He missed the music.
I met him when I was attending a P-FLAG meeting here in Claremont (long since defunct) about a dozen years ago. He said that he was looking for a new faith community, no longer feeling welcome in the faith community that he grew up in because of his homosexuality. I could tell that religion or faith was at least as important to him as it is for me, and a friend and I suggested he might like joining us at the Quaker meeting in Claremont.
He attended the meeting for a few months, and it was nice having another gay guy there. He said that he liked the quiet and the open-mindedness, the absence of dogma. He also said that he “missed the music” and ended up joining his boyfriend at the Church of the Brethren, close by in La Verne.
Earlier this month, I skipped meeting and checked out a service at the Church of the Brethren. I had recently attended a performance there by Peterson Toscano, a gay, Quaker performance artist who deals frequently with the Bible, and I figured that a church that invited him to perform would be cool. Also, I had long heard about the Church of the Brethren, that it is a “peace church” like the Quakers, and, besides, the La Verne church is a lovely, old church.
I saw my P-FLAG friend, who I hadn’t been in contact with in years, there, singing in the choir, and his boyfriend/partner was playing the piano and had written some music for the service. It was clear that they are very happy and totally at home at the church. It was nice to see this.
It was also clear that music is quite important at the church. It seemed to be almost a tenet. In fact, other than the simple stained glass windows, the only art in the sanctuary had to do with music, depicted in three scenes from the Bible.
It made me think yet again of what I saw on a poster or banner at a Catholic mass when I was growing up: “He who sings prays twice.” I have often thought of this, even putting it on a leather bracelet that I made for a summer camp counselor.
Yes, as I suspected, the Church of the Brethren is far more Bible-oriented, with scripture read, quoted - and, of course, sung. But it all seemed, at least on a initial visit, pretty mild, pretty gentle, without much pressure to believe certain things or in a certain way. I’m not saying there was no dogma, but it wasn’t like when I was visiting the gay-based Metropolitan Community Church a couple years ago and felt, in a weird and terrible irony, that I didn’t belong if I didn’t believe in or accept Jesus as my savior, assuming I’m a sinner and/or inadequate, in need of saving. In any case, I liked the emphasis on, as was said during the service, “doing, not saying.”
I didn’t get what I wanted at the MCC, but there are also times when Quaker meeting is just too quiet and small for me, especially, I recently realized, when I have to get up early on Sunday morning. There are times when I miss the music. And, although I usually resist it, there are times when I want to be guided and read to and even lectured (a bit).
I am at home at Quaker meeting, and I’ll always be a Quaker, an unprogrammed, silent-meeting Quaker. But don’t be surprised if I sometimes show up at the Brethren, or - who knows? - another church, now and then.