A Church Where We Are More Than Just Queer

The first time we went to an accepting church, it was only curiosity and sheer will-power that got me there.

I felt anxious at even the thought of going to a building of people gathered over belief in anything, and sitting through a service and chatting with people afterwards. I knew why I wanted to go. I had never been to visit an accepting congregation, and I knew they existed and I wanted to see proof. Also, our children had been used to attending church three times a week in the last few years, and I wanted our move to go as smoothly as possible for them, so we looked up an accepting church in our area and decided to go.

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On the drive there, Haley and I snap at each other about this or that. When we pull into the parking lot and turn off the car, I can feel the anxiety practically rolling off of her. Almost at the same time, we both take a deep breath. I reach over to take her hand and think out loud, “This is going to be OK. We are just trying this out. Neither of us has to do anything but walk in and walk out. If they are horrible to us, we never have to come back.” We unbuckle the kids from their seats and head for the door. After wandering up and down a few hallways, we are accosted by a sweet older lady who cheerfully introduces herself and walks us downstairs to the nursery room, and then back upstairs to the sanctuary. The kids settle into building block towers and sliding down the small slide and we sit in a pew for the service.

I read through the bulletin and find that the list of church leaders is evenly split between males and females, something I have never seen before. I remember all the stuff I heard about women ruling the liberal church, and how men are emasculated when women step out of their proper place. I sneak a look around the room, there are just as many men as there are women sitting in the pews, and they seem to be happy to be there.

A man plays the piano softly, a candle is lit, a list of prayer requests are read out loud by a young woman who has grown up in this church. I wonder what it would feel like to grow up in a church where you are an equal, allowed to participate and contribute fully, even though you are female. A woman gets up behind the pulpit and begins to speak, it takes me a few minutes to realize that she is one of the pastors here. She gives a quick synopsis of the church’s mission, and concludes by welcoming everyone there, including “those who have not been welcome in another church”. I am surprised by the lump that comes into my throat when she says those words. We are welcome here. I find myself breathing easier, the tenseness in my thighs and back relaxing a bit.

The woman sits down, and a man takes her place behind the pulpit and begins to speak, halfway through the sermon, he trades places with the woman and she gives the rest of the sermon. I find out later that the two are married, and they pastor this church together. They speak of the problem of evil in this world, and how we all have power to do good towards others, or evil towards others, and ask how we can structure our lives so that we can do more good. There is no mocking of other faith groups. There is no list of people or behaviors that make god angry. Just an honest and open asking of how each of us can make that difference in the world, by choosing every day to respect others and show them love. The offering baskets are passed by men and women. The money is designated for a homeless shelter.

At the end of the service, we are invited to stay for soup, and we do. Sitting together at the table, we are a family. No one questions that. Anyone talking with our children refers to us as “your moms”. No one stares at us. No one looks cross-eyed at us. I find myself holding my Hunnie’s hand, and realize that no one looks shocked or disgusted. No one approaches us and requests that we “keep our displays of affection private because they could be confusing for children.” We talk with a single mom with several adopted children, our kids play together. We chat with a couple whose kids are now in college, they have lived in this area for 30 years. The pastor stops by to say hi and shake our hands. People laugh, talk, eat, and shuffle tables and pass out donuts. And I realize I am smiling. There is no fear.

Here, we are just people. We are more than just Queer. We are idividuals, we are parents, we are a couple, we are hard-working. We have a story, we have a life, we have needs and desires just like everyone else. People are interested in where we live, what we do, how we feel. Not a single person asks about our sex life. No one questions our relationship, or tells us that it is not as valuable or as legitimate as theirs. I have never had this experience within the walls of a church. Here, we are not noticed and identified by our existence which many people choose to define as “sin”. We are not ignored, tolerated or treated as “other”.

We are anyone and everyone. We are accepted.
We are loved.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06910439859917160063 SRR

    Wonderful!!!!!!!

