I am from a small town and there were only two churches: Catholic and "Protestant". Being a francophone, I was automatically raised Catholic. My mom was the one bringing me to church once in a while and she felt that all the milestones (first comunion, confirmation) were necessary to do at the "right age". My dad never goes to church. In 30 years, I saw him twice in a church: my baptism and his father's funeral.
My dad explained to me, maybe 3 years ago, that he does believe in God, but he does not believe in the... I don't know how to call it, but he doesn't believe in what the priest brings in church; for him, it's not connecting to his faith.
This being said, I was a compliant girl when I was younger. I was a bit more like my mom, so I went to church with her from time to time and prayed every night on my own, trying to be a good Catholic girl. There was nothing organized by the church or the community like youth weekends or camp... it was just "les messes" (translation: Sunday masses).
Let's go a bit further now, when I was about 16 years-old. I was struggling a lot with some health issues and my sexual orientation. I didn't know I was a lesbian then, I just felt very depressed... and at some point, I got to a point where I didn't feel I could carry on with life anymore. So I attempted suicide. I didn't know who I was and I didn't see anything positive anymore. When I "missed", I got scared and turned to God for help and guidance. I had asked my mom for a "chapelet" (rosary) and it was the only thing that made me feel safe.
At some point through the year, I realized that... I was a lesbian... and it felt good to finally know what was bothering me inside so much for months... I had gone to church a little bit more often... but it didn't make me feel good, really. I didn't know why, but I didn't like it; the way it made me feel. At some point, the subject of gays came up at church... as a sin obviously 🙄 so from that moment on, I never went into a Catholic church after that!
I felt like I was a sin. I felt like my religion was letting me down for who I was, and the only choice I had in this was the one to be happy being me... God made me a lesbian... but yet, it was a bad thing? I was a bad thing? I would burn in hell for being me? At that point (and I realized these feelings thanks to your workshop ;-)) I felt like God let me down.
My way of dealing with this was to "not believe anymore". God? What God? ... two and a half years ago, my "then friend, now wife" Amelia was talking to me about church... and I stopped the conversation and made her repeat... did she just say church?! Does she believe in God? Really?? Then she told me everything she had done for her church and the youth weekends, etc. I'm not going to lie, I did judge her a little... but I told her: Hey! You know what? I'll go with you to church one time.
Amelia brought me to a young adults "Dinner & Worship" at St. James United Church, in downtown Montreal. I was amazed at all the young adults present and involved... I was amazed at the fact that it was A COMMUNITY. During the worship part of the evening, I was waiting... the whole time, I payed attention and waited... I realized that I was waiting for the "guilt part" to come. The part where you are a terrible person full of sins! Honestly, I'm still waiting for that part... it was never there and is never there! It feels amazing to leave church and not feel like you are dirty garbage that keeps doing bad things to let God down. This time, I was leaving a worship service thinking and reflecting on what was said: finally, that's what I was looking for! And that was the begining of my love for the United Church. Amelia was crazy happy when I told her that I liked it and I would try to go to a regular Sunday at church.
She never misses to surprise me so she brought me to the United Church in Verdun... where the Minister is gay... wait, what??? A gay Minister?? Nooooo way!!!! This is the coolest thing ever! In my old Catholic church, we still don't allow women to be priests... or the priests to have a life beside God... and here we have gay Ministers? Sign me up!!
Amelia and I got married last year. For her, it was important to have a wedding in a church, especially the one she and her dad used to go to all the time when she was a child. At first, I didn't really care, but when we started the process, I was happy to get married in a church. I actually wanted to get married in a church, but since I wasn't allowed in my old church since I am a lesbian, getting married in a church seemed out of the question and I had blocked out this as a possibility forever. It just feels great to be able to go to church and my sexual orientation is not an issue.
Every time I have been in contact with people from any United Church around Montreal, I was treated with respect and just a big wave of love coming my way! I never felt like "the lesbian", but instead, I felt welcomed and loved. They don't know me... and I'm loved and welcomed! What I do in my bedroom does not matter to the people I have met... and this feels incredible. I do feel like it shouldn't be a big thing. I should be loved and respected and that should be normal, not a "wow factor". But having felt how I felt before, this is, for me, a wow factor that I don't want to stop!
I can truly say today that the United Church has brought back this faith that I had long lost. God did not let me down. He led me towards a church better fit to me. I am not a sin, I am more then just a lesbian and the United Church has helped me understand all this!
Thanks again for the workshop! Take care!!
Josée Courchesne •