by Anne Chadburn, Community Member
When you are a twenty-something transplant in a big city, in this case San Francisco, holidays are a little different. Your friends become your substitute family and plans are put in to effect to try and recreate traditions away from home. My friends and I called these “Orphan Holidays.”
In the Spring of 2000, I spent Easter away from my family for the first time. Food, naturally, was an important part of the discussion as was making sure there were ample supplies for mimosas. We decided whose apartment, at what time, and Orphan Easter 2000 was on.
There was one more thing, though. I had heard there was an amazing gospel choir at Glide Memorial Methodist Church and had been itching to check it out. I brought up the idea of going to GLIDE to my friends with some hesitancy, not knowing what sort of reaction I would get. We weren’t exactly a church-going group, and while I found my world religion class fascinating, weddings and funerals were the extent of my formal religious experience. It’s a new-age cliché, but I considered myself spiritual, not religious. To my surprise, everyone was into the idea, and so it was that five agnostic transplants went to church on Easter Sunday. I thought I was going to church to hear good music, what I got was a spiritual epiphany.
GLIDE describes itself as “radically inclusive,” and that was exactly what I witnessed. The homeless sat next to ladies in their Easter finest. Gay couples and their children held hands with other families of a more traditional sort. It was a crowd as diverse as the city itself. The warmth with which everyone greeted each other, even complete strangers, was wonderfully refreshing. I couldn’t fathom this sort of thing happening in conservative Orange County where I grew up. Then the GLIDE Ensemble filed in and began to sing. I was immediately and completely overwhelmed with what I can only call Love. The voices together were so powerful and inspiring that I was moved to tears. I felt silly until I realized that I wasn’t the only one. Several of my friends and a number of other church goers were also overcome with emotion. That powerful music played on for over an hour, and then the Reverend Cecil Williams spoke.
For the next fifteen minutes, I listened to a reverend in a Methodist church preach about new beginnings, and not just for Christians. Rev. Cecil spoke about how all religions have new beginnings. He spoke of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism too. On Easter Sunday! It was in that church, with all those people that I witnessed God for the first time. I was overjoyed in the most significant of ways, and it is a feeling I have carried with me ever since.
I have taken friends and family to GLIDE, and though I no longer live in San Francisco I make it a point to attend their Sunday Celebration when in town visiting. It is a place full of love and compassion, and I will be forever grateful for my experience there.
You can view Anne’s original blog post on Yahoo! Voices.