By Cassie Colby | email@example.com
Though by appearance I fit in with an African-American church congregation, I’m an outsider in faith.
Walking into First Baptist Church in Lincolnville, I felt like I was walking into an important interview.
I’ve walked past First Baptist many times, but mostly after attending house parties freshman year. It was never intimidating before, but on that day I felt nervous. This feeling consumed me because I knew how disconnected I was from the religion the one my ancestors identified with.
I was born into Buddhism. Both of my parents are Buddhists, even though they identified with other religions previously. Since elementary school, I have been surrounded by different religions and cultures, but none have influenced me to change who I am. Although it may make me an outsider, I enjoy being different. Through being submersed in various religions, I take pride in comparing and contrasting the unfamiliar against my own beliefs.
Immersing myself in the unfamiliar has been a reoccurring theme in my life. From kindergarten to eighth grade I became very familiar with Judaism and after graduating from eighth grade I turned in my dreidel for a Bible. Catholic Mass was a new experience; I had always been curious how communion wafers taste. Attending a southern baptist church in a town that I now called home was a new adventure.
As I sat in the second row from the back, I listened to the angelic singing of the choir and watched men, women and children dressed in their Sunday best take their usual seats.
It was warm in the church, but not stuffy. The smell of perfume and old wood created nostalgia for something I never knew. Slowly, I began feeling comfortable.
I could feel the connections between each person in the room and how happy everyone was to be there. After standing for a while, listening to Pastor Michael J. McConnell, I flipped through the pages of the program that was handed out in the beginning.
“Are there any visitors? Please stand up. We would like to welcome you.”
I cautiously stood up next to my friend who accompanied me; visitors seated in front of me introduced themselves. I began panicking. “What am I going to say?” I thought to myself. I was up next.
“My name is Cassie Colby. I’m a student at Flagler College and I’m here to visit your church.”
It was over before I knew it. No lightning struck me; nothing bad happened. I received smiles instead. After all the visitors introduced themselves, the pastor formally welcomed us and thanked us for attending.
When I sat back down, I zoned out and began thinking that I was being too judgmental. Up until that moment, I had kept my arms wrapped around one another to cover up my tattoos. I also kept my head down to hide my facial piercings.
I was nervous that they were going to judge me, but in turn, I was judging them as well. In Buddhism, like other religions, we are taught to not place judgment on people or even those viewed by society as outsiders.
The pastor’s message, surprisingly, resonated with me. He kept repeating, “flawed but forgiven.” Throughout his proclamation of the gospel, I listened to his words and translated them into things that I’ve heard before in my own religion. Although I practice an eastern religion, the messages remain the same.
The choir began singing and I clapped along with the rhythm. Their voices, full of soul and passion, filled the room. In all my experiences with other religions, I have never felt so comfortable.
I felt calm and content during Sunday service at a Southern Baptist church. Before attending the service, I was told that it would last for what seemed like forever. To my surprise, I was sad when it was over. I was there for an hour and a half; I could’ve stayed for another half hour.
I’m a firm believer in things happening for a reason. This event occurred so I could appreciate something my ancestors held on to for stability in their continuously changing lives.