by Kerry Schiewek-Fremlin
When I was a child, my family went to a Pentecostal fundamentalist church in rural Oregon. It was not unusual to attend revivals and “witness” miracles. There were grand theatrics that were perfectly terrifying as a child and was the basis for an awe and fear that crept into my relationship with God. I was taught that God is a jealous and terrible Father that was so concerned about his children’s compliance that he would cause wonderful and terrible things to happen depending on how worthy one is.
At the age of 17 my parents discovered that I was gay, something that I had been trying to hide for several years at that point. I was told that there is no place for homosexuals in the body of the church.
At the age of 18, I moved out of my family home and swore that I’d never returned to church. I used to joke that if I was in a church, you could be fairly confident that hell had, indeed, frozen over.
Skip forward almost 30 years and I found myself inside of a church, not for Sunday service, but rather as part of the local gay men’s choir. I did not have a choice; I had to go in to the church for the performances. I repeated this the next year with the choir. A couple weeks after the second visit, I returned to the church for the candlelight Christmas service.
I fell in love again with the music sung. In addition, there was a very strange message being expressed at the pulpit. One thing that stuck with me was when the intern preacher said, “There is room for all at God’s table”. There were no caveats that only those that “pleased” the Lord were welcome or that I had to do something to be welcome. It was just a statement.
Well, jump forward a year or two and the “All are welcome” was still stuck in my mind. I found myself wanting to visit this welcoming place again. I finally made an appointment with the new preacher, and she was very welcoming. I explained how damaged I am and that I wanted to know if this “All” included me as a Gay man. She assured me that I am loved and that I am not damaged in the eyes of God.
I remember sneaking into the church feeling like a true fraud. However, instead of feeling marginalized, there were people wishing me peace and welcoming me. I must admit that at first it was awkward. However, it felt like a part of me was being filled with a missing piece.
A couple years later and I am immersed in the congregation at CGS and am singing in one of the choirs and also serving on the council of leaders. I no longer fear churches, and thinking about God does not confuse me like it used to. I feel loved and safe in the company of the CGS family. I don’t need to pretend to be nice or perfect or without flaws. The welcome feels like a warm hug from a loved one.
The call to be a leader at the church has been an experience that continues to bless me. I love being able to help shape the direction of CGS. I am honored to have the trust of this community and to be involved so closely with leading this church. It’s an experience that has helped me grow. Thank you for allowing me to give back in this way.
I am definitely blessed to be with others in a place where All Are Welcome.