“These? These are the ones you don’t want around? The ones whose precious angel voices are raised in harmony to worship the God you try and contain in your four walls, your leather-bound pages, your doctrine and dogma? The ones who’ve been driven out, ghosted, forgotten, ignored, muzzled and hog tied with red tape? These ones? These flesh-covered bones carrying impossibly large souls who just refuse…to die. To go away. Door after door has been slammed in their face and like the hemorraghing woman they did not stop reaching for Jesus.”
As our hundreds of voices communed together with The Many in singing “Come, Thou Fount,” my heart mourned for the ones who lost us. Congregations and churches and small groups and committees and ministries and worship bands and faith communities have lost the ones who refuse to sacrifice the power and potential of the gospel in order to maintain the man-made container we’ve tried to corral it in.
“Y’all are some dumbasses.” This is what I want to say to the pastors and preachers and priests and deacons and youth leaders and fellow congregants who instead of listening to the only ones brave enough to say “This is not right,” sent them packing or simply acted as if they never existed at all.
They called us trouble makers but we were always trouble shooters and when you kill the trouble shooter you’ve got a lot of trouble on your hands.
I’m sitting in my hotel room in downtown Minneapolis, on the last night of the Evolving Faith conference in 2023. I’m mostly writing this for myself, to process the thing, and also for other conference goers. This is my big warm hug that I wish I could have given each of you in person but there was a whole lot of you and maybe physical touch isn’t your thing. It’s rough and earnest. The best I have at this moment in time.
Of all of the speakers and sessions and book signings, my favorite part of the conference was the closing communion. It didn’t hurt that it was led by Nadia Bolz-Weber (the first female pastor who made me think that maybe, I, too, could do that someday), but it also didn’t MATTER that it was led by Nadia Bolz-Weber. What mattered was that the table laid out before us did not come with any reserved seating. These powerful and influential leaders in the progressive Christian space kept the main thing the main damn thing. The core of why any of it matters. Jesus.
Nobody should be excluded. No BODY should be excluded. Trans bodies can receive the body of Christ. Disabled bodies can receive the body of Christ. Black bodies can receive the body of Christ. Old bodies can receive the body of Christ. Indigenous bodies can receive the body of Christ. This body, the one that needs and yearns and desires and aches and argues and tells me to never shut up but maybe rest a little more can receive the body of Christ.
And it was so, so, so achingly beautiful.
As I stood across the book signing table from Sarah Bessey, she warmly grabbed my hand and said, “Oh Cat! I know you!” Friends, I do not think Sarah Bessey knows me. But I shared with her the reason I know her. And it’s kinda complicated and ironic and painful and deeply personal, but it isn’t lost on me the hilarity of our Creator. God is an incredible story teller.
I am going to go get some peanut M&Ms from the hotel lobby. Charge them to my room like a bougie lady and all. I will fly home to Kansas tomorrow. See my babies. Love on my dog and husband. (My kids are too cool for all that.)
And I will always, always remember this time with these people. We are the ones who got away. The losses are mutual. Yes, we lost our faith communities of origin (and maybe a few more after that), but they lost us too. But we are never lost to each other, as humans. I heard the voice of God tell me (I’m proudly woo-woo) that “The sacred is in the reaching.” The yearning, burning desire to keep seeking connection, healing, repair, answers, the best of human potential and the kingdom God intended all along–is the little plot twist right at the end of the season finale that lets you know another season is on the way. The story isn’t over. Our stories are never over.
(Thank you, thank you to the Evolving Faith team, all of the volunteers, the incredible speakers, the vendors, the visitors. I hope to write more in depth down the road. If I’m able. And if I’m not, that’s okay too. <3)