Guest Post: My Surprisingly Peaceful Visit to Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber’s HFASS

A reminder that while churches can hurt, they can also heal. This guest post is by Tammy Pyron, a sweet, victorious soul, and a member of the awesome Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome Facebook group Moderator Team.

Butterflies? Check. Sweaty Palms? Nervous Energy? Double-check!!

I’m just SO out of practice with this sort of thing. Shit, we’re almost here. AAAHHHHHHHHHH! I get out of my compact and look myself in the mirror; I appear passable. *Smells armpits* I smell pleasant enough, too.

The butterflies in my stomach are doing the electric slide as I walk through the corridor to House For All Sinners And Saints (HFASS).

Wait, what!? You thought I was going on a blind date? I was: A CHURCH DATE!

Surprising, given the fact I’m not a Christian AND have Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome. But not surprising because I love God. I love the God, my God, that is loving, compassionate, helpful, tender, inclusive… not the vicious, vindictive, and vengeful God that some portray.

I also love my Rabbi, Jesus. Tremendously. And I do have a spiritual connection with places of worship that place a higher deity’s peace and love over an exclusive, judgmental, legalistic ball of crap.

So there I was, by golly, at the House For All Sinners and Saints (HFASS) mostly because when I read Pastor Nadia’s book Pastrix I sobbed like an infant and said to myself, “Tammy, one day you have to attend one of her sermons.”

I must have looked like I was a deer caught in headlights, though… I had forgotten how much the church and its legalistic douches had hurt me in the past…how much they spiritually accosted me. But all that seemed to dissolve as I slid into a blue, four-legged chair in the back of the parish hall and one youthful, vibrant woman exclaimed, “Hey guys!!!! Where you from?”

Suddenly my anxiety and nervousness melted like butter and it just felt…right. Peaceful. Inclusive. I noticed the different creeds, ages, sexual orientations of folks and my heart swelled with happiness.

The service itself was so intimate, artistic, and beautiful. We chanted the Psalms which touched my spiritual heart so much…it just made fucking sense (Why, yes, I just used a curse word in the same sentence as mentioning a biblical book).

I. Felt. Peaceful.

I got the feeling that though my theology may have been different from some of the parishioners, it didn’t matter. The various doctrines, even my own personal conflict with so many folks that have abused me (and others) in “God’s name” didn’t matter at that point. I felt giddy. I felt whole. I felt validated. I felt like I was never spiritually abused.

Pastor Nadia’s sermon was contemporary yet vintage; religious, yet spiritual; hip, yet old. It was bold, yet modest. Awesome. There was a point in the message where she explained how we aren’t representative of God’s light because of the things we are strong at, but because of our poverty–which made complete sense to me, because my strengths are what I’m arrogant about.

But my life’s poverty? Being a survivor from being raped? Surviving a narcissistic mother? Being a spiritual warrior from the confines of my PTCS? Having a stutter so bad I didn’t want to talk– and now no one can shut me up? Being so insecure about my writing style I would go years without writing?

That’s where others have been able to see the divine light through me, even if it’s just a speck at times. I had tears forming in my eyes because HFASS felt like a safe place….like every place of worship should be (but so often isn’t).

Pastor Nadia was beautiful; from her rocking tattoos, to her broad smile that screamed “peaceful love”, she was Authentic. The way God’s light shined through her was amazing…like a refreshing glass of lemonade.

The congregation felt warm, like the sweet feeling of a cozy blankie, especially when they gathered around to collectively bless two women who were celebrating their upcoming commitment ceremony. It was so beautifully inclusive, which meant the world to my teenage son who came out last year. Until HFASS, my son had only seen the worst of Christianity. But on this day…on this splendid day, Kenneth was able to witness what God’s love and inclusive nature was all about.

I hate hugging people, but my inner child yearned to run up to them and hug everyone so tightly. I wanted to hug them all and I hate hugs like a religious cult hates free thinkers.

Though I hadn’t taken part in Eucharist since former church spiritually abused me and left me naked, bruised, and battered on a heap of hot coals…it felt right at HFASS. Magnificent, even.

It was the best blind date I have ever been on. Easily. And maybe I’ll even visit this place of positive contemplation again next week.

Well. Take that, Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome! Thank you, Tammy, for living (and writing) courageously. Though I recognize that spiritual healing doesn’t look the same for everyone, I’m so glad you were able to find moments of rest and peace at HFASS.

I fell a little bit in love with the HFASS congregation from afar after reading that they offered the Eucharist in a parking space on Park(ing) Day because they “believe that God’s table is open to everyone without exception…even in parking spaces”.  YES!  Next time I visit Denver, I’m so there. –Reba

About Reba Riley

Reba Riley is the author of Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome: A Memoir of Humor and Healing in 30 Religions (Coming soon from Chalice Press).
Get in touch with Reba at www.facebook.com/RebaRileyAuthor


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