After leaving New York City, I drove up to Springfield, MA. I had never been. I pulled into town and drove slowly, scoping out downtown for a place to park. I once lived in Massachusetts for over a year, but I never made it out to Springfield back then. Now I was here to meet with my old friend Jon who lived in Springfield. Before our meeting I had some time, so of course I wanted to walk about the town.
It was an interesting city. A small city layout, with one main square near the courthouse and some churches. In another small city park I came upon a service of some kind for veterans. Some people in military uniform were there, along with quite a few others. I wasn’t sure what it was all about, but I took some pictures and moved along.
A nice walk. I also went to visit the library, closer to where I would be meeting Jon. As I was driving in Springfield, a school bus stopped ahead of me to let kids out. As I began to slow down, a young lady with two very little kids in tow stepped out into the road, ahead of me. Not right in front of me, but close enough to where I had to stop much faster. The bus was another fifty feet beyond her. She wasn't crossing to meet anyone from the bus either. She was just crossing the road. I wasn't anywhere close to hitting her, but she was furious, and she unleashed a torrent of vituperation that surprised me. “There’s kids crossing here! Why don’t you keep your eyes on the g-d road, you f'n a-!”
Shocking! I had not seen the situation as such a big deal. I could only stare at her in disbelief. Why don’t you tell me how you really feel, I thought.
Anyhow, I made it to the restaurant where I would be meeting Jon and Teddy, and their newly adopted daughter Valerie. Jon and I knew each other from church, and we also went to the same middle school. We have been friends since we were young kids, and we were the only two consistently active guys in our class in the church youth group. Our memories go way back, and it had been twelve years or so since we’d seen each other.
We had a lovely afternoon lunch, staying for two hours and talking at length. Jon and Ted told me about the process they went through for the adoption, and about life as parents. Valerie is a sweet, easy going baby, and she was very entertaining just to watch. She’s certainly not getting any shortage of love.
It was wonderful to meet Jon’s family. He and Ted are doing quite well, and seem very happy. Because Jon and I grew up in the church together, I asked him about what it had been like coming out against such a conservative backdrop. Obviously, it’s not easy. I have many friends from the youth group who have come out as queer, and I often wonder how comfortable they are (or would be) going back into FBC, perhaps with a partner or family with them. Even though I’m no longer on board with the doctrine of the church, I still consider myself to be part of the FBC (First Baptist Church San Antonio) community, and I would be very sad if I felt that I was not welcome there for some reason.
We had a good discussion about it, and I feel inclined to continue the conversation, not just with Jon, but with others who have also gone through this. I know there are lots of churches which either don’t make a big deal out of the issue or which actually welcome queer believers, but our church was neither of those. The degree to which we damage our brothers and sisters, our children, by rejecting them over something like their sexuality is hard to measure, but I think it’s clear that it hurts to feel judged by the people you love and have looked up to for most of your of life, and I believe some kind of reconciliation between the church and those who have left it, for these and other reasons.
Gradual changes are all we can hope for sometimes. The change always begins with us, and how we treat others around us. Every day we get the chance to make the world a little brighter.