One of the questions I get asked most frequently is “how do I find a church?” So many queer and trans folks are looking for and longing for a spiritual home but are not sure how to find it.
I thought I would share some of my best tips on finding a community:
- Check out gaychurch.org. It’s a website that breaks down listings by state. In order to be listed a church has to request it so you know that the church has at least done some work in order to be open and inclusive. This site allows you to at least know some of what’s out there. It’s a good jumping off place to see if there are any churches near you.
- Once you’ve got a list of churches to check out, make sure you go through their website. Each denomination has their own language around LGBTQ issues: For Presbyterians you’re looking for a “More Light” distinction, the Evangelical Lutheran Church In America is “Reconciling in Christ”, The United Church of Christ is “Open and Affirming”, the American Baptist church is “Welcoming and Affirming”, The United Methodist Church is “Reconciling”. I think generally the Episcopal Church and the Metropolitan Community Churches are welcoming. Sadly these designations don’t always reveal if a congregation has done their work on transgender issues. You might have to send an email and ask.
- Look for a welcoming statement: some churches will have a list of folks they welcome. Look for correct language and the inclusion of gender identity/expression.
- Feel free to send an email to the Pastor of the church. If they get defensive because you’ve asked a question you might want to skip the in person visit. Any Pastor that’s done their work should understand where your questions are coming from. They should give a clear and unequivocal answer to your questions. (I’ll never forget the time I asked a pastor if his church was queer friendly and his response was “Well, there are queer people here and we’re friendly.” I never went back.)
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- Check out the church statement of faith if they have one posted. There are often hints in here. If a church claims that the Bible is the “literal word of God” or that they believe in “God’s design for marriage” they probably won’t be affirming.
- After you’ve narrowed your list down by checking out the website it might be time to plan an in person visit. If you are anxious about going alone, you might want to ask a friend. Even a friend who isn’t interested in church might be willing to accompany you.
- Trust your gut. If you walk into a church and don’t feel comfortable, if something strikes you as “off”, if people seem cold, it’s okay to not go back. It’s also okay to give it a second try. But really, your gut is there to guide you. Trust it.
Okay, so after all of this, what if you still can’t find a church?
- You might be in an area that doesn’t have any welcoming churches or where you might have to travel a while. You might consider making the trip once a month just to get some community. Or you could find a church where they live stream the services.
- You can gather a group of likeminded friends (either in person or online) to study the Bible and pray together.
- You might have to start something. Not everyone is called to start something new, but if what you need doesn’t exist there might not be any other options.
Sometimes you want more out of a spiritual community than is available to you where you — we get that. We started Sanctuary Collective to make the community and relationships that were so vital to our own processes available to you, wherever you are in your journey (or in the world). We’d love for you to join us inside.
This article was published by Fr. Shannon Kearns
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