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Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and weddingNorthern Mississippi is not my usual haunt and Southern Baptists not my typical crowd but on Friday 12/21, that high holy day for Pagans, Wiccans and Druids who celebrate  god Sol Invictus on his winter solstice, and again on Saturday 12/22, I did just that as I revisited Corinth, Mississippi’s Unity Baptist Church for another chapter in my little sister’s life. My sister Linda’s daughter Marisa transformed on Saturday when she discarded her cocoon name of Laudadio and embraced her new butterfly surname of Weaver. I, along with hundreds of others in Unity’s faith community, were privileged to witness the  bestowing of surname Weaver upon my tiny niece by her towering groom Josiah.

Mr. Josiah Weaver and bride Marisa, a lovely, loving young couple if ever there was one, were the impetus for my return to Unity, a church I had previously only visited under the most grievous of circumstances. Sister Linda and her husband Paolo unexpectedly and without prior warning lost their young, apparently healthy daughter Annalisa in April 2016 when the forever fifteen year-old died of massive heart failure.

In the very throws of spring’s promise I had witnessed Pastor Ronnie Barefield and his congregants respond and uplift the Laudadios under the worst of circumstance but on Saturday the twenty-second, under the cold, oblique rays of sol on the first full day of winter, I saw the joyful aspects of Unity as they rejoiced during a winter celebration of life on Earth versus a spring commemoration of a soul ripped from mortal means of communication. The contrasts were many, the underlying spirit of love and support omnipresent for both.

Both the Kenels and Laudadios sprang from Catholic founts and both families have had tectonic plate shifts concerning faith in our post mid-Twentieth Century world. Both my big sister Sue and little sister Linda made conscious choices to break from the church of their childhood and young adulthood and embrace Evangelical Fundamentalist faiths,  Sue following after her husband Bryan’s pillar of piety prior to their marriage and Linda taking the steps toward conversion with her Catholic reared spouse Paolo when he found that Catholicism, the faith of his fathers’, was not the holy faith he could embrace and feel embraced by.

My eldest sibling Steve still counts himself Catholic while Sue’s fifteen-minute-older twin Greg and I have drifted away from any formal or defined faith and float in that vast, undefined limbo of, “Spiritual, not religious,” which defines an ever growing crowd of secularists who do not denounce the existence of a higher power but who find claims concerning certainty of God and Her/His/Its nature problematic. “Amorphous” best describes my view on god and secular humanist my world view, but just as it doesn’t take a bird of a feather to see that another flock is flying high this black sheep is always impressed with Unity’s well, unity and its desire to bring me into the fold. It ain’t gonna happen, but the offer’s always there and always appreciated.

We Kenel/Laudadio/Davis siblings have not a truce, but a peace accord, a peace that can be trying for all. Many people are offended when folks in the Faith Community evangelize or proselytize to them but I view religious solicitations as they are intended, loving, open-armed invites into a world of ever lasting love and life; just because their shoes pinch my feet that doesn’t mean I need to reject harshly their offer of sole support, just firmly, and when I am surrounded by the mass of Unity I try to watch what I say, not to be duplicitous, but rather so as not to offended the hospitality of the gracious people who love and support one another in the name of Jesus Christ.

My interactions at Unity are not that different than when we other-thinking sisters and brothers are together, save with my siblings I am open concerning my views on faith, hope and love and accept and embrace that we do not have to view the world from the same pew to get along with and love each other. The last thing I ever want to be is a man who can only love reflections of myself or a person who views other as evil; if I did I could be at war with the very siblings that I love, the ones who love me back both in spite of and because of my differences to them. The world has enough division, what we need’s a bit more unity because united we stand and we don’t all have to be the same to love and support one another.

Mazel tov to the bride and groom!