If Your T-Cells Are Low, God Will Make a Way…

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If Your T-Cells Are Low, God Will Make a Way…

I went to gay black church last Sunday and it was fabulous. The music was so loud my girlfriend had to dig out the earplugs she used in a club the night before.

And we danced!

We danced to the gospel hymns a handsome transman sang — “If your T-cells are low, God will make a way!”

He sang to celebrate the “Mother/Father/Everything God who made us just as we are” — no matter what color, who we sleep with, how we live our gender or who we call family. He celebrated it all. The rest of the service was something you can really only imagine if you experience it (something to consider regardless of your religion, sexuality or race) because it’s just raw, spiritual nourishment.

There aren’t enough of these places! The Unity Fellowship of Christ Church Movement has some churches (including the one in Brooklyn I went to) scattered across the country. The Metropolitan Community Churches, another denomination of LGBTQ churches, reach further — even internationally.

But we deserve more.

I grew up in the 1980s in a gay church in Minnesota. My lesbian parents and I went to their services at the local AIDS project. It was a kind of balm to all those spiritually abused by their childhood churches. The sermons told the stories of our struggle for gay liberation as a part of the Jesus’ call to action. The building (a cinder-block warehouse) had a banner running the whole height of the building that read, "The body of Christ is living with AIDS."

But I went to church last Sunday with friends who didn’t grow up knowing “gay” and “church” could ever exist in the same sentence unless one was damning the other. They’d never experienced a religious place where they could be whole. They weren’t used to a church where the preacher talks about butch/femme dynamics, unity among queer women and her own coming out story in a sermon for “Herstory Month.” They’d never seen a gay male Bishop in a fuchsia clergy robe jumping up and down in praise.

So, hi... I'm Ashley Harness (Yeah, I’ve heard the joke.) and this is what I’m going to be about on Velvetpark. I’m a queer, queerspawn, Midwestern transplant to Brooklyn... “God-chick,” as my friends call me. I’m searching for those spaces like Unity Fellowship where our spirits and our sexuality can cohabitate, so to speak. And I’m calling out those places where they can’t.

Come along for the ride, if you like. And tell me your stories along the way…



Comments [32]

Angela Jimenez's picture

great post, ashley. i think

great post, ashley. i think maybe we all need this conversation more than we know....can't wait to see what else you write....and i never heard "god chick" but that:? i REALLY like.

Natasha's picture

I've been attending Unity

I've been attending Unity Fellowship in Brooklyn on and off for 5 years. I never thought I would promote a 'religious institution', but because the experience for me is purely spiritual, I tell all of my friends. One of my closet friends who joins us is Jewish, I'm an ex-Catholic, and my partner Buddhist.
If you're local, you should come too:
www.UFCNYC.org

~I've also experienced Congregation Beth Simchat Torah at an Interfaith Service (held yearly), I absolutely loved what/how they preached and the music!

peacekitty's picture

Hi Ashley. :) The UU church

Hi Ashley. Smile The UU church has a philosophy that encourages religious pluralism. It's a very liberal, all-inclusive church that focuses more on peace, social justice and love than on the teachings of one book, or Bible. In any UU congregation you may find former Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Methodists, gays, lesbians, transexualts, etc. all worshipping together. There is always great music and uplifting stories.

It's a very positive, spiritual experience. Smile

"Fight Prime Time. Read a Book"

Ashley Harness's picture

Thank you for gently

Thank you for gently correcting me! Well, he was a fabulously handsome gay man then... And I will absolutely be back.

RK's picture

Hey there. Enjoyed the

Hey there. Enjoyed the article. Just wanted to let you know though (all in love Smile) that the gentleman that was singing wasn't trans. It was just a gay male.

Hope you will come back and worship with us again.

conlite's picture

Hi! Great intro column -

Hi! Great intro column - looking forward to more.

"There aren't enough of these places!" - All churches that claim to follow Christ should be like this. Until the day that they are, thanks for telling us about the ones that lead the way.

shiva's picture

That was a great idea for a

That was a great idea for a thesis! Lot's of rich material.
I'll look for those negatives!

Grace Moon's picture

I would like to joint that

I would like to joint that visit. I've been dying for a lesbian rabbi to show me her Talmud.

tweet tweet @gracemoon

Emily Shor's picture

Ashley Harness. This is

Ashley Harness.

This is emily...from SPA...kind of strange? Your piece was written beautifully. I loved it. Especially since finding reconciliation between faith/spirituality and my queer identity has always been a struggle for me.

I hope life is well out in brooklyn. Hopefully I will make it out there one day and we can catch up on life's happenings. Until then, I will probably be in Minneapolis.

Take care!

~emily

Ashley Harness's picture

What a story... You should

What a story... You should write a memoir about your spiritual nomadism. I would love to hear more about what you've learned from them all, what lessons transcend the boundaries of all the traditions.

Ashley Harness's picture

"I love the idea that I don’t

"I love the idea that I don’t have to associate with a religion or religious belief to develop spiritually."

Cheers to that!

