Happy Monday, my friends! I have been fortunate to call many places home over the last 36 years. I lived in Cambridge, OH, the longest though I also managed to live in five states between 2010 and 2015. I’ve moved less than some of you and more than others. Wherever I lived and for whatever reason I lived there, I’ve always insisted that where my family lives is home. In 2020, when my parents moved from Cambridge, OH (where I was raised) to Urbana, OH, the mental transition was simple. I only had to learn a new address and phone number. Even now as I live in Westerville only an hour away (49 miles for the non-Midwesterners1) from Urbana, I call both towns home.
For almost two years I lived and worked in lower Westchester County, New York—virtually as close as one could get to being in the Bronx without being in NYC. The majority of my free time was spent in Manhattan, particularly the East Village. There I discovered Middle Collegiate Church, a justice-focused, musically extraordinary, Queer, and multicultural congregation. You have to understand that I was ready to swear off Christianity after bad experiences with Episcopalians and Quakers, being let down by the United Methodists I had found community with a year earlier, and the trauma I had experienced as a Catholic. But it was at Middle that I found an expression of Christianity that I could stomach and eventually came to support again. When I left New York, I remained a Middle member and have remained so for the last nine years.
Only now as I made the decision to pursue ordination with the United Church of Christ here in Ohio have I had a reason to change my official membership. While, no, Middle isn’t about to kick me out because I dare to move my membership, but for the first time I’m very intentionally leaving one church and settling in another church.2 This transition has hit me harder than coming “home” to a strange house in a strange town after my parents moved. This transition feels more like packing up one apartment to move to a new apartment in a new area, an experience I’ve now had six times in my life.
Other than the people, what is it about home and the places we call home which make them so endearing and so hard to leave? Home and whatever we call home is a near universal concept for humans and it becomes woven into a significant portion of our culture. As adults we all yearn for those moments of “home” which we associate with safety, warmth, and ease. Even among those said to come from “broken homes,” there is a yearning to come home—yes, unless you’re Virginia Woolf, but I think Ms. Woolf might have agreed more with Kierkegaard that you can’t experience the same thing again rather than you can’t go home.
For far too many LGBTQIA+ people, home is tinged with the trauma of rejection based on cruel and careless translations of texts written more than two millennia ago and sermons preached to establish and defend power rather than welcome the lost and comfort the distraught. Just as Queer people often have chosen families, we often have chosen homes and homes built out the remnants of traumatic situations masquerading as “home.”
Where is home for you? What is home for you? How do you do home?
Let us pray: Jesus, you are God, yet while you were on earth you had nowhere to lay your head. You were born in a manger, became a refugee, lived as an iterant preacher, and you were buried in a borrowed tomb. Teach us how to build homes, find homes, and do home in a world yearning for the safety of a home environment. We ask this knowing of your mercy. Amen.
Blessings on your weeks, my friends! Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.
1 I learned recently that it’s a Midwest convention to use time to tell someone the distance between two spots.
2 The keen observer might ask about the hard transition I experienced when I left the Catholic church. However, the Catholic observer will recognize that according to Catholic teaching, once one is Catholic, they can never truly leave. They might live in a state of grave sin and rebellion, but all they must do is go to confession and they will be back in good standing.