Although I feel physically wiped out, I also feel so revived in so many other ways from my time at yearly meeting. So many things to report that I really don’t know where to begin. I will have some photos posted later this weekend.
The high schoolers once again stood out as spiritual leaders in the community. Their meeting for worship with attention to business where they chose there slate of ministry and council members was focused, centered and spiritual. To see these young people grapple seriously with issues of pastoral care simply blows me away.
They supported me so much with my show. They served as ushers for the audience and whipped everyone up in a semi-frenzy with their dancing and singing to my pre-show music (my killer cool mix). We had an absolutely packed house (600+ people), and the Young Friends cheered me on the whole way.
During the Q&A the Young Friends asked insightful questions that helped us to move the discussion deeper. The last question I got was PERFECT. An adult Friend asked, “So what can we do in our yearly and monthly meetings to help LGBT people?”
Just the question I hoped for, just the response that I prayed for. I suggested that they continue to ask that question to the LGBTIQ folks in their community; I only represent my own experience and it is important to hear from our transgender Friends, our bisexual Friends, our intersex Friends, our lesbian Friends, our gay Friends. Our “lifestyles” and histories look very different. Some are parents, senior citizens, athletes, scientists, Christians, farmers, teachers, long-time partnered and so much more.
Two things I suggested that individuals and meetings can do are:
1. Listen. Then Listen. Then Listen some more. The work of being an ally requires deep listening and understanding. I explained that as a white man I often get it wrong. Being an ally requires a graceful resilience. Because of the society where I was raised and the many messages I received, I am racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and insensitive to the needs of people with disabilities. I have to unlearn much of what has been engrafted into my mind. (Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind).
2. Many LGBTIQ people who grew up in faith communities have been deeply wounded by those communities. As a result, for some it can feel painful and dangerous to walk back into a place of worship, especially if the worship and culture looks similar to what they knew when they were younger. Some feel the deep loss of relationships while others feel post traumatic stress from years of oppressive talk and toxic teaching.
Quaker meetings have a unique opportunity to reach out to LGBTIQ folks. Our meetings for worship look nothing like most mainstream religious practice. Our belief that that of God in everyone and that the Spirit can and does speak through EVERYONE is a message that even in liberal pastor-driven churches is not demonstrated. We can and should not only say that we are open and affirming, but actually take special efforts to create programs and events for people who are same-gender loving, transgender, bisexual and just plain different from the heteonormative world.
The day after my show, Luke, one of the young people, stood up in business meeting and proposed that the Young Friends write a minute affirming their belief that God is in all people. He said that we need to send out the message to other meetings where young people are often silenced by policy and teaching against queer and questioning folks. Now that is love in action.