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So I won a Super Pass for this year’s Victoria Fringe Festival. Apparently donating last year during the text to donate campaign was an extra well spent $10, because not only did I support a festival I love, I also get to to see as many shows as I want to see this year for free. Thankfully I also got smart and booked my vacation for the same time so I didn’t have to worry about being up in time for work after seeing a late night show.

I went to the preview on Wednesday morning to finish compiling my list (well at least the list I’m starting with because you never know what else might catch your attention while talking in a Fringe line up). Yesterday I made a plan.  There was a spreadsheet involved. Stop laughing! (Well, okay, keep laughing, ’cause even I think it’s funny to plan my vacation this much, but my mom would be proud of my scheduling skills). If you’re trying to fit in as many shows as possible, a little planning is necessary.

Opening night’s plan was three shows all at Venue 6 – Fairfield Hall.

First up, The Child Behind the Eyesa monodrama by Nava Semel performed by Nava Sarracino.

The Child Behind the Eyes

I’m still trying to figure out how to put words to my thoughts about this piece. At one level it is a simple story of a mother’s love for her child, but it is also a story that kept reminding me how often we only see the outside, make judgments, and miss the beauty of each human being. In this play, the judgments were about a baby boy with Down’s syndrome, but whatever it is that makes us different on the outside doesn’t actually mean that we’re broken.  There is still perfect beauty, if we’re willing to look behind the eyes.

One other thing that struck me in the play was the use of language.  The play was written in the 1980’s and clearly our use of language has changed. There were moments that made me cringe, because we have learned not to use some of those words anymore.  I think we understand more about the power of the words and labels that we use to describe and categorize people.  But at the same time, I couldn’t help but wondering, whether we’ve actually changed the underlying prejudice that some of those words used to reflect.  I hope we have, but … I guess we each have to be our own judges on that question.

Oh!  If you go see the show, make sure you pick up one of the flyers.  There is a link to let you access the music that was created by Christel Veraart for the show.  I haven’t done that yet, but I will be. The music underscoring the show was beautiful.

Rainbow coloured outlines
Painted in the square
Bodies sprawled out
Cut down in the midst of life
Holding hands
Clinging to one another
Around a globe
Only
Two simple words
Remember Orlando

Remember Orlando

Watching countless people
Walk straight across
Eyes averted
Or unaware of
Horror represented
Under their feet

I don’t know
When it appeared
Maybe they’ve seen it
Everyday and grown
Accustomed
Maybe they only see
Rainbow colours
Leftover Pride graffiti
Nothing to see here

I see it today for the first time
My heart weeps
Lives cut short by hate
I stop
Pause
Remember
Reflect

My heart weeps more
I know there is much
Since that horrible night
I know we can’t hold
Everything
Our lives would be
Overwhelmed

But the lack of care
To realize some
Almost certainly
Counts themselves as allies
Their Pride duty done

To hear a parent ignore
A child’s question
Hey look! What is this?
Their response
Hurry the child along
I understand protecting
Innocence
But at what cost?

Clinging

White hetero-normative appearing
Twenty-something couple
Pauses to look
A sliver of my faith restored
Until
Traffic slows
Their words clear
In the silence

Okay. I know some people died, but
Do we really need to have this
Everywhere?

I sit back down
I write
I take photographs
Knowing they are not
For me
I will not forget
But much of the world will

Orlando

A church for all people in the heart of Victoria. St John the Divine

I’m trying to figure out how to write these posts.

One part of me feels like there should be a format or a rating system or something that at the end of this quest will make it clear what church … wins?

But I don’t think that’s how this quest is going to work. It’s not a quest in the traditional sense; there isn’t a holy grail at the end.  There is a hope that I will find a church that I can call home, but after this morning, it’s really clear to me that the point of this quest is not the end result.  The point of this quest is my willingness to go on this journey.

So don’t expect scores or any conclusions about whether the places we visit are good churches or even anything much about the theology of the sermon. If we stumble onto ones that appear to be LGBTQ affirming but don’t feel that way to us, I’m sure that will be apparent in my thoughts.  This is a place to reflect on the journey.

This morning we decided to attend the 10:00 am Parish Eucharist service at The Church of St. John the Divine. St. John’s hosted Pride Church during Victoria Pride and attending their Pride Church Evensong service was the catalyst that led us to start this quest so it seemed right that our first stop would be there.

I was raised in a Baptist church.  Not the really over-the-top conservative sort, but traditional enough.  The closest that we got to liturgy was the inclusion of an advent wreath at Christmas time.  I did spend time at university with good friends who were Roman Catholic and sometimes attended church with them so that type of liturgy isn’t entirely unfamiliar to me.  But it’s fair to say that my level of comfort with a traditional Anglican liturgy is sketchy at best.

