He didn’t want me to have these superficial interactions. He wanted more for me. 

Finding peace with God and my sexuality did not send me running into the nearest church. In my adult life, I’ve only ever attended 4 churches. 

Church #1 – My hometown church. 

Church #2 – In college, I visited a classmate’s church. It was in the middle of no where and most of the ladies were covered from their necks to their ankles. The parishioners kept falling out all over the place. It was the biggest spectacle. I didn’t go back. 

Church #3 – I went to church with a girlfriend. It was one of those really big churches. It was something I wasn’t used to and it felt impersonal. Something about it didn’t feel right to me, but I couldn’t explain it. Then it happened, the pastor starting talking about how a woman in the congregation came to him for help with her gay son…I looked at the girlfriend and she had no reaction. I didn’t go back after that. The girlfriend did, and when we discussed it, she didn’t remember him saying that. When we broke up, we talked a lot about her sexuality, and I realized how she hadn’t come to terms with who she was yet. 

Church #4 -A friend suggested I try this church he’d heard about. He’d dated the drummer in the church band. I didn’t really want to attend a “gay” church, but I needed a spiritual connection I wasn’t getting on my own. My sister and I visited randomly one Sunday and as soon as we stepped through the doors, it was like being wrapped in a familiar hug. The pastor was so relatable. There were visible gay people in attendance, but it wasn’t a gay church. I kept going, and kept going. I was eventually rewarded with a whole series of sermons about sexuality, specifically homosexuality, and I knew this was my church home. 

I realize now that the problem isn’t really “the church.” It’s always about your relationship with God.