  • http://lotuslandfineart.com/velvetrope/ wlotus

    This acceptance and lack of mockery of other faith groups et al is why I love my radically inclusive church. I am SO GLAD you can have that experience!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16232186225573312896 Incongruous Circumspection

    "No one approaches us and requests that we "keep our displays of affection private because they could be confusing for children.""

    People do that? Ouch.

  • http://www.livewellwithcheryl.com Cheryl Chamberlain Duwe

    Tears in my eyes. I've recently started attending an open and affirming church as well, and hearing that all are welcome, no matter where we are, have been or who we love makes me cry every time. So glad you've found this too!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08135229596877003069 Michelle Hughes

    Again, it is just so confusing to me the things you list in your last paragraph…that any of that happens at church anywhere. I'm so glad you found a place to go where you are not accosted on all fronts about a part of you. One thing I have always tried to remember about everyone is their core being is not something that can be labeled (Down's kid, Autistic, Gay, Straight, Bisexual, etc). When my parents taught me about other races, growing up, they always emphasized that knowing a person has nothing to do with what you see on the outside. Or something like that…I'm having trouble writing this morning.

    I have a blog post I'm mulling about a Diversity and Inclusion break-out exercise we did at a seminar at my company that was very eye-opening. while it didn't address LGBTQ specifically, but it was an exercise where the point was to show the result of adding labels to a person (for example, a "woman with young children" versus just a "woman" or a "sixteen-year-old boy" vs just a "boy." It was interesting and I am still thinking about it, so I guess that means the point was made! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06401440551873070129 Elin

    I am so glad to hear this.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00486733127713899824 Jade

    Oh, wow! Thanks for making me bawl…yet again! ;) That is beautiful and amazing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06410682651072046347 TwisterB

    I have only followed you blog for a little while, and I don't like to give out personal advice so take this or leave his, but do you think, because of your brutal patriarchal religious past, it would be MORE healing to you to have an accepting religious community rather than be atheist? I don't know the answer to that, only you would, but I wonder if i might help with the dammages inflicted on you in the past.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09586721197750246060 Lara

    This makes me SO happy!!! I want to go to a church like this!! Hugs to you and Haley! Thank you so much for you story and how it's changed my heart for the better.

  • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

    This is so beautiful and encouraging!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    I found myself crying because I'm so happy that both of you have found this church – but at the same time, I feel I should be angry, because this should not be unusual, this should be normal!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02224561280478383821 Nancy

    You almost make me want to go to church again! :) If I could find this, I WOULD go again.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16370077487849008375 Lina

    I know this feeling. My wife and I have been to a church that's very similar; though of late we've been busy and/or sleeping (I accept that there's an option for busily sleeping!), the times we've gone have been precious. To not be able to leave because everyone is so interested in us and wants to talk to us. To have people come up to clarify that no one will hurt us here. To be able to, for a brief moment, breathe air that is truly without hate. It's incredible, and feels so unreal.

  • Beth B

    This is so beautiful. I'm so glad you've found a church like this. It's how worship and community should be.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00251303621825787312 Maya Resnikoff

    I'm so happy that you've found a church that feels so much like a home. It's a beautiful account to read.

  • http://ahumanstory.wordpress.com/ gaayathri

    I am so happy for you!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10882606147795083729 rbarenblat

    What a beautiful post. Thanks be to God!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13211182794921080338 Rae Brown

    So glad you found this! It gives me hope.

  • http://grace-filled.net jen

    so glad you found a church where you could be you.

  • Anonymous

    Most Unitarian Universalist and United Church of Christ churches follow these practices. UUs have more varied religious practices, while UCCs are Christian, but both churches have official denominational policies of accepting all kinds of individuals and families. My UU church begins services saying" Come, come whoever you are"–lists many possibilities (e.g. whatever your skin color, whomever you love…) then ends "you are welcome at our table."

