Visible Witness from the Intersection

a journey through the love of Christ reflecting the spectrum of gender and sexuality.

Maundy Thursday Reflection from Pastor Spellman April 1, 2010

Filed under: Daily Devotional Pages — visiblewitness @ 8:55 am
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The ability to empathize is a gift.  To hear someone else’s story and to experience as if it were your own develops a holy connection that I believe God blesses.

Have you, too, read the stories of the past forty days and felt the pain and anger of so many of these journeys in faith and sexuality as if they were precisely your own?  Have you superimposed others’ stories on your own life, feeling your own pain all the more acutely as it joins with that of others?

That has been my walk this Lent, particularly through the guidance of our sisters and brothers who have been bold enough to share pieces of their stories of brokenness and healing.  With each one, I’ve been broken, too.

And then we come to Holy Week – the week in which we re-live our collective brokenness as we journey from Palm Sunday to today, Maundy Thursday.  And we see the example of a God who acts in perfect empathy beyond anything any of us could muster, who kneels at the disciples’ dirty and smelly feet and washes them, summoning us to do the same.

It could all be so overwhelming.  It is. Trying to walk in Jesus’ footsteps means having some version of a Calvary experience.  For me, that re-living is so difficult that I feel depressed every Holy Week around now.  Many of you do, too.

But then I remember that God achieved the most complex things in very simple actions.  And salvation is God’s work, not mine.  So I set my sights on the simple things before me.  God doesn’t call me to a cross.  Rather, God calls me to kneel at your feet.

Then, knowing that we’ll find our way to the cross, anyway, God nourishes us with a meal for the journey, giving us Christ to sustain us in an act of God’s perfect, empathic love.

May we but share in that love, for by this, we will know that we are Christ’s disciples.

-The Rev. Kaji Rosa Spellman


Seeing Ourselves as God Sees Us March 27, 2010

Filed under: Daily Devotional Pages — visiblewitness @ 4:35 am
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I grew up on a dairy farm and spent much of my time hanging out with my dad in the fields and the barn.  I also got to go to the local farmer hangout – the Roundtop Diner.  The other farmers would tease all of us about girlfriends, but I already knew that my attraction was not towards Jill but to some of the younger farmer boys in town, in particular Ned and Lee.  I could not quite connect the dots, but I knew at seven that something was different about my hard wiring.

The church life of my community was very much a Hutchison thing.  Both my Mother and Father were very active in the church community, in fact the land the church was built on was donated by my parents.  Sunday School and Service on Sunday and dinner at Grandmas was a weekly guarantee.  My siblings and I were active young members of the United Methodist Church and it was a natural fit.  When I was 10 a piece of my childhood was stolen when my father died.  I had a powerful faith, even at that young age and  I quickly filled in the wide void by getting more deeply involved in my church and faith. 

Once in Sunday School class my teacher had us review some bible quotes.  One in particular stuck with me,   “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”  Hebrews 10:35.   I was never a shy one so I just built on my confidence and became one of the regular “kids” in town. Bike riding, trying to uncurl the pigs’ tails, challenging the rooster to a duel and just plain hanging out in the wonder of a very safe world.    No one ever made comments about gay people, I am not sure we even knew what the meaning of gay was.  To be sure a nagging feeling was always there.  Why did basketball captain Rodney Plowman hold such an attraction to me and not the Homecoming Queen Sharon Cowan?    Sharon even called me her best girlfriend once and I thought that was a pretty cool gesture on her part.   And let’s not forget about Ned and Lee, they were looking better and better as time passed.   This of course was all fantasy to me, and nothing ever happened, I was not even sure what I was suppose to do.   This was long before the web,  Will and Grace or Out magazine existed to guide a teenager.

Alas, that fantasy came to an end when I moved on to college and into the work world to discover that “fags” were bad people and worse yet I might be one of them.  I struggled major with this, dating, even getting married, thinking that it would all go away and I would be NORMAL. 

 After all Ward and June Cleaver had a great family life, why shouldn’t I?  However, it was not to be and I had to face the reality of who I was.  The first few years were not easy, having casual encounters, even falling in love with a married guy but they always ended in sadness.  Then I met Paul who was in a similar place to me, but we did not like one another at the start.  Over time we established common ground and he was determined to win me over, and the relationship flourished.  From there it progressed to outing myself to my friends and family.  Most of them said they already knew so I really had had nothing to fear.

