Affirmed

I don’t know about you, but I sat transfixed all day in my PJs in front of my laptop watching Inaugural events live and streaming through CNN/Facebook (as I added to the running commentary of status updates and comments). We have effectively run out of language to express the historic, momentous, outrageously incredibly joyous reality that the USA has elected and brought to White House a Black man. In a country that has been rife with racism and white privilege, this presidency marks a shift, a growth, a hope that we will continue to work towards justice and equality.

Far less dramatic and full of pomp, circumstance and global significance, this weekend I appeared before my local Quaker Meeting’s business meeting to report to them about the work that I have been doing these past two years since they approved a minute to travel in the ministry. This is part of some excellent Quaker practice that gives individuals an opportunity to be supported and affirmed in the work they feel led to do while also receiving a measure of on-going accountability and clearness.

Both my support committee (a group of four people I meet with every four to six weeks to talk and sit in silent prayer over the work that I do around LGBT issues) and I offered reports to the business meeting. Hartford Friends Meeting affirmed the work that I do and encouraged me to continue to travel  with the minute they endorsed in January 2007.

Below is my support committee’s report. You can read mine here. Personally I felt affirmed. As an artist, a gay guy, I have faced challenges in the past within faith communities to be authentic without experiencing rejection. Like many I stuffed parts of myself away resulting in disastrous outcomes. My life, my work, my faith today is richer because of my connection with the Religious Society of Friends.

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As members of Peterson’s Hartford Monthly Meeting support committee, we have felt privileged to accompany him on his journey for much of the past five years.  That journey has led him to create and perform a series of exciting, thought-provoking and highly entertaining one-man theater pieces. Sometimes we have literally accompanied him to venues;most times we met as a support committee where he tested ideas for new pieces and explored the spiritual dimensions of his ministry.

Peterson’s subjects in performance ranged from his experience in a residential program aimed at eliminating homosexuality, through a spectrum of politically charged related topics on gender identity and the politics of oppression. Audience members have laughed, cried, and later sought out Peterson’s understanding personal ministry as they struggled with personal experiences of oppression and the struggle to define themselves in a world where they too often have to settle for far less than the full acceptance we all crave.

Peterson’s website and blog have drawn another large group of often-desperate people struggling against oppression by family, peers, and social norms. Some visitors to his site have found in his replies to their emails the first acceptance and empathy they have ever experienced. They can share their appreciation with others by means of Peterson’s performances recorded on CD and DVD, or by circulating copies of his interviews in major national media in the US and Europe.

His latest piece, Transfigurations: Transgressing Gender in the Bible draws together the strands apparent from his earliest works, as

…he unearths transgender Bible characters–those people who do not fit in the gender binary, and who in transgressing and transcending gender, find themselves at the center of some of the Bible’s most important stories,

to quote from the attached brochure.
Also on this brochure appears this tribute from a Quaker theologian who attended a performance of “Transfigurations”:

“I applaud Peterson for bringing to the fore in this play a new way of looking at the Bible! Bravo! No, bravissimo! I had to look at my own sexual stereotypes and how I bring them to biblical interpretation!”
–Michael Willett Newheart, Ph.D. Professor of New Testament Language and Literature, Howard University School of Divinity

Quakers in monthly and yearly meetings, on college campuses, and in Friends’ support groups across the US and Europe have also gratefully received this ministry, as the enclosed endorsements of Peterson’s travel minute indicate.
Not only Peterson’s many audiences benefit from his consciousness-raising, prophetic voice. We  on the support committee feel privileged to have shared in his exciting and continuing journey.
Bravissimo, Peterson! We love you.

Respectfully submitted,
Barbara Taylor, Clerk,
John Humphries, former member and Clerk,
Beth Morrill,
Roger Catlin,
William Taylor

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This post has 7 Comments

  1. Brian on January 21, 2009 at 3:11 pm Reply

    From your report:

    “Some have since sought out ways to recreate these processes for themselves.”

