Dumbarton has, and will always be, a church for the people who need it. As a trans kid, I will always be glad that it was there for me.
Religion has always been a familiar subject, a comfortable mainstay of my childhood. While my mother and father have different faith backgrounds, they agreed to expose me to faith, allow me to experience weekly church attendance and activities, but decided not to baptize me until I could make the decision for myself.
My mom was raised as a Methodist, so I went with her to various Methodist churches in the area. But every few years, it seemed, we’d tire of the current church, and move on to someplace new. It was the church politics, maybe, or the changing of pastors, or even simply a feeling as though something was missing. That even though we went to church, would sing the hymns and read the scripture, it felt more like going through the motions. So, after trying a few different churches, when I was about seven years old, we were invited to Dumbarton UMC to attend the baptism for the daughter of a family friend. My mother felt that something about Dumbarton was special, and it warranted another visit. So we went back. It was one of the better choices we’d ever make.
Sometimes, with certain things, you just know. There’s a sense of belonging, a little click, somewhere in the back of your mind, and everything feels as though it’s fallen into place. For the past nine years, we’ve been attending Dumbarton, and we’ve never looked back. From the very beginning, it was clear that this was the church for us. Because the one thing that has always been found wanting from our various churches has been a community.
Community will always be important. No matter who you are, you will always seek connection and support from the people around you. And religion is a place to nurture that connection, to feel as though you are cared for and loved by something greater than yourself, and that the act of loving is inherently holy. Churches, by virtue of creation, preserve the space for divinity to exist in the context of kindness. But many churches fall short of this ideal, much as they may not see it (or may wish not to). Through one way or another, one group or another finds themselves left out of a community, barred from the simple act of loving and being loved. Any person, any collective, will always find themselves imperfect, but Dumbarton will always do its best to grow, and to learn, and to accept all people, with all the fierceness and warmth that they have.
This is a congregation that takes on the responsibilities of being Methodists in the fullest and most whole sense of the word. There is an active desire, an active choice, to care for every single person who steps through the heavy lavender-colored doors, to the fullest of their ability. It is not conditional, it does not waver, and it certainly is not shy. Dumbarton chooses, every day, to be a community, and to keep that community there, for all who need it. It’s a small church, but the members do all that they can to learn, to understand, to be better and do better, and most certainly, to love.
As a child who has grown up in this church, Dumbarton has loved me from the ages of seven to 16. They have loved me as I was baptized, promised to support me and to nurture me. When, at the age of 10, I decided that Christianity was not for me, I was continually welcomed with wide-open arms. Through the years, I have explored my own identity, and what better a space to do so in a space that was not just accepting, but delighted that I was asking questions, that I was learning more about myself. As an agnostic nonbinary lesbian, the place where I have always been so wholly accepted has been the one that most people would not guess.
Navigating Christianity as a gay or trans person will always be difficult, and it can leave many people struggling to find a church that truly feels like home to them. But Dumbarton UMC feels like a church that loves me for all that I am, and I think that’s all that anyone could ask for.
Adam Michelman is a high school sophomore from Alexandria, Va., and this is their first contribution to the Blade.