For the past four weeks now, I’ve shared a story with you about seat saving. They are each unique, but share the common goal of loving others without barriers, with attention, without judgement, and with graciousness.
I loved reading Jenn’s story because it’s not just about seat saving; it’s about seat creating. It’s about creating space for LGBTQ+ and allies in a church where that had never existed. It’s about using privilege for the marginalized and about showing up in active, bold ways.
His eyes were on the dark road ahead of us, nothing but the sound of the overworked AC breaking the silence between us.
“I felt broken. Why did God do this to me? What did I do wrong? Am I not worthy of love?”
Brooks, a dear friend of mine from church, was sharing about his experience at church as a gay man that I hadn’t heard before. I always thought I was an ally, but hearing Brooks tell me his story, using those words, fractured that belief.
I had felt those things before. Those same exact feelings, though not from being gay. For the first time, I was able to empathize. And the idea to start a Christian LGTBQ+ and Allies support group was born.
It took a few years. It took finding the right people. It took courage. But I knew it was needed and it was right. And in 2018, Rise was born—a group where we would rise above preconceived notions and seek first to understand as allies. We had successful fundraisers, speakers locally and flown in. We started with 12 people in my basement and grew to nearly 70 people attending regularly.
I don’t say this to toot my horn about being an ally. I say this to show that it’s possible. I was scared—I had people calling me and telling me to watch out because I would be leading people to hell. I had someone come over and warn me against publicly speaking about it because it could prevent future church leadership positions (I was in one at the time). But I learned that for me, the worst that could happen was being rejected from the church of my youth, which all of my LGBTQ+ friends were experiencing. If I couldn’t use my straight cis privilege to make church a safe space for others, then could I really claim to love my neighbor?
Being an ally is activism. It’s listening. It’s having hard conversations and standing up. It’s showing up. It’s saving a seat and being vocal to those around you who you’re saving a seat for. You never know who is listening and who needs to know.
So many thanks to Jenn for sharing her words and being such a light to those around her. I am so hopeful. You can connect to her over on Instagram, where she said she would be happy to answer questions if others want to start groups like Rise in their church.
If you missed previous Seat-Saver’s Stories, here are the links:
Alicia Fick, Beth Richardson, and mine.
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