I remembering walking into the church. It seemed so big and had all these twists and turns. It was a little intimidating. The stained glass windows were just beautiful as the light poured in. Everyone had a smile to offer or a kind word and a handshake. I liked the warmth and openness I felt. I liked the feeling of belonging and being accepted. I enjoyed the activities they would host and the kid-friendly fun. I felt at peace and felt like it would be a good place to be baptized and strengthen my faith.
The world has been changing. There are divides happening all over. The last place I would have expected a divide was inside a church. It slowly became the masked verses the unmasked. And the vaccinated verses the non-vaccinated. It became if you had a shot in your arm, you have the right to sit up front without a mask. This pew right here? It’s reserved for those “putting others first” and getting vaccinated. Because, after all, that’s what Jesus would want you to do. If you’re vaccinated, you can gather. This special function is just for those “immune” and if you haven’t had the shot, you cannot come. Segregation in a church. Discrimination in a church. I thought God was love? I thought God told us to love one another? How did we get to the point that a shot matters more than human life?
I had to take a step back. This wasn’t what I thought a church, a place of worship, a place to receive God’s love, was about. If I didn’t follow what was said, if I had my own views, I was no longer welcome. I was judged for my choice to not be vaccinated. I was treated differently. I was made to feel people were getting sick because I wasn’t doing my part to “protect” others. I was dumbfounded. Nothing I read, or learned about, showed any indication to the vaccine being a cure-all, but here I was being made to feel like it was and if I wasn’t for it, I was part of the problem. This isn’t how God wants people to treat others so why would a leader of a religious place encourage this form of treatment of others? If you choose to preach the Bible, it really isn’t about taking your own views and making a congregation believe your views are aligned with God’s. You can have your own views, but don’t back people into a corner making them think they have to do what you want or they’re displeasing God.
I learned this year that maybe being part of a church is overrated. I’ve found a stronger faith outside of a church. I hold my own conversations with God whenever, and wherever, I want. I feel more at peace knowing I won’t be judged by someone who comes with a sense of authority if I don’t get a vaccine. I’ve grown a lot in the last year. As the world has become more divided, I’ve come to rely more on faith and the understanding that if God brought me to it, he’ll get me through it. I don’t need a church. I don’t need to sit in a pew every Sunday. I just need my own relationship with God and to work on always growing it. I plan to get baptized again, but in a different way. I plan to be in nature, in God’s creation. I plan on it being an intimate meeting between me, God, and a few others who understand where I’m coming from. I know God loves me, masked, unmasked, vaccinated or not. And that’s truly all I need to know.