Some of the music was familiar, though the words were different from what I knew.  I loved how their church bulletin made it easy for a “newbie” like me to follow and know what I needed to do.

I had an internal debate about how much to participate in the service.  While faith is important to me, let’s be honest, what I believe in at this point is pretty different from what churches normally espouse.  The thing is, it’s not that I’m certain I don’t believe the more traditional things as well.  I’ve just stopped thinking about them.  I decided to let my heart and mind be open and that I would participate as fully as felt comfortable in the moment.

It was a powerful thing to pray as a whole body, to speak the words:

Almighty God
to you all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from you no secrets are hidden.

I’ve prayed things like that before, but they’ve never felt so true or so safe.  Those kinds of words used to scare me in ways I didn’t understand.  I didn’t know I was hiding, but I knew being known was terrifying. Today, those words felt healing. Today, those words felt freeing.

While at one level I missed the informality and intimacy of the worship services I used to know, there was something freeing in being in worship that didn’t bring up old baggage exactly because it was so different.

There is a beauty in the language of liturgy.  The care with which every word of the Prayers of the People were chosen. The warmth of the traditional passing of the peace, when it felt clear that the Rector made a point of greeting us even though we were sitting only a few pews from the back of the sanctuary. The kindness of the man sitting behind us when people started moving to receive the Eucharist who provided us with some additional instructions when he saw what I suspect were the human equivalent of “deer in the headlights” looks as we debated which way we should go. The simplicity of the kneeling to be receive the bread and the wine at the altar rail in the small chapel. The quiet words spoken as each element is given.  The body of Christ given for you. The blood of Christ shed for you. The beauty of the stained glass windows with the reminder of one of my favourite passages of scripture.

Come to me all whose work is hard, whose load is heavy, and I will give you relief. Bend your necks to my yoke and learn from me for I am gentle and humble hearted and your souls will find relief for my load is light.

Perhaps the most powerful moment was right before the blessing.  I don’t know what it’s called in the liturgy, but hearing these words spoken proudly, enthusiastically, by the people gathered for worship filled me with hope:

We are all people of God

In the heart of Victoria we celebrate Christ
In joyful worship!

We celebrate Christ
By including everyone!

We celebrate Christ
By putting faith into action!

A church that can say that the way they did has the potential to be a place I could call home even though so much is unfamiliar. It doesn’t mean I’ve found a home, it just means that I have a little more faith that one could exist.


If you want to know about Church Quest, I recommend reading the first post in the series. If you have any suggestions about where we should visit on the journey to find a church home that is welcoming and affirming for LGBTQ people, or have stories about your own journey to find a spiritual home, I’d love hear from you in the comments below.

And so it begins …

 

Pride Church Candles

2016 Pride Church Evensong Candles, St John the Divine, Victoria, BC

And so it begins.

Those seems the right words with which to announce the beginning of a quest.

I admit it’s not a quest I thought I would find myself on. Even a few months ago, the idea of it would have filled me with dread and I would have laughed at anyone who suggested it.  Yet, strangely tonight, knowing that the quest begins tomorrow, I don’t feel anxious.  I feel oddly calm in an excited kind of way.

If you’ve been reading before, you know that I have a … shall we say … problematic relationship with faith for more reasons than I can even begin to count.

It’s a very long time since I’ve been to church.  I’m no longer entirely sure whether I should use the word Christian to describe what I believe. It’s certainly much different from what I was taught to believe as a child or what I taught others to believe as a youth pastor.

I stopped attending church because I couldn’t deal with church politics and pastors on power trips any more. It felt like staying was stealing my soul. Three years ago I figured out I was queer and just over two years ago I decided to come out publicly. Neither of those things made me think I was ever likely to find myself looking for a church home.

And yet, here I am. Tomorrow morning a friend of mine and I are starting a quest to find a church home (or homes) where we feel comfortable and where the church is fully welcoming and affirming of LGBTQ people.

I’ve tried to tell myself that faith wasn’t that important to me and that having a faith community to call home didn’t matter to me. The truth is … it does and it always has.

I’m not sure where this quest will lead.

Part of me doesn’t believe that a church home exists for people like me. I’ve spent too much time in Christian circles that preach hate. Too many people who still believe that “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a workable option. Too many people who act like they support LGBTQ people, but really still believe we are damned and going to hell.

Most days I know they are wrong and that God, assuming she exists, is one of love. But some days, those messages of hate are still ingrained in my soul and it feels like spiritual wanderer is destined to describe me forever.

