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Journey to Unconditional Love

Dina Johnson | Friday Mar 25th, 2022
Dina Johnson

As I sit to write this blog (at the last minute because I forgot) I wondered what might speak to someone.  What does someone need to hear?  How can I convey through my experiences the unconditional love that I have been privileged to experience in my life?  I’m about to tell you the story of how Joy and I were blessed to find that unconditional love here at Community United Church.

Joy and I began our relationship in 2003.  We met at a retreat in 2001 and I started attending the church she had attended in 2002.   Joy was in charge of Sunday School and I was the choir director.  We attended a United Methodist Church at that time and we spent a lot of time together around planning for the kids and music.  We both attended with our families:  Joy and her husband and two boys – Me with my husband and daughter and son. 

It was a rough time for me.  My relationship with my now ex-husband was a strenuous one and had been for some time.   We suffered financially and emotionally.  I had always had a strong faith.  I prayed that we would all be able to find a spiritual connection.  I prayed he would find a good friend and I prayed that I would find someone to connect with, someone who had a strong faith, someone who enjoyed life and had the zest to dream.  We found that.  Our families became friends.   We spent a lot of time together.  As we both look back, we realize there isn’t anything we could do about falling in love.   There’s a saying that states:  “Meeting you was fate.   Becoming your friend was a choice.  Falling in love with you I had no control over.”   This is truer than true.  

I had prayed very specifically that I needed a special connection.   I needed to feel safe.   I needed to feel loved.   I needed my kids to be secure and happy.  God surprised me!   He gave me Joy.   Well as you can imagine once we were together it was quite a scandal.   Our story is a long one and should you ever want to hear it in its entirety– I am always glad to tell it.   I will spare you some of the details of the heart ache we suffered along the way and the poor treatment we received from people we thought to be friends. 

The shortened version is that we were told not to come back to church, we moved in with the kids in October, and we had no place to worship.  That was a very difficult part for both of us.  In May of 2004 we went to NYC for a long weekend and we went to the Metropolitan Community Church for worship that Sunday morning.  It was a great experience.  We wept during communion where you take the sacrament as a couple and then an elder or pastor pray with you.  We heard that day that God loves us unconditionally.   It was totally something we needed to hear.   We looked closer to home for a MCC church but the closest one was in Rochester, New York.   We made that our church home for some time traveling 3 hours up and back to be able to worship with no judgment.   There were no stares and we were welcomed with open arms.   In fact, that was the name of the church – Open Arms MCC.   

Skip ahead a few years and God led us to Erie, Pa.  It was in 2013 when Joy had been working in Erie and traveling back to Jamestown in every kind of weather that we decided with the kids in college, we could make a move.   The one thing that we both wanted desperately was to find a church where we could worship and be a part of regularly.  We were blessed to find Community United Church and make it our home.  God has a plan.   We must believe that.   If you tell God YOUR plans – God just laughs.  Little did we know that we would be in a church that was more like family.   Little did Joy know she would be called to become a Pastor.  CUC is our home and our heart.   We have such great friends here.  We have friends that have become family.   We are able to worship a God who loves each and everyone of us unconditionally wherever we are on life’s journey.  We are truly blessed.

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