Thursday, May 30, 2019

#tbt: Beyond Binaries

image from here

In early April, I attended this event. I want to be clear, this event was hosted at our church but it was not put on by our church. It was the impetus of an amazing youth in our church who I have had the privilege of knowing since birth.

A little background: Back home in youth group, I knew one of my peers had an older brother who I met a time or two. Fast forward to my third year of university (in another province) and this older brother and a friend of mine met through our university residence. They started dating and got married. And had three kids.

This family and I have always had a special relationship. They were a part of a community of twelve of us who owned, and lived, in a house together for a few years. I watched their older two kids while their youngest child was being born. And I have been cheering them on through the various stages of their lives, as they have done for me. We are now all currently in a church small group together and it's been yet another wonderful way to connect with them.

Their middle child, Thea, now identifies as non-binary (identifying as neither male or female) and through a program called Peace Innovators, a scholarship and mentoring program, they came up with the idea for this day.

More and more churches are choosing to publicly say: God welcomes all. That all forms of gender expression and sexual orientation are holy and included in the love of Christ.
Many churches desire to be a safe place for the Queer community, but what does that really mean? How do we create a truly affirming church?

This description is taken from the event's website.

Because of our connection through small group, Thea's mom asked for volunteers to help out in the kitchen. I spent the morning and the evening before the event, and the morning of, helping out. Dave couldn't attend the actual event, so he and the kids also helped out the evening before. I was so proud of Sam and Rachel because they rolled a significant portion of the cutlery into napkins, and placed them in these baskets, for the lunch.
The day of the event, I had said I would help out in the kitchen during the worship. In retrospect, I am sad to have missed the worship and was glad I was setting things up in the fellowship hall (which is adjacent to our sanctuary) so I could sing along with the hymns. One of the hymns, sung to the tune of "All Things Bright and Beautiful" had the chorus:

Quirky, queer and wonderful,
Distinct, unique and odd
All of our humanity
Reveals the face of God.
--Adam Tice
from here (the link to the original site wasn't working for me)

I couldn't sing the chorus without tearing up.

After the worship service, Thea gave the keynote address, outlining different ways that gender can be defined. I have known Thea since before they were born. Up until their younger sibling was born, they were the youngest baby I had ever held (eight hours old!). Thea is graduating Grade 12 next month. Grade 12! I was so proud of Thea and their composure in speaking to over one hundred people and teaching us. After Thea spoke, there was a panel discussion on how LGBTQ+ people have felt at church.

I believe the church should be a welcoming place period. It made me so sad to hear stories of how the panelists had felt rejected by the church because of something intrinsic to who they are. No one should ever have to experience that. Ever.

In the afternoon there were a number of different workshops participants could attend. I went to one about Queering Worship (how to intentionally think about, and address, the gender roles which are inherent in our worship services) and another one on little things churches could do to be welcoming, especially for transgendered people. The workshops were really interesting and I wish I had been able to attend all of them.

I don't know if I'm doing a good job of relaying how important this event was, both to me personally but also to the wider church. I think everyone should have the opportunity (be compelled to?) attend an event like this. To hear about how the church is hurting people today and how it could turn that around. To love people where they are at. After all, isn't that what we're all asking for from the church?

If you want to read some coverage about this event from our denomination's national publication you can read more about it here and here.

I want to be clear about two things: 1) I asked Thea's permission to write about this event and their involvement. 2) Again, although our church was the host for this event, the event was completely orchestrated by Thea and a couple of organizations supporting them.


  1. We are members of the United Church of Canada and we are an affirming congregation. I attended the worship service for an LGBTQ conference being held at our church last summer (I feel bad not remembering the exact nature of the conference), but anyway, same thing, I loved being part of the service. I really do take for granted that of course our church is welcoming to all, but I don't realize what others have faced from religious groups elsewhere (in Canada and yes, in the United Church too). What a great thing for you to help out with!

  2. It’s so awesome to read how accepting your church community is! It sounds like a really well done event! And I love how colorful the rainbow silverware sets are!

  3. Thank you so much for writing this up. I was curious about it and so happy to learn more. It's something I'm still processing (along with so many others), but I'm open and listening.

  4. This is just a beautiful event and it is so wonderful that it was put on! I wish many more churches would host such a wonderful, inclusive event!


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