Rachelle Mee-Chapman: Becoming Religish


They told me I was a sinner from the time I took my first breath.
They told me God knit me together in my mother’s womb — made me in his image.

They told me my body was dangerous and could tempt my “brothers” to sin.
They told me I was fearfully and wonderful made.

They told me I should strive to be like Jesus – divine, perfect in every way.
They told me this was impossible.

They told me God loved me unconditionally.
They told me I might end up in hell.

They told me this. They passed it down to me as heritage.

They gave me other things, it’s true. Lovely things.

A circle of friends who cared for each other in times of trial.
The beauty of rhythm and ritual.
Ceremonies that christened me with belonging, confirmed me as part of community, blessed me to go forth.

But in the midst of that beauty, these conflicting messages wounded me. They shamed me into a corner where I held myself small and tight, so I wouldn’t be wounded further still. They silenced my roar.

The most tragic part of this tale, is that I told people these things too. My peers passed them between us, trying to convince ourselves of their merit. I spoke them from the pulpit. My one comforting thought is that I did so with less conviction and with soft caveats. Because already, I was trying to find my way out, creating an exit strategy –to where, I did not know.

Then my children were born. Two girls.
Glowing with divinity.
Fearfully and wonderfully made.
Beautiful in every way.
Loved unconditionally.

I can still recall the ferocity that rose up in me when they started saying unworthy things to my children. I refused to pass on that part of my heritage. Every time the dark sentence came up, I raised the counter argument. Every time the judgement came down like a blow, I parried. I debated and argued. Explained and informed. I roared.

Eventually, after a lifetime in the church and fifteen years of service at one particularly beloved church — the place that witnessed my marriage, christened my children, ordained me to ministry—I had to say goodbye.

I remember the day so clearly. The men were saying once again that they didn’t know if women should be leaders. I, a pastor and a leader, was once again trying to speak in measured turns, explaining why – explaining equity. My voice was shaking –not with fear but with anger. My roar was leaking out between the constants, growling around the vowels.

After the session, my mentor took me aside. “Rachelle,” she said, “This is not going to change as much as you want it to in your lifetime. You have to decide. Are you called to stay in and reform. Or to leave and heal the women who have already had to flee.”

Like a coin dropping into a jukebox. Like the last tumbler sliding to unlock a safe. I knew the answer.

Roar so the others can find you.
So we can form our own pride.

And so I did. Not all at once. But over the next three years, I left – the faith of my fathers, my community, my livelihood, the work of teaching and caring and shaping that I loved. I went to the very edge of the map, where I found other survivors and we reformed.

We spoke our truths.
We claimed our voice.
We stood in our own power.

I discovered another branch of my heritage – the one where women deny their parents, and find healing power in the earth, and get called witches. I discovered a new community, full of like-minded souls, also seeking, also reconstructing from curated parts of the old and self-formed bits of the new. I built (am building) a new livelihood as a caregiver to creative souls.

Now my roar isn’t one born out of pain or fear. It is not rooted in frustration or desperation.

Now my roar is a song.

“You can create right-fit spiritual practices for yourself and your family,” I chant. “You can have a soulful path that is rooted in your past, authentic to who you are today, and creative – beautifully creative – enough to grow with you.” I harmonize along many paths with the words, “You can become religish.”

I don’t know what held you tight and silent in your youth. It may not have been religion. But this culture, this world we live in—it has a lot of silencers.

So my blessing for you today, friend, is this

May your vocal chords be untangled
May they become aligned with the truths
that were born in you,

May you strum them with hands
that know the way
of making,
and healing.

May you knit together the tenor
and the hum,
the pitch and the
of the things you value most

And may you pass them like Appalachian hymns
like fireside rounds
like traveling songs

to your peers, and
your offspring,
and your sisters.

May yourroar.
May you roar.
May you roar.

Amen? (Amen.)


rachelle-mee-chapmanRachelle Mee-Chapman is a former evangelical minister who left religion to help women find right-fit selfcare and soulcare practices for themselves and their families. She is the author of Religish: Soulful living in a spiritual but not religious world, and is the host of Flock, a free online soulcare community for women. You can find her at rachellemeechapman.com.



Poet, Promptress, and Coach providing fierce encouragement for writing + life and gentle creative guidance for writers all over the world.

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