My church of origin was conservative and patriarchal, and I spent most of my young life wrestling the belief that I would never be worthy enough for God’s favor (even as a child, I was sensitive and perfectionistic – I didn’t need a church to condemn my faults, as I did so quite well on my own). I left the church because I realized that I didn’t need God to still be good and worthy. Returning to church came with the conclusion that I didn’t need to be good and worthy to be in a relationship with God. Perhaps God existed to lift up those who didn’t feel good enough or worthy enough, rather than condemning those who tried in earnest to live good lives, but somehow fell short of the mark.
Still, I found it very difficult to find a religious home. We tried taking our whole family to a Unitarian Universalist congregation for a while, figuring they’d take the atheist (Dave), the Christian (Mark), and me: the question mark. It didn’t fit any of us well. As I surrendered to this reality, Mark suggested I try attending a Quaker meeting. I was reluctant – all I knew about Quakers I had learned from the movie Friendly Persuasion. I hoped some Quaker hats and bonnets would be involved.
Google Maps showed West Hills Friends as the closest meeting to our home. I also discovered NWYM and its evangelical ties, which sowed a great deal of doubt in my mind as to whether my queer, poly family would be welcomed. However, I also read about the process West Hills undertook to be a Welcoming Congregation. This willingness to listen together and to be radically transparent about Quaker process led me to give West Hills a try.
When I first came to West Hills Friends, I wept. The songs were right. The message was what I needed to hear. The people were friendly, and there was a rainbow flag out front. But I needed to try another meeting to be sure. I did, and afterwards cried for a different reason. This other meeting wasn’t right at all - it wasn’t home. I didn’t want West Hills to be home – it had all the wrong affiliations. But it was home.
Shortly after I began attending, the process began that ultimately led to the separation of WHF from NWYM. The pain I have seen as West Hills has been ousted has mirrored the pain my own family has experienced as we’ve been rejected for our willingness to extend love in unconventional ways. While I have worried about exclusion, so far I have been welcomed to participate in the life of the meeting, I’ve made the dearest friends of my life, and I have been healed by the Light and love I’ve found at West Hills. I am immensely grateful for the gift of community at West Hills, and hope I continue to be a part of that community for a long time to come.