Consider yourself warned.

Today the Church Secretaries Union will be meeting at the mall. I am trying to spend less money, so the mall seemed an obvious choice of locations. One thing I maybe haven’t told you is the big reason for my relationship with Melissa. We both got kicked out of the same church some time back.

Okay. I exaggerate. She was actually excommunicated. Excommunicated! I was merely made to feel terribly unwelcome. I really dug this church when I first went there. It was ridiculously intellectually vigorous. I took notes so I could wikipedia things said during the sermon when I got home. All the hymns we sang were hymns written in the seventeenth or eighteenth century and were really hard to sing. The first Sunday I went there, an old man told me a joke about Phillip Melancthon I wish I could now remember. I made friends with the church’s organist and his graphic designer wife and their awesome, autistic son who liked to shout boobs! Jesus! and coloring! with no provocation. They were Democrats and basketball fans and really well-read. They moved to Kansas a few months after I started attending.

A few months after that I realized that I was the only woman, other than my graphic designer friend, I’d ever seen wearing pants. And then I was told I’d have to help in the nursery. Not asked, mind you, but told. They were big on volunteerism, which I totally support. But the only sort of volunteering they found me suited for was the care of babies. I found that problematic. I can literally count on one hand the number of diapers I’ve changed in my life. I told them I wouldn’t be able to do that, but I’d be happy to help in some other way. The pastor pursed his creepy, lipless mouth and didn’t say anything.

I’m shy and a little lazy and I really liked Melissa, so I hung around this strange little church. Then I went to dinner with the whole gang from church one Sunday. Melissa wasn’t there. And no one spoke one word to me the whole time. The next week a girl I thought was my friend told me I dressed like a slut and that was why her husband couldn’t look away from my boobs. I’d just thought he was an asshole and, incidentally, a racist. My mistake. Turtleneck sweaters: the preferred clothing of truckstop hookers.

Like nineties Christian comedian Mark Lowery, I named my bed the Word and elected to spend my Sundays there instead. If I hadn’t seen all these sides of Christians and the church before–thanks, Christian College!–that whole experience probably would’ve done bad things to me. But I just rolled my eyes and went on with my life.

Melissa left less than a month later. She and her fiance Ian were both members of this church and wanted to be married. He has hemophilia and, thanks to an 80s blood transfusion, Hep C. His health insurance is complicated, tenuous, and would somehow become more tenuous and complicated if he were to marry. They wanted to get church married but not legally married, so she could live with and care for him during what surely must be the two or three or four years he has left to live. The church is opposed to living in sin, as they insisted on calling it. Melissa and Ian left the church. But the church went through excommunication proceedings anyway, for spite, because Melissa and Ian got married without them.

I find their whole story extremely… well, romantic. And I cannot consider the church’s behavior anything but reprehensible.

It’s probably not very holy of me or Melissa to get together and talk shit about this church and the churches where we work now. But we do that.

And we talk about the boys I like and the boys she used to go out with when she was younger and wilder. We talk about cooking and clothes and places we’d like to travel. We don’t have tons in common. I know she has friends who are her age and who offer kindness and emotional support during her difficult times. I am, as best as I can tell, her young and bitchy and unsupportive friend who likes daytime drinking. I like that designation. We never talk about what it’s like to watch your husband die or your career die, and I suspect it’s good for us both.

I like the Church Secretaries Union.

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