But here’s the thing. I choose to be an optimist. I used to hold tightly to the belief that God can do more than we ask or imagine.

And so it begins, the quest to find a church home.  Maybe I’m on a fool’s errand searching for unicorns and fairy tales.

But maybe, just maybe, there is a church where someone like me feels like they belong.

———

For a whole bunch of reasons, my plan is to write about this quest.  Everything will be categorized under “Church Quest”. If anyone has been on a similar quest and wants to share their wisdom or experiences, I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below. Also if you live in Victoria, BC and know of LGBTQ affirming churches in the area, feel free to suggest places our quest should include.

BTW, this has never been a problem before, but it does feel important to say this.  This is my blog.  I am proudly queer.  If you’re not okay with that and just want to try to change my mind or convert me, this is probably not a place for you. However, if you are honestly seeking to understand and are willing to engage in respectful dialogue, then you are welcome here.

It’s Time

It’s time

 

Time for me to make clear

Something I thought

Was obvious when I wrote

The Price of Hate

 

Most understood

Some asked questions

To clarify rather

Than make assumptions

 

On that day

And on the days since

I have felt

Unconditional support

And love

Overwhelming love

Healing love

Soaking in to places broken

For far too long

 

But today

In the midst of

Bathroom bills

In the aftermath of

Orlando

In the facebook posts

Run rampant

It is apparent

Some of you missed

What I said

Or ignored

What I said

Or forgot

What I said

Or didn’t care

What I said

 

So let me be

Perfectly

Crystally

Entirely

Explicitly

Proudly

Clear

 

I am not straight.

 

I. Am. Queer.

 

Perfectly

Crystally

Entirely

Explicitly

Proudly

Queer

 

It is not your business

To know why I claim

That particular word

I am a private person

My sex life

My love life

My romantic desires

Are none of your concern

 

It is enough for you to know

 

I am queer

 

And have always been

Even when I didn’t

Acknowledge or

Understand or

Speak that truth

 

So when I say

What I need to say

In this moment

Today

I hope your ears

Are open to hear

 

You are someone who

Matters to me

Whose friendship

I value

A relationship

I hope

Can continue

 

But …

 

When you speak hate

When share hate

When you keep silent

In the face of hate

Toward anyone

Who is

 

Lesbian

Gay

Bisexual

Transgender

Asexual

Aromatic

Pansexual

Intersex

Gender Fluid

Gender Neutral

Two Spirit

Non-Binary

Queer

And any other letter

In the gloriously

Rainbow coloured alphabet

That makes up

The people I claim as siblings

 

When you tolerate hate

Against my family

You are speaking hate

Against me

 

It is not

Against an unknown evil

With an agenda

Contrary to God’s will

You are spewing hate

At someone you

Have known for years

Someone you once called

Family

Classmate

Student

Colleague

Youth Leader

Mentor

Pastor

Friend

Or whatever other label

You choose to apply to

What we shared

What connected us

 

And yes

Sharing posts

Making comments

Supporting political movements

In the name of religious belief that

Vilify

Misgender

Stigmatize

Deny rights to

Denigrate

Dehumanize

Is speaking hate

 

You are entitled to

Your theology

Your belief

Your point of view

Your fear

Your emotional reaction

To something you

Don’t understand or

Don’t experience or

Don’t acknowledge

 

You are not entitled

To use any of

Those reasons

To lessen

The innate value

Of another human being

To take away rights

To block protections to

Ensure safety

To make someone else’s life

Harder to live

 

Be grateful

For the privilege

You have never needed

To realize you have

 

Use that privilege

Make the world

Safer for all people

Do what the God

You claim commanded

Act justly

Love mercy

Walk humbly with your God

Defend the oppressed

Love your neighbor as yourself

 

If you can’t

If you won’t

Don’t be surprised

When I decide to

Prioritize the well-being of

My rainbow family

Over your need to

Prove you are

Righteous and faithful

At the cost of

Our mental health

Our dignity

Our lives

 


 

I’ve never recorded me speaking one of my poems before, but it is too easy for people, especially within the Christian community, to share and make what they think are “innocent comments” without realizing the impact it has on real people that they actually know. I read one too many of those posts recently and decided it was time to make clear where I stand.

 

For those who are prepared to engage in respectful dialogue, I welcome your thoughts and am prepared to engage in that conversation with you. However, please be aware that your “theological questions” are my day-to-day life.  As such, I retain the right to disengage from the discussion and/or block your involvement, if the conversation turns from respectful engagement and generous spaciousness.  (Thank you to Wendy VanderWal-Gritter for encouraging healthy dialogue!)