Blessed are the queer Disciples of Truth, Living, breathing, sacred Reflections of Divine Love. -HP Rivers
Still Queer in America
By Becky Brooks
we were erased, and still, we loved we were shamed, and still, we loved we were expelled, and still, we loved we were laughed at, and still, we loved we were hunted, and still, we loved we were sacrificed, and still, we loved we were marketed, and still, we loved we were legislated, and still, we loved we were murdered, and still, we loved
we were murdered
and still we love
”Called OUT of the Closets Towards Faith” a Sermon By: Roddy Biggs
Delivered on October 11, 2020 Online for the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, Nantucket, Massachusetts (The Youtube Link is set to start around 23:00 a few moments before the sermon)
We are all called to something; for some, this calling might be one of vocation, such as a new job opportunity, and for others, it might be one to come OUT of the closet as they embrace their true and authentic identity as a member of the LGBTQ community. Still, for others, they might be called towards faith as they seek the truth in the love of a religious community. Whatever you are called OUT to join us as we learn about and celebrate what it means to be “Called OUT of the Closets Towards Faith. “
From a very young age, around six years old or so, I knew there was something unique about me, but I didn’t know what; while other boys were into cars, trucks, play fighting, and all things dirt, I much instead preferred, Barbies, music, art, and the theatre. As I got a little bit older and my friends who were boys started to talk about girls and how pretty they were, I was beginning to have the same thoughts they had about the girls about them. I did not yet at know at this point want it meant to be gay, so I thought something was wrong with me. When I was ten years old, I learned what being gay was, and then all the thoughts and actions up to that point in my life all made sense, and I knew that I was gay.I came out as gay at the age of 12, and I was bullied for several years afterward, and as many do, I turned to my religion for help; only to find out that I was not welcome, that I was not “the child of God” the church wanted me to be and that instead, I was the gay outcast of Christianity. I learned fairly quickly that being a member of the church meant hiding a part of myself from those around me and acting like something I was not....straight. I suddenly felt unimportant, alone, unwanted, and unloved by the very faith that I once loved.
Eventually, I stopped going to church altogether. Instead, I started to explore new spiritualities on my own and quickly became very a spiritual person finding truth in many faith traditions, religions, and nature. I gained a better understanding of who I was, how I fit it into the bigger picture and knew then that with or without a church, I was loved by many and that my being gay was no reason not to be a spiritual person. As the years went on, I learned more about myself, who I was, and what I believed, what my core values were, and what kept the ember of hope and love inside me alive. Then finally, after years of not attending church, I woke up on the morning of January 1st, 2017, and stepped into a church again for the first time in a very long time. It was The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, TN. On my first Sunday in that church, I found myself crying, with tears of joy because I knew then that I had found what I had been missing all those years. I knew that here I would be welcomed for who I was, that I would not need to hide the fact that I was gay, and that it would be celebrated and lifted in love and joy; as would all of the other things I was used to people having to hide from their faith or spiritual committees. I was so moved by that great place that I joined the church a little over a month after my first visit and found myself speaking before the congregation for the first time not long after that. Rapidly that glowing ember of hope and love inside me turned to a small flame, and over time, that flame became bigger and bigger until I could no longer ignore its presence or it is calling out to me. I could also no longer ignore the countless voices in my head and from the people around me that over about a year and a half had been consistently asking me the same burning question. “Have you considered seminary?” This question echoed in my mind for months, “Have you considered seminary?” Why on earth would I, a person of queer identity, ever consider seminary?
Yet here we are; I am one year out from having a Bachelors’s degree in Religious Studies, and as of a few weeks ago am doing it; I am applying to seminary. And thus, that burning question, “Have you considered seminary? It is now a reality of which I am called to answer yes.
Since discovering the Unitarian Universalist faith, I have grown so much spiritually. Still, as a person, I have learned what it is like to be a member of the beloved community. I have learned that I can bring my real and authentic self with me in my everyday life and that there is a place for me in the beloved community, and after much thought, meditation, and prayer, fire is now roaring inside me. As a result of my religious studies coursework, I have come to have a greater understanding of the world around me and my relationship to it as both an individual and a member of society. I have begun not only to ask more questions around the very nature of religion but how and why it functions the way it does, if it works and why it does or does not function as intended. I have also come to understand religion, not as a binary system of beliefs that all members of a religious community must follow but as merely a guide or a means in which some individuals choose to observe how they see fit for their own lives. I have come to see religious and spiritual movements as a way to push boundaries to the point where they almost brake but not entirely or all at once.
Going into religious studies, I looked for something different, though I was not prepared for what I found. I knew going into religious studies that I wanted to understand the world around me as I also prepared for seminary and a life-long ministry of faith leadership. What I was not prepared for was how the study of religion would change my entire worldview over and over. I have come to question everything from the existence of a divine presence, systems of worship, rites, and rituals, to systems of historical oppression that religious individuals who exist in the margins of their identities and faith experience daily. Why did I choose to study in religious discipline, paying for an institution of higher education to explore that of religion and religiosity, knowing the trauma religion has caused me in the past? Why did I choose to subject myself to an academic discipline that would challenge my worldview and my religious beliefs over and over again? Why do I want to be a religious leader for Unitarian Universalist Fellowship? All these questions and more are what I must now piece together an answer as one chapter in my life comes to a close, and the next begins.
In the words of author Ralph Marston Jr.,
“Just because the road ahead is long, is no reason to slow down. Just because there is much work to be done is no reason to get discouraged.
It is a reason to get started, to grow, to find new ways, to reach within yourself and discover strength, commitment, determination, and discipline.”
I know the road ahead is long, and I know the journey before me will be challenging, but I am ready for the challenges it will bring. I am prepared for the exciting and new possibilities and opportunities ahead of me, and I am ready for this incredibly unique and spiritual journey of self-discovery and love. I am called “Called OUT of the Closets Towards Faith” and Towards Ministry: to where and what are you called? We and to what are called to something; the question is what that calling is and how we will answer our calling.Whatever your calling, May you have the strength, the love, and support to answer YES, of course, and I’m ready.
May it Be So and Blessed Be