Reconciling Faith & Family: Tim’s Story

As we celebrate Pride Month and get ready for our Love Wins Movie Night: For the Bible Tells Me So (this Thursday, June 23 at 6:30 PM in the Guild Hall), we’re inviting members of Christ Church Cranbrook to share how they’ve navigated questions of faith and family and their identity.  If you’d like to share yours, email Fr. Chris at charris@christchurchcranbrook.org  


By Tim Smalarz

Discovering who God created you to be can be exciting, challenging, and scary. For me it was a combination of all three, knowing that I was gay. From my religious upbringing, as a Roman Catholic, I was taught that this was wrong both morally and spiritually. Being a teenager in the mid to late 1970s was not a particularly good time to announce this to anyone, especially my parents, who were very devout in their faith. I continued to attend mass, although I often wondered why. When I was in my early 20s, I remember a specific sermon when we were told that being enlightened was not a good thing. For some reason that just hit me the wrong way, and I could no longer be a part of the Roman Catholic Church.

The next ten years proved to be very dark and lonely for me. Despite being told repeatedly that I was not worthy of God’s love, I knew that I was, although doubts crept in from time to time. At a certain point, I realized that I needed some guidance to come to terms with my sexual identity. I had the good fortune of being referred to a therapist, who specialized in this practice. With her guidance and knowledge and a lot of hard work on my part, I was eventually comfortable to get out in the world to be my true authentic self. If it was not for her, it’s very scary to think about what would have happened to me.

In time I got involved with the LGBTQ+ community which allowed me to become active and make friendships that still have today. But something was still missing. After not having any sort of religious affiliation for almost twenty years, a friend told me about the Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit, a denomination that predominantly serves the spiritual needs of the LGBTQ+ community.  Here I discovered that I can be gay and know that God loves me, unconditionally. During this time, I eventually came out to my parents. Turns out they had suspected as much already, but said it was up to me to tell them. They were not very enthused about this, but did not reject me, which I thought they would. Still, I was hoping for more of a positive response. As time went by and through many conversations, a more positive feeling developed. I told them about the church I was attending, and they were glad that I found a church that I was comfortable with, but still hoping that I would return to the Roman Catholic Church. They eventually met Jon, who would one day become my husband. They were reluctant to meet him for fear that they would not be important to me anymore.

The years went on and Jon just became one of the family. Although, when we told my parents we were getting married, negativity crept in. They said they could not come to the religious ceremony, but were willing to come to the reception. I was disappointed about them not attending the ceremony, but glad they would be at the reception.

But Holy Spirit apparently had other plans.

Fifteen minutes before the ceremony started, to my surprise and everyone else in attendance, they showed up at our house where the ceremony was taking place. Jon and I were in tears, as we had no advance notice that they were coming to the ceremony. My parents coming, despite their Roman Catholic faith telling them they should stay away, was the best and most memorable gift they’ve ever given me.

A year later, my Mom passed away. I am so grateful to God that she was able to witness this. After she died, I felt something pulling me back to my religious upbringing. Knowing that I could never return to the Roman Catholic Church, Jon and I discovered the Episcopal Church, specifically Christ Church Cranbrook. Here we have found a combination of both the Roman Catholic Church (although much more excepting) and the Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit, for which we are both very pleased. In the past year, my Dad passed away. In looking back, I would say that my faith in God never totally left me. I did have my doubts though. I felt God has put me on this journey of faith, from the time I was a teenager up to now, to know that I am a beloved child of God, exactly the way I was created to be. To be where I am today, after where I started, is a true miracle of faith. When I hear anyone say that LGBTQ+ individuals are not accepted by God, I am reminded of when Jesus said, today I give you a new commandment, to love one another, as I have loved you. In my mind, that means we are all beloved by God, no exceptions. Somewhere in heaven, I feel my parents’ love shining down on me. LOVE WINS! IT ALWAYS DOES!!

Love Wins is the LGBTQ+ Friends & Family ministry at Christ Church Cranbrook.  If you would like to join our mailing list for future events, contact Tim Smalarz tzsports6@comcast.net

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