By James Roll
Love lost yesterday’s war the day that I was compelled to leave a church that I loved because of my sexuality. I lost a place that I called home. One thousand and sixty four tears fell on that day when silence fell. I remember numbly walking out into the cold that I had been cast into, leaving behind everything that I once had surefire faith in. I dodged the sincere loving embraces offered by friends because my heart failed to remember how to let love reign supreme. An unrelenting wave of suspicion and mistrust came to rule in my disquieted soul. Fleeting memories which had been the basis of my faith were reduced to meaningless specks of dust that irritatingly flew into my eye. I vaguely remember going on a mission trip to Hamlin, West Virginia to work on a house belonging to Ardella, a lovely old lady who had lost her husband a few weeks before we arrived. Despite her loss, Ardella surprised all of us with her compassion and willingness to engage us in conversation while sharing a cup of her wonderful sweet tea. On the last day, I found myself sitting in the kitchen when Ardella’s daughter wandered in while on the phone organizing the details of the grave headstone for Ardella’s recently departed husband. I reached out to hold Ardella’s hand. In response, Ardella uttered a barely audible “thank you.” In that brief moment, Ardella unknowingly ordained me to go out into a hurting world to build relationships with people through love, service, and compassion through a simple but powerful act that influenced the person I was in what seems a lifetime ago. Today, I simply rub my eyes--and the irritating little speck of dust that holds the distant memory is gone. I sigh as I remind myself that I blame the church for rescinding my ordination when I was cast out into the wilderness.I remember believing wholeheartedly that leaving the Church behind altogether should have set me free--free to soar on eagles wings with nothing left to hold me back from living my life. My chains should have been broken--but I--I felt a part of myself wither in the boundless silence. Something was missing. I had realized that somewhere along the way I had tossed a precious relationship with God carelessly into a rubbish bin.
I arrived at St. Mark’s as the faithless wanderer, seeking a place where I reignite the doused flame of my soul. I intentionally chose to come here to join a wonderful faith community because throughout the sojourns in the wilderness that I have endured--however lonely--I have clung to the hope that someday I will find peace with all that has happened. Engaging in ministry while struggling with the concept of faith has proved to be challenging, thought provoking, yet exciting within an intense Anglo-Catholic community here at St. Mark’s. One of my myriad responsibilities is to lead the daily office; however, I have come to the unsettling realization that merely saying the opening words of the Venite leaves me with an empty feeling. Each time I utter the words, “Come let us sing to the Lord; * Let us shout for joy to the Rock of Our Salvation”, the awareness that I thoroughly lack the desire to shout for joy to the Lord has become increasingly stark. It doesn’t matter how many times I say the Daily Office or how many times I attend a mass here because that sinking feeling of hollowness returns each time. I take solace in the knowledge that I have thrown myself into this community with the understanding that my soul shall continue to be at peace with patiently waiting for the day that faith returns.
At complete odds with the aforementioned void is the complete excitement that consumes my soul when I throw myself into my ministry at the Soup Bowl and at the Food Cupboard. I have graciously been constantly reminded of the joy of building relationships with others simply by being present in a wonderful community. My heart goes out to the gentleman who shared the story of being excommunicated by his family. I leaps for joy when I hear about the blessings that friends at the Food Cupboard experienced at Thanksgiving with the Turkeys that we gave out. I laugh at the memories I have created amidst the bustle of the Soup Bowl alongside an incredible group of volunteers. My thoughts go out to the man who asked me to pray for him about his addictions. I am given peace when a good Samaritan says that it’s okay to be honest about where I am in my relationship with God--even if that means admitting to others that I don’t believe in God. I often catch myself feeling like Martha, bustling from one task to another, because I strive to ensure that the ministries I am a part of continue to be vibrant, loving, and places where people can go to find either their spiritual or tangible food. On the other hand, even amidst the action, I can’t help but feel that I am continually watching, waiting, and listening for God wherever he may be.
James Serves as Ministry Resident at St. Mark's Church.