In 2005 I moved to Sydney and started university. I met a girl in the year above who told us first year students that while we were her lighting crew there was to be no swearing (unheard of in theatre). This one's a Christian I thought. We became fast friends, and by her and her classmates (who I had a large crush on) persuasion I visited and then was regularly attending their Sydney Anglican church by June that year. The church persuaded me too. It was my first experience of the big, student-y Anglican. The music was awesome, the preaching inspiring and all the cool young things enthusiastic, bubbly and welcoming. It was the closest thing to my original summer camp, upon reflection.
On my third or fourth visit there something moved me. I believe the passage being preached on was from Luke, what I heard was that no matter what my past was, all could be forgiven. During the prayers after the sermon I cried. I remember feeling relief and then some confusion. A lot of people hugged me and gathered close around including my two uni friends, everyone looked really happy. Conversion. I had no idea that's what it meant until later.
The first six months were great. I have some diaries from this time. A lot of bad things happened too, three deaths in the one year, a 60hr a week uni degree, but I also met my best friend and now husband. We would talk and talk on my small Redfern balcony until the (very pernickety) neighbours would tell us to be quiet. We discussed God and the Bible and reconciling the big bang theory with Genesis one.
I remember we would pray together before he would leave and he would often have tears of joy in his eyes and I remember feeling overwhelmed that he felt such emotion in these prayers we whispered to God and occasionally I wondered why I wasn't moved to tears when we prayed. It did happen once. When I was alone in my room on my knees, praying out loud quietly.
I realised being a Christian was hard work.
And I worked hard. I read books and I kept diaries, I messed up and guiltily repented, I went to Bible study. We changed church. To our small local church, where the grey hairs outnumbered the coloured and the music was bashed out with gusto but less skill. There was lots to contribute and lots to be done which, for a workaholic like me, was great.
As it does, doubt crept in and dissatisfaction. With both those feelings come more feelings of guilt. I doubted and felt guilty for it, I doubted and was reassured that that’s okay. Now I am at a place where it's not even about doubt.
I kept myself busy, being a warden (kinda like a board member - not paid) and putting myself in charge of quite a few things, from publishing materials to sorting out the sound system, gardening, doing a meal after church etc. Eventually church became about fixing things. I would write to do lists in my pew.
It slowly dawned on me that being a Christian meant to be labelled and associated with all sorts of things I didn't agree with. At work people who I had had a beer with the week before would, upon finding out I'd been to church that Sunday (what did you do on your day off question), ask me if I drank. A dear friend made me the last person to be told that he was gay, even though he knew I have many gay friends. That stuff is irritating and sometimes hurtful.
Church also became about subversion. I didn't like being part of a diocese that doesn't let women preach, even though our minister was quite lenient in that regard. (The reasons behind this are a whole other post and something I've written about here before.) Homosexuality and the "It's not the sinner it's the sin" attitude is something I hated having to be associated with. Ultimately, it's the fear of the other and reformism that has lead me to want to completely disassociate, mostly from Anglicanism in Sydney, but also to shy away from church in general.
I have friends. Some are religious and some deeply religious, some are not, and some are deeply not. Whilst before I never had a problem flitting between the two worlds I now find that I am struggling. I don't like that I just called them two worlds for a start. I dislike the us and them attitude. We are all just people.