Religion and things.

I went to church today.

I have a peculiar relationship with organised religion.  I was raised in the Unitarian Universalist church, which is, quite frankly, a weird church, and one that is often criticised as not being a “real” church, because it has no formal creed.  It can be summarised, if you need a summary, as a religious group that encourages questioning and personal inquiry into spiritual matters, that it’s better to find something worth believing in through personal search and inquiry than to blindly accept what someone tells you to believe, and that there is equal value in all forms of belief.  Believe what feels right — whether that’s Christian or Wiccan or Muslim or atheist or agnostic, whatever feels right to you — and respect the rights of others to believe what they want, and in general, just try to be nice to everyone.

I believe it’s Sikhism that describes all the religions of the world as rivers flowing into a single ocean.

But essentially, yes, I was raised in a weird, liberal heathen church, and those ideas have stayed with me, and I still consider myself to be a UU.  There is, however, no Unitarian Universalist church in town here.

Some years ago, my mother began attending a very liberal Anglican church, and I occasionally accompanied her for no real reason I could put my finger on.  She still occasionally goes, although she expresses a little bit of frustration with the sheer archaism of the language used, that while it’s one (and entirely valid, don’t get me wrong) way of expressing and attempt to understanding the higher forces in the universe, which we as human beings and mortals can never truly grasp, it’s a way that is firmly rooted in language and thought processes that are thousands of years old, too, and my mother finds that frustrating.  I do too, to be honest.  But when she started going, she was going through a very difficult time, and needed that spiritual support in her life, and this church, for all the things she found difficult about it, was a good fit.  And while the minister that made that church so unique and special has since retired, my mother still goes occasionally and volunteers in the kitchen.  She sees this, she says, as her way of paying the community back for what the church was when she needed it.

I helped out in the kitchen.  I had a blast.  Two weeks ago I would have been eaten up with anxiety and found the entire experience agonising and unbearable, but I bounced around and chatted and grinned and enjoyed myself while I took over various duties.  I told Mom I’d like to go back when she volunteers in the kitchen, because it was enjoyable, it was something that got me out of the house.

I saw, briefly, the now-retired former minister of the church.  I see him occasionally, and he was at least tangentially aware of my last terrible breakdown, five years ago, and he is a wonderful person who is still, even retired, deeply involved in community outreach.  When my mother and her girlfriend got married a year and a half ago, he insisted on doing the ceremony.

He asked me how I was doing.

I said, honestly, that I was doing a lot better than I had been doing in a long time.

“Oh?” he asked, in that way people do when they want you to explain further.

“Well… I’m in the process of being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.”  He’s an easy person to talk to, one of the reasons he was always such a wonderful minister, and I was not in the least hesitant telling him this.

He was sympathetic, frowning a little.  “And how’s that going?”

“Well, it’s like… things are getting better, and it’s good to know… that I can… that I’m not…”  And here, I completely faltered, at a loss as to how to put into brief words what it was like to suddenly have a working brain that doesn’t cripple itself with unnecessary anxiety.

“Fucked up?” he supplied, straight-faced.

“Yes,” I laughed.  “That.”