While riding transit, I pass time by reading books about LGBTQ+ theology. My wife Danice is usually happy for me to summarize them for her afterward so she doesn’t have to read them herself, but having witnessed my frequent laughter and eager underlining as I devoured Eve Tushnet’s book, Gay and Catholic, Danice now wants to…
Middle section, second pew from the front, left side.
That’s where my family sat every Sunday morning. It provided easy access to the stage for my pastor dad, who was always positioned closest to the aisle. It gave me a sense of being under the watchful gaze of the whole congregation: significant, but scrutinized.
Sunday church attendance was non-negotiable, though I don’t remember the four of us kids ever really putting up a fight. Some of us would actually make the church trek twice on Sundays once our evening service started up. When I moved to Vancouver I immediately found two new churches to attend, later paring it down to one. This eventually led to being hired as a pastor (which I was pretending to be, as a child, in the photo above). This obviously only intensified my church involvement.
Earlier this month, 75 people attended our annual Generous Spaciousness Retreat. Most were from southern Ontario, but some came from as far as Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, and New Brunswick! We spent three days together at a conference center on a frozen lake, laughing, crying, eating, singing, praying, listening to each other’s stories, and watching God work in us and through us.
One of the retreat participants, Chad, had this to say about the experience…
“Last year’s retreat was life changing, so coming to this year’s retreat I knew the experience wouldn’t be quite the same. This past year has been a whirlwind. My partner and I are involved with two community groups in which we are using Generous Spaciousness as our model. Wehave also been starting conversations with our church leadership about the LGBTQ community. I’ve also had to deal with some difficult conversations with family. This is hard stuff, and even in the week before this retreat, I was really starting to feel down and wanting to give up.
On the final morning of last month’s Gay Christian Network (GCN) conference in Portland, which our staff from New Direction attended, it was clear that the conference organizers had gone to great lengths to figure out how to serve communion to 1300 participants from multiple denominations.
It may have taken more time to explain how to receive communion than it did to receive it.
Besides the twenty-some stations offering wafers, white bread, and wine, there were also special stations with gluten-free bread, and bowls of juice for those who abstain from wine. In one corner of the huge room, Catholics could go and receive the host, consecrated and served by a priest. And in the middle, there was something I’d never even heard of: the antidoron, the non-consecrated Bread of Fellowship, baked by attendees from the Orthodox tradition and offered especially to others from closed-table churches. Gosh, I thought, they’ve even got a way to participate for people whose traditions prevent them from participating.
It’s been two and a half weeks since our staff returned to Toronto, and I’m still sitting here, trying to make sense of what happened during the three weeks of our Epic Road Trip across western Canada. At risk of stating the obvious, the trek, for me, was a mix of the expected and the unexpected.
I expected to bond with my co-workers, and I did. We enjoyed so many shared experiences: the hotels (good and bad), the restaurants (good and bad), listening to the addictive Serial podcast (always good) as well as Danice’s highly educational musical playlists – overviews of music through the decades – and of course, lots and lots of Tim Horton’s, the one blessed constant across the many miles and time zones of Canada. There were many “firsts” for us – Danice got her first speeding ticket, Wes tasted his first Vancouver sushi, and for the first time, I held up traffic while driving off a docked ferry because I couldn’t figure out how to disengage the parking brake. Among other things, I learned that Wes always finishes eating one dish on his plate before moving on to another (leaving his tomatoes uneaten), and that Wendy observes “licorice-o-clock” almost daily, at least on road trips, though the actual hour varies.
It happened again. I was watching an episode of the excellent new TV series “Transparent,” and Jeffrey Tambor’s character Maura was preparing to come out as a trans woman to her adult son, Josh. Maura stood on her balcony and watched Josh’s car pull up, and as she stepped back, anxiously considering what his reaction might be to seeing his dad as a woman for the first time, I suddenly noticed my own body reacting. My heart was pounding intensely. My palms glistened with sweat.
I remember the same thing happening this past Valentine’s Day when actress Ellen Page chose to tell the world she was gay near the end of her eight-minute speech at the Human Rights Campaign conference. By the time I watched it on YouTube, I had already heard she would be coming out during the speech, so I knew the reason for the tremor in her voice, the trembling in her hand, and the awkward posture of this usually composed and confident actress. And I felt it. For those agonizing few minutes, it was my quivering voice reading the words on the prompter, bringing me ever closer to that life-changing paragraph: “I am here… because I am gay.” And the elation and relief on her face after the audience gave her a standing ovation – those belonged to me, too.