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    Awesome, such a heart-warming post. If I believed in god I would love to find a church like that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Yeah, people do that. :( And over holding hands or pecking someone on the cheek.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    I like what your saying about labels. People are so much more than just one aspect of themselves, but so often disaproval over one aspect of a person turns into disrespect and bullying of that person. :(

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    I don't consider myself a full-blown atheist, more agnostic really. But yes, it has been healing to go to an accepting church here and there when we feel up to it. It is surreal every time we go, I still have a hard time really believing that no one is going to attack us or judge us or pontificate about how horrible we are. So each visit ends up being a wonderful surprise.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    How incredible would this would be be if this was normal.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    It does feel unreal! It is true unconditional acceptance, and I haven't experienced it that often.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    :) I don't think believing in god was a requirement, because I was welcome there regardless.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16370077487849008375 Lina

    One of my atheist friends frequents our UU church, because she likes the community and she likes to have somewhere to ditch her kids for an hour. :) No one has a problem with it!

  • Anonymous

    Yes. This is how it's supposed to be…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05755869501331386672 La Rêveuse

    Also many ELCA Lutheran churches are like this. Mine is. We love it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05755869501331386672 La Rêveuse

    So glad for you. This is what He wants, you know. Love. :) Harder to do, but so much more powerful. Yay for you!!!

  • http://jesusisntenough.blogspot.com Cherí

    Absolutely beautiful!

  • Rosa

    This is beautiful, and it's really hard for me to read, because my accepting church just burned down. I didn't even go that much, but just knowing it was there to go *to* was important to me.

    It makes me so angry that this is a new experience for you, though. Like people said above: this is how it should be.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    Thanks but from my personal opinion going to any kind of temple of worship (except to admire the architecture or history of the place or for a wedding or such) is not something that I find necessary or enjoyable. And really here, it's only Catholic churches everywhere and not even believers tend to go (except in Easter and to the Mass of the Cock (the animal)). If I want community, I have it in other groups and in Spain I don't feel out of place being an agnostic atheist so I don't really need a support system for that. I'm sorry if my comment gave you the wrong impression and thanks for the answers =)

  • Anonymous

    I go to an accepting Presbyterian(PCUSA)church. They're out there- just takes a little longer to find!

  • Nerdiah the Optimistic

    I've been wondering if this is a vision of the future of Christianity. With the increasing understanding and acceptance of LGBT people in our society, there doesn't seem much of a future for the fundamentalist strains of this religion.

    Dawkins reckons that religions can be thought of as like evolving populations of real organisms. They vary change and adapt through time into forms better-suited to appealing to human minds and encouraging their own replication (e.g. through evangelism, or having large numbers of children). I imagine, given current trends, that our society will become quite hostile to any religion that promotes homophobia. Fundamentalism will have limited appeal.

    Though, if Christianity can only survive this Zeitgeist by going liberal, I can't see it having anywhere near the political power that the more virulent fundamentalist strains currently enjoy. Unless a singular message like "love your neighbour" is enough to unify and mobilise the troops despite the incoherence of the rest of the message. I wonder.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03117752360285429048 Jessica

    Agreed with all who say this is how it should be. Our Catholic church isn't openly accepting (as in, advertising as such), but our pastor is amazing and steers completely clear of anything political or any of the terrible things that the higher-ups in the Catholic church would like him to say, like about gay marriage or birth control or whatever. It is all about God and love and living in community, and I'm grateful for that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10219032831132156995 Sheila, Canary Islands

    I'm really glad you found a place like this. It's not for me, because I'm an atheist, but I'm really glad you got a practical demonstration that lots and lots of people think you're OK. It's just that you grew up in a space where open-minded people were systematically excluded.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03519675898483081005 Mrs. Searching

    I'm so happy you have found a place where people treat you like fellow people.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03079852628674185384 Karen

    This is a joyous development. My last stab at trying churches were U.U. churches; the sermons made me think. But in Big Downtown Church I felt lost among the crowd, and in Smaller College-Town Church I felt judged that I hadn't gone to Local Premier University. (I went to Lesser-Known State.) So I'll have to be an unchurched atheist.:-)

    Still, there's a lot to be said for a church community, especially if you have children.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03079852628674185384 Karen

    Jessica, your pastor probably got the same training as the nuns who taught me grades 1-12. Social Justice? Yes indeed! Other issues? We can deal with those other issues when we've achieved social justice!!!!