    You can add me to that list! As I prepare for what’s next in my life, I’m thinking through ways that I can be supported and held accountable in ways similar to yours. Thanks for your example!

  2. Sadelle Wiltshire on January 21, 2009 at 11:57 pm Reply

    yo Peterson! an announcement of your blog post came across my ‘Twitter stream’ … next time you have some time w your computer… let me show you how to sign up for Twitter if not yet on it and install a wordpress plugin that will help keep your Twitter followers up on your latest blog posts. 😉

    Sadelle

  3. Joe G. on January 22, 2009 at 2:11 pm Reply

    One of the reasons I like Twitter is because it’s “Peterson-free”. 🙂 Just kidding!

    That report should have also noted that your work is one of the few Quaker works that has gotten so much INTERNATIONAL attention. Your ministry has been seen by thousands. You’ve probably done more to spread information about Quakerism than FGC and AFSC combined. I’m serious! I’m glad that you felt affirmed, but I think they were a bit too modest in describing the important impact you’ve had for thousands of folks (I know very quakerly, but not very accurate in my less-than-humble opinion). Go, Peterson, go!

    Kisses!

  4. Liz Opp on January 24, 2009 at 8:43 pm Reply

    Thanks for posting this report, Peterson. A bit related to Joe G’s comment (hey, Joe!), I see that in your own report to the monthly meeting, you listed only “Quaker related venues,” which I find puzzling.

    Has not the ministry to which you have been called brought you to places other than Quaker venues? Have you left that ministry at the steps of television interviews and newspaper inquiries?

    I’m curious to know of your choice to exclude some of these other experiences, if you are willing to share…

    Blessings,
    Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

    P.S. Seeing this on your blog reminds me of how long I have been procrastinating to write my own annual report. I better get to it, eh?

  5. p2son on January 26, 2009 at 1:41 am Reply

    Joe, in my own report, I did talk a little about my outreach endeavors,

    In public I gladly speak about the Religious Society of Friends. Many people do not know we exist. Some have since found a home among Friends. In July 2008 I spoke at the Lambeth Conference, the once every ten year gathering of the Anglican Church. The BBC World Service interviewed me for Faith Matters, a radio program that reaches over 20 million people. In that interview I shared in detail about Quakerism and how Friends have enriched my faith and practice.

    (Actually 20 million was less than what the producer for the program told me was the audience size, but I didn’t want to brag :-p Oh, and I didn’t even mention Tyra Banks, People Magazine and Austrian National Radio…)

    Liz Opp, you raise good questions (one of your superpowers). One of my goals with my report was to keep it SHORT and focused on the ministry as stated in my travel minute which is written to Friends (Quakers) about my work around LGBT concerns. I recognize that I have another leading, and that is to talk about Quaker stuff with people outside of the Religious Society of Friends.

    Then there are those muddled up gigs where Friends (like YOU!) have me come to a non-Quaker venue to talk about LGBT concerns and I also end up speaking about my faith as a Quaker. (Thanks for that opportunity!)

    That said, one of the requests from my meeting was that I come and have a sit down (we call it an 11th Hour) with the Meeting to tell them more about what happens on the road and the non-Quaker venues.

    Ministry in our lives meld into all sorts of areas that I never report on–conversations with ex-gay survivors, activism and organizing, writing projects, etc. The umbrella of what I do has expanded in the past two years, and perhaps time will come soon when my Travel Minute needs to reflect that.

    One could view ALL of the venues where I presented by going to my schedule and then clicking on the dates listed at the bottom.

  6. Stasa on February 21, 2009 at 7:05 am Reply

    Thank you for sharing this! This is helpful for me, in many ways.

    I am always… intrigued?… by the ways in which the reports our committees write do, and don’t, intersect with our daily experiences of ministry. I’m always aware that part of the task of committee reports is to make sense of our ministries to not only Friends, but to our particular Meetings — that it is, in some senses, their job to translate.

    Know that you are loved! Not just for what you do, but who you are.

    xxoo

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