A Lesbian Social Worker, I Found God In A Nursing Home
Communion as quiet queer resistance
I used to be a social worker who’d travel to meet with nursing home residents all across Pennsylvania.
One day, I stopped by a Christian nursing home to see a client. It was a routine visit. As I pulled into a parking space, communion was on my mind. I remembered musing on how strange the tradition is — almost cannibalistic, perhaps sensual — yet I’ve always felt a part of something bigger than myself when I participated. I recalled what it was like taking communion as a kid; all the warm-and-fuzzy butterflies that sent spiritual shockwaves across my body when I heard those sweet words, “The Body of Christ, broken for you.”
I thought of other aspects of Christianity I like. “I don’t hate everything,” I argued with myself. Of course, every brain needs a devil’s advocate. My Cynical Side retorted: “But what if your enjoyment of these things is naively rooted in nostalgic fantasies of the past? Delusions crafted by rose-tinted glasses?”
My inner monologue quickly came to a resolution: Nah. They can’t be. My enjoyment’s real. This stuff is strangely still a central part of my being, however weird and buried under layers of cynicism. When it comes to religion, I have built an indestructible cobblestone fortress around my distrustful heart — but there is still a tiny lit room within its walls that is secretly beaming with charismatic life and color. Deep down, my soul is mushy pink Play-doh for God.
My brain settled back down to Planet Earth, where I was suddenly a professional walking into a nursing home. This one always felt… off. The hallways were almost clinical, suffocating. Spiritually empty. They only heightened my astute awareness of how my version of Christianity felt diametrically opposed to theirs. Not in the pseudo-hipster, aspiring-counter-cultural-evangelical-pastor-in-skinny-jeans kind of way.
In a different kind of way.
I always felt Otherness in my bones as I walked past their paintings and trite Bible verses and kitschy crosses adorning their walls. It doesn’t matter how much we profess the same God. If they knew my story — including my sexuality — the people who hung up these decorations would believe I’m deserving of eternal posthumous torment. These superficial faith displays were only for “insiders”… not Queer people like me. I carried that visceral acknowledgement in my veins with every casual step I took toward a client’s door.
It’s funny. I remembered thinking about how walking into these spaces once made me feel safe. Seen. Known. But now? Now they leave me with a sense of inner conflict, of grief. I cannot walk in these spaces without feeling isolating energy swirling around me in the air I breathe. Their sect’s statement about homosexuality might as well have been written on the walls.
I met with my client. It was quick; they left the room to meet with someone else. As I’m picking up my things about to leave, a staff member walks in. To my confused surprise — she asked if I wanted communion.
It took me a second to form a coherent answer. I couldn’t believe it.
Wasn’t I just thinking about this on my way in here?
I’ve never been asked this here before.
How often do they do this?
What were the damn chances?
“Yes,” I breathed.
She prayed a blessing over me, murmured some unfortunate words about how I’m undeserving of Christ’s love, and I ate it.
That “yes” I uttered without a second thought felt like more than just a “yes” to her question, however. It was one syllable loaded with a galaxy’s worth of statements behind it.
It was a “yes” that also meant “fuck yes, I belong.”
It was a “yes, you cannot take this away from me.”
“Yes, I am deserving of Christ’s love.”
Taking communion in that moment — while assuming with reasonable confidence what her theological framework might be — was my quiet act of resistance.
It wasn’t big or flashy. Not many people witnessed it. Those who were around me? They didn’t even know who I truly was. But in that moment, I did something that people around the world might not want someone like me to do. In fact: What I was taught in sermons people like me shouldn’t do.
I wasn’t worthy of this, they’d think.
I didn’t deserve this, they’d assume.
I’m going to Hell, they’d believe.
“Guess what? I fucking ate it,” my actions replied to those silent voices.
As a twice-married-lesbian, I know many fellow Christians of the conservative ilk view me as a heathen, a backslider, a sinner, an adultress, unnatural, wicked, an abomination, “disordered,” and a slew of other soundbite buzzwords crafted from poorly translated ancient texts composed by misfits in long-gone civilizations.
But in that room, I felt like there was a message for me. Sure, I believe in coincidences and serendipity, but my cobblestone heart-fortress? It still believes in Spirit — the Spirit who intercedes through “wordless groans.” That day, my wordless groans were directed towards exclusion. Injustice. Oppression. Unwritten writing on walls.
And Spirit, through the most hilarious circumstances only She can conjure, responded with an emphatic “You belong, bitch.” That’s what it felt like: Like the Divine was telling me that I’m already in, so I need to get over these people’s bullshit. Who are they to say who I am, anyway?
After all, I’m such a child of God, that God made them feed me communion to prove a point.
It’s been awhile since this happened. But it’s one of several stories that causes my charismatic heart-room to reawaken with life and color. My cobblestone fortress is melting away — slowly — with every little spiritual kiss of serendipity.
I dare to believe in a God that is better than their wildest dreams.
I dare to claim my space.
Fuck yes, I belong.
In the words of Maya Angelou,
“You are only free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all.”