  • Anonymous

    I'm very happy for you. Your church sounds awesome. This is a tough subject for me right now, because being a homesick ex-catholic agnostic dyke makes me a rare bird. Maria in SC

  • Rosa

    There are fundamentalist gay people, though, just like now there are lots of divorced fundamentalists who stay in their churches – people who keep both the cultural style and most of the rules from the fundamentalist churches they grew up in, just read the Scripture and see it doesn't have anything much to say about being gay.

  • http://newpillowbook.wordpress.com/ newpillowbook

    Okay, one last try to post a reply…Episcopal churches in general are accepting of anybody.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Mez

    I'm so glad you've found a place like this.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks be to God.

  • http://nowealthbutlife.com Rae

    I don't have anything profound to add to the comments but it made me very happy to read this post. It is wonderful that you were able to have this experience.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08837261146374200032 Ellen

    I have read your blog periodically through the sidebar link on Betty Duffy's blog, but it had been awhile, so I was totally confused when I pulled it up. I read through a lot of your 9 posts on your husband's transgender journey.

    My heart is filled with sorrow for you both. It seems to me that your experience in fundamentalism gave both of you horrible role models of what it means to be male, and both of you recoiled from that, just with different manifestations for you both.

    I am married to a wonderful, gentle, kind, involved husband and father who who sensitive about things that I'm not, doesn't always follow the stereotypical patterns that the marriage books say he should, and has no gender issues. He is the son of a man who wasn't macho or authoritarian and embraced that. I wonder what he would be dealing with today if he'd grown up in the environment that you both did.

    I think you're headed down a path of overreaction to your past that isn't going to take you where you want to be, and I hate that for you. I pray that you will find God's peace and healing for yourselves and your family.

  • Nerdiah

    You know, that's a really good point. I recently had an exchange with a Calvinist who was a fundamentalist as they come, but she balked at saying that slavery is not immoral based on what the Bible says, despite her Calvinist brethren in that forum all disagreeing with her on that.

    Fundamentalist Christians often dis the liberal types for picking and choosing from Scripture and reinterpreting it to suit themselves, but they all do it to some degree, they must do so given ambiguities, contradictions and inconsistencies between the words. Perhaps the only difference is that the fundamentalist is typically underhanded about it, probably not admitting even to themselves that this is what they are doing. If the current fundamentalists can have a fundamentalist belief-system free of slavery and all the other bad things, the future fundamentalism may just add homophobia to its list of the rationalised-away.

  • Kristin

    My heart is warmed to read that you have found a place to be welcomed as you are, and surrounded with love and acceptance. I just finished reading an article in the magazine of my faith, UUWorld (Unitarian Universalist), and wanted to share it with you. It is entitled, "We know we will be welcome here," and can be found online at: http://www.uuworld.org/life/articles/199512.shtml

    Amen, Blessed Be, Shalom!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09967972437986569073 Victoria Finney

    Your arrogance is breathtaking. Did it take a lot of yoga to get your head that far up your arse?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17046924507335607146 Amy

    Beautiful beautiful, my friend :) This post brought tears to my eyes for your and Haley! Love love love love!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01906317703995881481 Leslie

    The church you wrote about sounds very much like the Disciples of Christ congregation that my husband and I belong to, called Table of Grace. Very openly affirming. Our pastor and her wife believe very strongly that fellowship doesn't end with the worship service, so we join together for a meal after each service. I love being part of this community and hope that you and Haley have found the same where you are. If you were in our area I would wholeheartedly welcome your family at Table.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07727291511829658991 penn

    Absolutely ridiculous. This saddens me. I find it more confusing when loving, committed people *don't* show signs of affection. My parents aren't very affectionate, ever, and it was a weird thing growing up to realize that one could show love and care (even to friends) with physical affection.

  • Brittany

    Sounds like my UU church! I am still a raging atheist, and my UU church is affirming and spiritually rewarding. They accept you exactly as you are while supporting your growth into a more compassionate and loving person. Congrats on finding a welcoming and loving church community!


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