News from AllianceQ: November 2019
"What the global Church could be": A Story of Welcome
*contributed by Rev. Amanda Kerr, St. Paul’s Christian Church, Raleigh, NC
When I began my journey at Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity, I had no intention of pursuing full-time congregational ministry. I had been interested in theology and ministry from a young age, but my childhood church didn’t ordain women so I guess I never saw myself (or any other woman) in that role. During my second semester at Wake Divinity, I stumbled across the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) while looking for a part-time job that could help pay my rent. The hours and job description seemed doable, but unlike my cis-gender, straight colleagues, I had to confirm one more piece of important information before applying: would this church hire an out gay woman?
Thankfully, I found out that one of my queer friends had previously interned with this congregation, so the final box was checked! I submitted my resume and soon began my work at First Christian Church Greensboro. I had no intention of joining this church, but over time I was drawn to the people, mission, and heart of this community. The church reminded me of my Baptist/congregational roots, but also provided some high-church feels when we sang the Gloria Patri, recited the Lord’s Prayer, and received communion each week. Over the next year, I discovered a home at FCC Greensboro. This congregation was a place of healing and encouragement; a vision of what the global Church could be.
During my final semester at Wake Divinity, I was applying for ministry jobs while planning a June wedding with my fiancé, Megan. It was a BUSY semester! Most of the jobs I applied for were with non-profits or para-church ministries, but I was also encouraged to apply for one Disciples of Christ church in Raleigh, NC. I knew for a fact that they had never hired a LGBTQ person, but most folks thought the church would be open to the idea. I submitted my resume and cover letter and scheduled my first Skype interview. As I prepared for my interview, I wondered if my sexuality would come up: Did they know I was gay and engaged to be married to a woman in a few months? It wasn’t listed on my resume or named in my cover letter, but would they bring it up? Should I if they didn’t?
The interview flowed nicely and we all seemed to enjoy the conversation. We talked about my background, my experience at Wake Divinity and First Christian Church Greensboro. We talked about my gifts and calling, and their congregational identity. Before I knew it, the hour was up. My sexuality or the gender of my fiancé had not come up. They asked if I had any more questions, so I bit the bullet. After all, I would rather deal with an awkward response behind a computer screen than later in person.
“Umm… yeah, I am not sure if this is something important for you to know, or if you know already, but I am an out gay woman, and I am marrying my fiancé, Megan, in June. So I was wondering if you think your congregation would be open to a gay minister?”
Without a pause, the head of the Search Committee nodded and shook his head, “Thank you for sharing. Before we began the interview process, we talked as a committee about how the most important thing for our congregation is to find someone who has the gifts and skills that are the best fit for St. Paul’s. Regardless of sexuality or gender identity, we want the best person for the job.”
My heart slowed down, my red face cooled; a wave of relief passed over me. And I smiled back.
“That’s great to know. It sounds like we would be a great fit for one another,” I said.
Three months later, I was married to Megan and installed as the Associate Minister at St. Paul’s Christian Church. It is my hope that one day these anxious conversations about someone’s sexual or gender identity don’t have to be discussed during a job interview. But in the meantime, I pray that more and more queer clergy experience the same affirmation I experienced at St. Paul’s Christian Church.
Thanks be to God.
Do you have a “story of welcome” that illustrates how you have found welcome and belonging? How did a person or congregation extend its welcome and how can others help widen the welcome?
How can churches work to replace stories of unwelcome with stories of welcome?