31 years later I am proud to say, I am all grown up now, with a lifetime partner who shares many of the same values and interests that I do.  I have now come full circle back to a very safe world linked to a very strong faith.  Thanks be to God.

-David Hutchison


The Journey Continues… March 16, 2010

Filed under: Daily Devotional Pages — visiblewitness @ 4:16 am
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The day that I met my husband Eric Stenshoel was the luckiest day of my life. At that point, in February 1992, it had been two and a half years since my life partner of 16 years, Louis Fulgoni, had died of AIDS, and I was beginning to despair of ever finding a lifemate again.

Eric’s first partner Bill Prosser had died only three months before we met, but because Eric had done a better job of preparing for Bill’s death than I had done with Louis, he was ready for a new relationship. If I had met Eric three months after Louis died, when I was just at the beginning of a year of deep and self-destructive grief, I doubt that we would have clicked so quickly.

A few weeks after we began our relationship, I found myself at Saint Peter’s for a mass and performance by the choir. Not being a church-goer, I felt a bit like a fish out of water. This very first time I showed up, two warm and welcoming people engaged me in conversation after mass: Pastors John Gensel and John Damm.

The second or third time I came to Saint Peter’s was Good Friday. I was unable to resist when Eric told me the Saint Matthew Passion was to be done with orchestra. This was a work I already knew well from recordings  –  although it took a few years to get used to hearing it in English  –  and the opening chords of the beginning chorale always bring tears to my eyes, even before the double choirs begin to sing. You could say that what hooked me on St. Peter’s was the music.

As a child I was pretty much spared exposure to religion. Neither of my parents were religious until later in life. For a few years when I was in elementary school we lived next door to my grandmother, who would come over Sunday morning and ask, “Oh, boys, which one of you wants to go to church with me?” My two younger brothers and I would run and hide, but ever so often one of us would have to endure Sunday school, then a service.

Not to mention surviving the ride to and from church with my grandmother driving my uncle’s car. Looking back, I am amazed that my parents allowed this. Years later I learned that Gran never had a driver’s license. She grew up on a wheat farm in west Texas, and drove a car like a wagon. I remember her coming to a stop sign and pulling back on the steering wheel while telling the car, “Whoa!” Fortunately she also used the brake.

This was the Church of Christ (and I do not mean UCC) and it was the late 1940s and early 1950s. I once asked why the singing was a cappella, when our Baptist friends had an organ. The answer was that the Bible said “Lift up your voices and sing.” When I was 11 years old my father went back into the U.S. Army and we moved away, sparing me from further exposure to this kind of religion. I suspect that this change helped make my coming to terms with my sexuality a lot easier.

I knew that I was gay at an early age, probably when I was about nine years old. I did not know what it meant, but I knew it was not anything you shared with anyone other than your most trusted contemporaries. In the fifth grade I had three best friends among the boys, two of them gay like me, and we all knew it and talked about it, to the extent that we understood it, meaning we mostly talked about our schoolboy infatuations. The fourth (straight) member of our little circle might have felt like that fish out of water, but he seemed comfortable with the three of us.

Funny thing, even back then some of our butch classmates knew that we were queer {the term “gay” was not yet in general use) and ragged us about it. I am talking about 1950 here. Years later, when I was in my twenties, I learned that a fifth-grade classmate, a graceful, muscular jock on whom I had a huge crush, had left his wife and child and was living with his male lover.

 It has now been 18 years that I have been coming to Saint Peter’s. Despite my uncertainties about religion, the people of Saint Peter’s have become family. I have come to admire and rely on the leadership of Pastor Derr on moral issues. Visible Witness (I prefer to call it the Queer Caucus) is a testament to Mandy’s vision and leadership. The first meeting of this group last fall was powerful and moving. As participants described their bitter childhood  –  and adult  –  experiences of rejection by their religious leaders and families, I realized how lucky my escape from fundamentalist religion had been. No one told me when I was growing up that I was going to hell.

Saint Peter’s feels like home. It is gratifying to be part of a community that does so much good, where people take seriously the charge to love  –  and help  –  your neighbor.

 Recently I had an exchange with a parish member, who commented that I had been coming around more often. I replied that I felt comfortable at Saint Peter’s but sometimes felt odd, because I could not exactly say I am a believer. He looked at me, and after a pause said, “Everyone has doubts.”

 So the journey continues.

-Michael McKee