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In 2014, I was weary of church. Faith was almost non-existent, depression had set in. Every time I went to church, I felt like, “Can I go home now?” And then some people popped off at me:

“Depression is God’s will,” they told me.

“Marathon running is a sin,” they said.

“Oh, you doubt any of this? SHAME ON YOU!”

On it went. So I walked away, swearing I was done. As 2016 became 2017, I was confident that I would never set foot in a church again, except for a wedding or a funeral which I might occasionally attend.

Then I came out of the closet as bisexual and transgender, taking the name Amber Marie. People in that church were upset about that, too. Lines of communication dried up. I was told I was confused. My aunt disowned me via a brutal text message, calling me “different,” telling me with whom I should have sex, telling me, “You need to find God.” On it went, until she closed with “the only family I have are my kids and my grand kids,” cutting me out of the family. I was at work when I read this, and I wanted to cry right then and there.

If I wasn’t done with God before, I was definitely done right then.

The hurt set in. But in November 2017, I walked into Out On the Lakeshore, Holland’s LGBT community center. I met Robbie Schorle and Brother Francis, two Episcopalians, and they tell me all about this denomination. At this point, all I can think is, “I’m in a good place.”

Two weeks later, Rev. Jen has coverage duty at Out On the Lakeshore. We talk. Jen can tell I’ve been hurt by the church, by my aunt, by my best friend, etc… and she just listens. So I think maybe church isn’t such a bad thing.

New Year’s Eve, I attend Grace for the first time. I just observed.  I liked the “order of things,” style of worship. Everyone was super nice.

In subsequent visits, people wanted to know my name and my story. Coming out to Dennis, Debbie, Elizabeth, etc, was never easier. Dennis, a retired pastor, told me “all are welcome at the table.” Janet gave me clothing advice, such as “hands up, sweater down.”

I am sure I’ll join at some point, as well as receive communion. Soon. You are watching me as I go through a “second puberty,” watching as I mature once more, watching as I become the person I am meant to be.

Can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Submitted by: Amber Marie Cowles