The QueerFactor: The Unexpected Conversation At Christianity21
We all sat there wiggling our seats. My twitter was going crazy and my mind was racing. I kept thinking, “do I get up and leave? This wasn’t part of the plan here.” There it was on the screen blaring in our faces. One tweet from a dear friend screamed out, “why does my stomach suddenly hurt?” I knew why, she knew why. The words on screen could not be ignored nor could the implication of what they meant to anyone in the LGBTQ community, “IS HOMOSEXUALITY A SIN?” Yes, there they were and all of us at Christianity21 were in the uncomfortable space we mostly want to deal with in our inter web experience, privacy of home or in the safe space of our minds. I felt numb, I wanted to get up and leave, but yet something told me to stay. Jenell Williams Paris opened a can of worms none of us knew was coming. She handled her conversation with ease and questions. One moment you were laughing and the next you were in that uncomfortable space. You couldn’t help but wonder what your neighbor was thinking. As we all answered her questions to indentify who was “in” and who was “out” many were given the challenge of knowing what it may feel like to be the one on the out, the one with the sympathetic look of, “poor dear….bless your heart.” She left us all in question of what to do with her conversation. How do we respond? Many responded in a way I did expect to happen that weekend. They wanted to talk, comfort, and just process what was said that very first night. I know Rachel and I were both a bit shaken by it all and almost felt unsure how this conversation would come about. Little did any of us know Seth Donovan was up to bat the very next day.
Seth opened to the door to what it means to be fully a part of the gathering of believers. The challenge of what the world asks of us and what the church gathering ask as well. She tore open the drapes and told us she must come to the gathering fully herself. Compartmentalizing herself in the gathering stops her from full worship and there wasn’t a soul there who could not say it was them she was speaking of in that very moment, you knew this by silence. She said something so profound, to me at the very least, “The most important thing whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong…and the church to me, because of my relationship to God to me is so nonnegotiable. That, that relationship is so important to me that it doesn’t get taken away, because I don’t have something that is figured out.” I myself sat there in tears and a complete knowledge Seth was speaking what my heart has been screaming for a long time. She spoke about walking into the gathering and knowing she is loved, that any of us is loved. I watched her mold two people into her vision of confession and my tears could not stop as I saw the confession of my heart being told as well. Then she asked us to do something that was outside of our box, we were to mold someone into our confession. I looked around and quickly grabbed the one person I knew their name since this felt like the safest thing to do. This man, on the surface, might seem not the gentle person to pick, in his black rim glasses, his gage rings in his ears and not to mention his broad shoulders he seemed to me the closest thing I know to be home because I saw my brother, Marshall. He looked at me and told me the only “off limits” was I could not make him kneel and so I molded him into my confession. Nothing fancy, but it was all I could produce with all Seth had laid on us. Once my molding was done it was his turn and I was once again uncomfortable. He then looked me in the eyes and said, “I think you need a hug and so my confession will be a hug to you.” In that moment I was accepted and in that moment I felt my walls collapse around me. I went to sit after that moment and once again my twitter went nuts. More people wanting to talk so Rachel and I decided to put out the flare, “Want to talk about Christianity and #queermergent come to hotel lobby at 10 tonight.”
That night was filled with a lot. To say many of us weren’t “peopled out” would be an understatement. I had not heard anything official from one twitter or person if they were going to be there. A part of me almost felt relieved, but there was a different plan. I returned to the hotel and decided to call my girlfriend, Sue. As I was speaking to her a group of women came around me and said, “Are you MoJoJules? We really want to sit and listen about Queermergent!” Gulp, gasp…shit! They took us serious! They want to listen? Holy crap….RACHEL?!??!?!! Soon, a few turned into a large circle in the hotel lobby bar of at least twenty. The conversation started off general and then once again Seth pushed right into the deep water. What I watched that night was another side of confession. My personal confession of loneness, frustration and passion for the future. Others confessed their confusion and the utter lack of how to reach out to those of us in the Queermergent arena. One gentleman even challenged me in my words and asked questions that made us in the LGBTQ to even say we even have our “question” we toy with and stumble through. For example: transgender and our response to them within our community. Yeah, went there. At the end what was found, at least for me, was a conversation that can be had where all can participate in honesty and beauty.
Christianity21 held a lot of things, but for this participant it held not one, but all the fruits of the spirit with community reflecting all of them in beautiful harmony. It showed up in the uncomfortable space of “the question” we all dread, in the space of confession, and in the space of pure conversation of a group of questioners. My hope from all of it is this: that bridges were built, questions were answered and if they weren’t we all feel challenged to go to depths of them to find the beauty of the question, if not push to find an answer. I don’t know anyone could have walked away unaffected by Christianity21 and the spirit that was there. I was honored to be there and more than humbled to see our Connector work beyond our expectation. Out of all this I think those of us in the Queermergent realm can say this, there was bridges built at Christianity21 and in the emergence conversation. We are not just educators, but we are participants of the community to help it reach its full potential in the future. Don’t lose heart my friends there is evidence of challenge and hope for community that does not hold the world “inclusive” but of doors open to the believer that holds their holy relationship to grow.
Jules currently lives in a small town in the bootheel of Missouri. She is currently a student at Southeast Missouri University and studying Exceptional Children/Elementary Education with hopes to work with children who are on the autistic spectrum and earn a Masters degree as a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst. Julie was raised in a strong Christian home that taught her the strong value of community and in some ways is your typical PK. She has always been in a dance with her Abba from a young age and will continue the turns, twist, and beauty of it.