Shelley Lei

Stories of Generosity: Shelley

I found All Saints through Yelp.

My mother grew up in a very strict sect of the Seventh Day Adventists. Because of this, she shied away from church life after she left home to go to college. My father, born in China, grew up Buddhist. Until I was six, we were semi-regular practicing Buddhists. After we moved away from the nearest temple, we stopped practicing and I grew up in a secular household. We discussed the philosophy of and debated the merits of various religions, but did not actively have faith in any one religion.

During college, I took a variety of religious studies classes, but that was as far as it went. Whenever I would visit a church, I always felt like an outsider. Being half black and half Chinese, I already feel like enough of an outsider when people come up to me and ask: “What are you?” I identify as the alien of the family since, while both sides of my family love me, neither side thinks that I am “enough like them.”

Now, let’s get back to when All Saints entered my story. I have had the great fortune to find a man whom I love and who loves me. We are engaged to get married next March. We decided that marriage is not something to move into lightly and that we would like to get premarital counseling. The first thing I did was to Google premarital counseling and saw that most premarital counseling is given at churches, so I decided to Yelp “churches near me.” At the time of my search last year, All Saints was at the top of the list as the highest rated church with the most ratings. After visiting the websites of other Pasadena churches, I noticed All Saints was different from the others, emphasizing community and acceptance. I streamed some services, I downloaded the liturgy, and I noticed that All Saints had something called a “New Member Class.”

The online text seemed promising and welcoming, so I attended the New Member Class. I was blown away with a wonderful leader and a fantastic small group. Without fear of judgment, I was truly welcomed into the class and, as clichéd and as trite as it may sound, I felt like I was home. Never in my life had a community welcomed me with open arms. All Saints did not want me to be more of anything; they just wanted me for me. As a person who did not grow up in a religion, and who had always felt like an outsider every time I tried, I cried tears of joy, tears of pain melting away, and tears of relief. After completing the New Member’s Class I was baptized at All Saints. My parents were amazed at how much love and support was in the church that day as people I had never met came up to congratulate me.

Since being baptized, I have joined the Giving Committee and become a pledging member. For me giving to All Saints with my time and my money is a way to say thank you for taking a lonely soul and introducing her to a community of open minds, open arms and open hearts. At All Saints I no longer feel like an outsider looking in. I feel like a true member of the community. I know that the money I pledge to All Saints isn’t going to waste. It’s going to continue the wonderful programs and ministries that I take part in. I give so that my pledge will help another lonely person on their journey of faith find their way to one of our New Member Classes and experience the joy that come with being understood.

I consider All Saints an extension of my family. With every gift I make to fulfill my pledge, I am affirming my commitment to my family.

— Shelley Lei

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