What Open Door Means To Me, Today.
I am not like some of my fellow members in that I don’t feel that I wandered in the wilderness for years before I came to Open Door. After 15 years, I had returned to the church by going to St James United Methodist Church with my mom and step dad. I had always felt God loved me, and for that matter, that he loved all his LGBT children as well, but that the church did not. I was not “out of the closet” at St James, although I was attending with my same sex roommate of 12 years and all of us acted like a family when we went. I felt welcomed at St James, but not loved. I quit going when my mom got too ill to go. No one really noticed I was gone. And I was not changed within by attending church there. I knew I was loved by God, but maybe I was not really feeling it.Once before I have told what Open Door means to me. That occasion was at the time of the first State of the Church Address Randy gave after I started coming to Open Door. I can’t find my notes from that time and I thought as I started to write this that probably not much has changed since those days. I remember mentioning the hugs, and the love, and the music. I remember telling the story of Henrietta introducing me to Randy at the AIDS walk the summer before and how that meeting impressed me. I have told that story many times since. I have told it to people on Facebook from all over the world. I have become an out proud Christian. But in writing this, I realize I have also told others what I might not have told to many of my church family, including my pastors. And that is what partly what I feel led to relate today.I came to Open Door that next Sunday after the AIDS walk scared to death. I was scared because I was addicted to drugs. I was scared because I was high. I was scared because I was a felon. I was scared because of my HIV status. I was scared because I was unable to find a job. I was scared because I was wounded in my spirit. I didn’t feel worthy of the love of God, or of people. I had been trampled by relationships, and by the world in general. I knew I was not a horrible person, but I had problems accepting and loving myself nonetheless. The minute, the very first minute, I walked through the doors something happened. We sometimes sing We are Standing on Holy Ground – “When I walked through the doors, I felt his presence:” I am not sure that it was that obvious at first. I just knew I wanted more. I knew I needed more. I knew I would be back. I was being shown a new reality.It has been years now since that first visit. I have been back almost every Sunday, for most other events. For a while I was still scared. I was still high, and addicted to drugs. We say every week that we believe “we are the body of Christ on the Earth Today”. I can say that is not an empty statement. This family welcomed me as I was, flawed and broken. By the love of Jesus, and the folks in our purple room, changes began to occur in me. I was and am being healed. It was not a fast process, but really yes it was fast. Especially when you consider how long it took me to become such a mess. I became involved taking care of some of the duties around the church that needed doing, pitching in. Over time, I began to see that I had something to offer. I started putting my heart out there by taking in JohnHenry, and later Brian. Over time, I quit drugs. Without treatment. I quit smoking. Without the patch or other aid. I became responsible for JohnHenry. I shared my life with Ray Daugherty, and visiting him and transporting him. I forgave folks in my past. I became a kinder, gentler person. I quit being quite so angry at myself and others. I found time for helping people. I am convinced that this was because God, through Open Door, was working on me. And now my impression of this church has changed and my understanding deepened. Sure it’s still about the hugs, the love, and the music, And oh yeah the food. But now it is about so much more than that. I stand in the back of the room most of the time because my hip hurts when I sit too long. And from that standing perspective I watch. Some services I don’t see anything but a loving group of worshipers who have become like a family to me, as I imagine the early church might have been. Which is wonderful in itself. But every few weeks, when we are enveloped by the Spirit and wrapped in Love I swear I can see as well as feel Him moving through the room. If you have ever seen the wave at a sporting event, it is something like that. The first time it happened I was not sure what it was. I was scared again. I think it was at my first Fall Conference, but I am not sure. It does not matter when it was. It was. I had never experienced that before I came here. When cleaning up after those services these years later, and finding piles of Kleenex on every row, I know they were used for wiping tears.Now I long to feel that love poring over me, but more importantly, I live to see the effect it has on my family here. And on new visitors when it happens to them, which it does. Someone has told me that in their opinion, this church is a healing place, and that once people get healed, they can move on, blessed by the healing they have received and able to go forth stronger and healthier. I now think there is some truth in that. And I love the opportunity to participate in their healing. And now I am beginning to understand that the I AM outreach is going to bring opportunities for other folks to become aware of Open Door and through that exposure more may come to get to experience it. So I think God is working at Open Door, and that each of us, “as ministers of this church” have an opportunity to change ourselves and others because of that.Through Open Door, Pastor’s Randy and Sheryl, and ALL my church family, those here today, and the ones who have moved on, Jesus is still working. “I am a life that was changed”. But it is no longer all about me, It is now about the opportunity to serve others and to help them to experience the Love of God, despite their fears. As I said before, I have told the story of Open Door to folks all over the world. Many of those folks are LGBT folks who might have otherwise not been given the message of unconditional love that we feel and see here. I would never have felt enough confidence to have these conversations with folks all over without the lessons learned here at Open Door.Talk about a reality show. Wow! Much better than Survivor don’t you think?