February 22, 2009

All God's Children, Week One

Our Families

I was told that standard attendance for this class is about 20 to 25. We had seating for sixty, and almost all the seats were filled. A few familiar and friendly faces were in the crowd, including Abe’s.

I had set up a resource table with displays of books from my own library and handouts of articles pertinent to the topic of the day. I included a bibliography of books, DVDs, and websites. There was a lot of interest in the materials; I will have a different selection at every class in the series.

I sat at a table in front with three other speakers, all of whom were parents of gay children. We took turns telling the story of our family members, their lives, their coming out, and the impact on the family. As you might expect, the stories were powerful.

The subject matter didn’t lend itself to questions. How do you question someone’s story? The response was overwhelmingly positive, but I wonder if dissenting audience members felt that their comments were not welcome. I think the next class—“Gay and Christian”—will bring about some differing opinions.

The memory I will take from this happened after class. A longtime church member approached me to say thanks. I had figured out he was gay some time ago, and I was eager to hear his feedback. He told me that he was no longer working, and now that he was 66 years old, it was time for him to speak up. He said he wanted our church to start a support group for its gay members. It took me a second to realize he was coming out to me.

I smiled and reached for a hug. He was trembling. What a gift that he would trust me with his honesty. We talked for a few minutes more, and he said I was the first person he’d “said something to” at our church. I promised him that I would address his request to our senior pastor.

I am thrilled, grateful, hopeful, charged, and I feel like jumping around like a fool, whooping and pumping my fist in victory. Yesssss! I will do that in my head and on the outside appear to be the calm and confident person they want leading this class.

Next Sunday: “Gay and Christian.”

Image courtesy of Christ First Church of Gainesville, GA.


Ur-spo said...

I thank God for people like you.

Roxrocks said...

This made me cry! I think you are the first real Christian I have (n)ever met. Seriously.

(I'm not gay and I'm not Christian so don't ask me why I'm bawling!)

Greg said...

Heh. What Ur-Spo AND Rox said. (Well, except I was raised catholic and I'm definitely gay).

You are to be proud, Birdie! This is something you've been working toward for a while now. Oh, how I wish I lived out your way so I could come attend these sessions and see what transpires!

Thanks for keeping us posted...and for doing SUCH important work.

Bear Me Out said...

Brava! Brava!
What a gift you are giving!
For those who think differently who won't speak up? Of course, I have always wanted them to speak up, too. But I'm changing my mind on that.
I'm not so sure I care. All these years, so many of us have not spoken up, and often for very good reason. Now, maybe it is out time. Maybe this is a time for them to be silent.

KittyHawk said...

I think what you've started in your church is magnificent! I'm looking forward to each new installment.

Birdie said...

I've responded to each comment privately (and gratefully!), but I want to clarify something in your remarks, KittyHawk. I was not the source for this class in which I'm participating. It seems that this change in my church was an idea whose time had come: two other people approached our pastor in these past months to request a support group and this class subject. I don't know how much effect my voice has had, but I have become a resource for these new groups and will continue to learn, teach, and speak up.

I'm doing cartwheels inside, and I can't wait for what happens next. Thank you for your unflagging support. I couldn't do this without my bloggers.

Brian R said...

God bless you for this work even if only for this one man. I am almost 65 and have been generally 'out' for many years but still know the inner fear when I reveal myself to someone new in a new situation. It is only in the last few years that has been possible in church and I had to go to a new inclusive church to achieve that.

Patrick said...

Dear Sweet Birdie, this is wonderful! And to see fruits from the work so quickly, in the form of your friend coming out to you, that has got to be encouraging. I'm sure you're right, the next workshop may be a bit more contentious, but it sounds like your Church is prepared for it, and is in this for the long haul. Very inspiring.

Java said...

Very inspiring, and very hopeful too.