I have always been looking for a church home. Visiting churches, I had to respect the fact that I had children and I never wanted to force religion on them because of my belief. This is the way I was raised. Never having a say in how I felt made me reluctant as an adult and it was very confusing to know that this is something that I had to do. Being told constantly what 'joy' I was supposed to be feeling and how if I didn't comply I was threatened with eternal damnation and anyone who wasn't in compliance would meet the same fate. I always felt as if I wanted a choice. I mean, it is MY life. I learned that I actually had no choice in the matter. I was told this is what 'we' did in 'this' house and any form of interfaith was committing religious fornication. I would always have to think first before responding to an invitation from a friend to visit their church because God would be disappointed in me, which would eventually lead to a subtle downward spiral of my condemnation. My family would say, "All roads don't lead to God". At 9 years old, I was a very intelligent child. In retrospect I can recall asking a lot of questions. I asked my grandmother "What should I say if someone asks me to come to their church?" she said..."You already know, you will say no and I don't believe in interfaith". This was the first time I had ever heard of the word and it wasn't in the dictionary so I asked, "Why? My friends at school are nice and they don't curse or steal granma"..I said. She said, "Niokie, you are a smart girl, you know better, you skipped a whole grade and went from third to fifth grade at 9 years old, so don't ask me again why you can't associate with worldly people, in fact, go get the bible and find the scripture that says bad association spoils useful habits!!!"..At that moment it had already clicked in my head, 1 Corinthians 15:33 so I said "Granma I already KNOW what it says....!" They are not bad! She said, "Now you are talking back and this warrants a whippin"...
This event sticks out in my mind every time I think about church: never having a choice and feeling as if I made the wrong choice. It could be spiritually fatal with physically deadly consequences on top of God's disappointment, which was a lot to deal with as a child, and even more difficult as an adult with children.
When I met Pastor Tom he was friendly. I felt no vibe of evilness. Well actually, let me explain. I was in my landlord's office when I saw a flier that said "free clothes". This was right up my alley because I have always been taught to be grateful for everything. I told my children to go to the place (God's Closet) first and case the joint out, I mean I don't want to go anywhere where there are Lutheran Priests cloaked in robed hoodies following me with bibles trying to get me to commit. My oldest daughter Erin said, "Mother, you are crazy, it says free clothes!” I said, "Yeah, well, you know there is always some catch, you may have to listen to a sermon or something so y'all be careful". My kids came home with lots of nice things and said it was a calmly uneventful thing and you just 'do your own thing', 'no take a number, no sermon, no Lutheran Priests lording over you'.
I was surprised, so I checked it out. Jeanne approached me and said, "Baby, there is food in the next room if you want some." This was a wonderful thing because I had just decided to go home afterward and cook and really didn't want to. I thanked her and continued to shop. As I came to First Trinity more and more I was welcomed to stay for something...whatever was going on and invited to bring the family to service on Sunday by Jeanne. This was loving and kind. I asked her which way she was going and offered her a ride home, when we got to her house she prayed with me and my kids. I was convinced at that moment this was the place I needed to be. I had been sporadically coming to church for a year but every time I was greeted with love and kindness. I never felt threatened or was frowned upon because I wasn't consistent. This love completes me because what I learned about God and Jesus, they were loving, kind and patient. All the things I was looking for in a Church home. My experience was wonderful because I wasn't judged at all. I felt safe. When my children started getting ready for church one day I asked them how they felt about First Trinity. All of them said how much they loved it and it wasn't as scary as they thought it would be. They were comfortable. It was a great fit. So I stayed. They were happy and so was I, because not only were my physical needs met, my spiritual and emotional needs were too. I thank everyone for loving us, Jesus said "If you did it to the least of them, you did it to me"....I've felt a sense of calmness and gratitude for being accepted and being able to give.