My name is Laura. I am on a spiritual journey and I hope you’ll join me.

My greatest desire is to pursue a meaningful life through deep reflection, authentic relationships, and time seeking the Spirit. I like to write down my thoughts and prayers which usually center around God’s all encompassing love for everyone. I also love creating and singing music that has language which points me to the Spirit’s love. My purpose is to be in a genuine relationship with God and those around me. Worship Leader @mosaicfumc at First United Methodist Church of Denton, TX.

All Are Welcome Here

All Are Welcome Here

This weekend 864 people from all over the world are going to gather in St. Louis and decide what the future of the United Methodist Church will look like when it comes to inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons. I have been working and caring about this since joining the UMC in 2015.

“Why do you care about this?”

“Why are you using your vacation days on /this/?”

“Why are you getting up at 4 am on a Saturday to fly to St. Louis?”

Good questions. I’ll lay out my cards. I’m a bisexual member of the United Methodist Church. I am also a theology student studying queer and liberation theologies to better help my fellow LGBTQ+ Christians (and non-Christians) grapple with the complexity of the crossroads of being gay and religious.

I’m invested in this. I started going to a UMC in 2015 after a while of not going to a church at all. I was tired of being told only part of me was welcome, part of me had to be left outside. I wasn’t loved fully by God.

I went to a UMC at the encouragement of a friend who knew my sexuality. I trusted her because she loved me and I thought “If that’s the church E grew up in, I want to try it.” I did my research too, looked into what this denomination was all about, and what it promoted. What I read and what I saw from my pew showed me a church that cares for the world.

I heard my reverend speak on love, love as the founder of the Methodist movement saw it, as the greatest commandment. I saw the church love the community by packing food kits and knitting blankets. This was love in action, something I had not seen in my other churches. I had seen love with strings attached. This was love for love’s sake, for neighbor’s sake. I joined the church after a year.

I joined never telling anyone in the church I was bisexual. I was open to my friends in the town that didn’t go to church, but I didn’t tell my church. I still heard hurtful things in the pews from the people that were part of my church family. I’ll never forget the feeling I felt when the little old lady I had shared a pew with for over a year commented to me when we were talking about the 2016 general conference, “I just don’t understand what those homosexuals want.”

I bit my tongue. I didn’t go to church for two weeks. I avoided her. Because I didn’t want to say, “we want to know we are loved by God and our community that we want to be members of.” I loved the church and I volunteered but I still felt like only part of me belonged and I couldn’t truly be myself.

I have since moved and attend a modern service of a large progressive UMC. The liturgy for this service is the same every week. It’s always “All Are Welcome Here”.

Leader: We come together to seek God — trusting that God is seeking us with open arms. 
Together: All are welcome here. 
Leader: No matter our doubts or questions, where we come from or who we love, even in the chaotic seasons of life — we are loved by God. 
Together: All are welcome here. 
Leader: We believe that everyone is a child of God — every age, race, gender, identity, and creed — all are beautifully and colorfully made and of sacred worth. 
Together: All are welcome here. 
Leader: We affirm that God is a good God who lifts the oppressed, loves the vulnerable, and is open to all, so we choose to have open hearts, open minds, open arms, and open doors to God and to each other. 
Together: All are welcome here.

To be honest, I was skeptical. I had been around the block with churches. I knew “welcome” was code for “yeah sure you can sit with us, but you don’t belong.” So, I said it, I listened to the reverend a few times, and sang the songs. It was good. But as I kept going I started to see the heart of the people. These people did more than welcome one another, they loved each other. Exactly as they were. They meant every line in the liturgy. Their “welcome” wasn’t the empty “hi” you get at the department store. Their “welcome” was the welcome you get when you run into the arms of your loved one at the airport after not seeing them for months and they tell you “welcome home.”

That church is my family.

When I finally came out to my parents it’s only because I knew if I lost their support I would be okay because my church would be there to be my family. I am in divinity school because I want to share the love and hope they gave me with as many people as I can. This is a Methodist Church. The same denomination as the church I hid myself in because I was not sure I could belong.

I have never felt like I belong in a place more than I do here at the corner of Sycamore and Locust. I am there as often as I can be because those people give me hope when I don’t have any. Their love for me and my love for them keeps me going on the painful days. They are full of love and hope and I see God in them.

So, what about St. Louis?

I care about what happens because I care about this church. I care about the people in this church. We are the people that will be impacted by this. We are doing ministries to communities that are told by everyone else, “you are a sinner, repent.” We are saying, “you are beloved, love others in return.” We cannot lose that message to the world. There are other Methodist Churches doing this work and we are stronger when our voices are unified.

I care about this because I have met the most beautiful souls that love the Lord in divinity school that are called to ministry by God. They are members of the LGBTQ+ community. If the traditional plans pass, they will not get to live out their calling to lead communities. Instead, someone else gets to decide what God says about them and their value in ministry. Someone else gets to decide what they heard from God was wrong.

I care about this work because we are a denomination that prides itself on its social justice initiatives, but we are denying justice to an entire segment of the population because of certain interpretations of text that are askew to fit a political agenda and moral belief.

I care about what happens in St. Louis because my church is my family. They have loved me exactly as I am and accepted me. This is the same message I have heard from many other LGBTQ+ Methodists, their church is their family. I will not just sit at home while people who don’t know us, our stories, and our lives get to decide our standing in the church. I am going to St. Louis to make sure my voice is heard and that the voices and stories of the community I am part of are heard.

My worth and my “compatibility with Christian teachings” are not up for debate. God loves me and all my LGBTQ+ siblings exactly as we are created. No legislation nor plan will change that.

My identity does not define my faith; my faith does not define my identity. They are two parts of a whole person.

My next post will be from St. Louis. I invite you to meet me there in body or in spirit.

I don’t know what the outcome of the General Conference will bring, but I know one thing with all my heart. If we are to be the church that God calls us to be, we must welcome all God’s children and say:

All are welcome here.

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A Relevant Prayer

A Relevant Prayer