Religion has always been a very easy topic for me, but way harder for others to understand about me. I just grew up so differently when it came to religion and I was exposed to many different belief systems and ways of believing.
I was baptized as a baby catholic. I was semi-practicing until my teen years. My grandma liked to take me to the local baptist church. I grew up for a few years around an Indian family and was introduced to the Hindu belief system. My best friend grew up in non-denominational churches that she lived near and spent more time than I could actually ever count with her in those churches. I went to high school with several Islamic students and was introduced to the Islamic faith when it was basically unheard of in the US. A parent of one of my closest friends in high school was a youth pastor at a local Christian church and I spent a lot of time with their family and in their church to the point that at 17 I rededicated my life to the Christian faith. Since then, I usually (if I go to church) go to our local methodist church. There was the time of the royal wedding where I was pretty convinced I needed to be Episcopalian. Man, I loved that preacher!
My adulthood has been very similar. I teach students of multiple faiths, belief systems and non-belief systems. My friends believe in different ways. One thing remains relevant in all those experiences over my life time. I felt like I belonged in each and every one of them. There are a few things I am certain of. I have faith. I believe in something much bigger than myself and I believe in love.
My struggle has always been in the organized aspect of it. I understand the importance of fellowship. And might I say openly and with as little judgement as possible my definition of fellowship is very simple. I don’t need a roof, political and social hierarchies to tell me what fellowship is. But This is the issue that has always come up in discussion with others. This idea of identifying with a group. Fellowship can happen with the sun outside on my face as I hear the birds chirp, or in the gathering of my family and friends in well wishes for a birthday. Or in the prayers I say as I hold my guy’s hand at night. Or as I drive to school and I say prayer over the day for a colleague, for my students or my own private struggles. It is in the songs on the radio. I feel like sometimes fellowship gets mixed in with being seen.
I don’t need to be seen. I am seen. I don’t act like a Christian. I am one because I believe. But I love faith in all its varieties and beliefs and believe the one grounding principle is not in fellowship with those of similar beliefs. It is love with all.
And yes I realize that sentiment can be so trite and so big and so meaningless. My faith tells me to make it instead meaningful in the way I live and the way I love. That is what my faith and fellowship looks like.
It isn’t organized, or neat, or perfect. It is messy, it is not always perfect but it means everything to me. – MR