Ashley Harness's picture

Wow. Have you read any of

Wow. Have you read any of Rev. Troy Perry's writings? He founded the Metropolitan Community Church movement and comes out of a Pentecostal/Baptist background. He writes and preaches about turning the theology he grew up on inside out. It's kind of amazing...

Ashley Harness's picture

Wouldn't that be amazing?!

Wouldn't that be amazing?!

Ashley Harness's picture

Hello, my fellow

Hello, my fellow Minnesooooootan;) Thanks for reading!

Ashley Harness's picture

I love hearing your story,

I love hearing your story, Shiva. I actually wrote a thesis on the history of MCCNY. Those MCC churches have such amazing stories. I can't even imagine the power of having a place like that in AL... Do you have photos from those weddings still? It's important history to remember, especially in these days when, depending where you are, weddings are legal-ish.

Ashley Harness's picture

Hey lady... I'd love to go

Hey lady... I'd love to go with you! There's a fabulous LGBT synagogue here in NY too - Congregation Beth Simchat Torah. We'll have to go check that one out together someday too...

Ashley Harness's picture

Oh wouldn't that be fun...

Oh wouldn't that be fun... I'll scare the crap out of them:)

Ashley Harness's picture

Hug accepted:)

Hug accepted:)

Ashley Harness's picture

Thanks so much, Peacekitty.

Thanks so much, Peacekitty. What's your favorite part of UU church you go to?

CA_Medicine_Woman's picture

Welcome Ashley! I attend a

Welcome Ashley!

I attend a wide variety of services throughout the country. so I get a lot of perspectives. I was born a Jew, raised around Native Americans (of which I'm part) for most of my childhood, and converted to Christianity (even became a minister, lol) many years ago.

I am always fascinated with different faiths, different perspectives, etc. It's just organized religion that scares the crap out of me, especially the ones that claim they are somehow better than others, and that theirs is the only "true faith." History, unfortunately, is full of examples why we should fear such peoples, and we Jews do learn our history, lol.

Lezbeth's picture

Hi Ashley, welcome. I'm one

Hi Ashley, welcome. I'm one of those who shudders, ducks and covers when someone says they're Christian. I know your writing here won't change their behavior or attitudes, but I'm glad you're going to be doing a column.

I belong to a faith (not a Christian one) that pities "homosexuals" and embraces us as long as we follow their laws. I joined years ago believing that my lesbianism was at the heart of all my problems. Once I found out it wasn't that, but alcohol and drugs, I was able to pull away from that religious community. Since then, I've identified as a clean and sober dyke (20 years) and love the idea that I don't have to associate with a religion or religious belief to develop spiritually.

Tex's picture

Hey, Ashley, great to have

Hey, Ashley, great to have you on Vp - talk to us, Hon! I grew up Methodist and converted to Baptist in my first life.....my now life leaves me with a "religious" void although I find myself much more in tune with spirituality. This spirituality came along with my life's epiphany....."abnormal cells" and "lesbian" acknowledgment all about the same time.....strength makers!

'Thymus' be happy,

Tex

Twitter Time @kdhales

Yvonne's picture

Hey Ashley! waiting for your

Hey Ashley! waiting for your posts and hope all Churches unite one day and look like yours Smile

minniesota's picture

Waving to you Ashley! I live

Waving to you Ashley! I live in your old state of Minnesota. Look forward to reading your columns. Smile

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

shiva's picture

"But I went to church last

"But I went to church last Sunday with friends who didn’t grow up knowing “gay” and “church” could ever exist in the same sentence unless one was damning the other. They’d never experienced a religious place where they could be whole."

I'm really looking forward to reading this column, Ashley. And this quote instantly took me back to the early eighties to MCC church in Montgomery, Alabama. It was our only meeting place outside of the bar scene, which was a real sicko environment. Until we had a church, "gay weddings" would be held at the bar with the bar owner-du-jour officiating. I was often called to photograph these events because I was and am a photographer. Then, when MCC opened, it dawned on us that this might could happen in a church.

So then we had gay church late Sunday afternoon, at what we called, "gay time," because it was late enough to get over being at the bar till dawn the night before.

jess's picture

fabulous, hon. come to San

fabulous, hon. come to San Francisco and we'll explore the LGBT synagogue in the Castro together! (can non-Christian religions be in your blog too?)

Xanadu's picture

Hi Ashley! *waving* ... I

Hi Ashley! *waving* ... I think your articles will be very interesting. Just hearing your perspective, as the child of lesbians will be fascinating!

Hey Grace, is the Phelps 'family' 'church' still creeping around VP? Any other known haters reading us? *Curious*

Ediggity's picture

Wow Ashley! So so fantastic.

Wow Ashley! So so fantastic. I love it! Can't wait to read more.

Erica's picture

Hi Ashley! I also grew up

Hi Ashley! I also grew up going to Unitarian Church, but realize I was one of the few lucky ones who grew up with religion being an encouraging and accepting, not repressive, force. I'm excited to see what you write about next!

Fastgurrrl's picture

Wow. :) HUG

Wow. Smile

HUG

gem's picture

Hey Ashley... This is

Hey Ashley... This is awesome... I'm excited to hear about all your findings... Thanks for keeping us posted.

peacekitty's picture

Hi Ashley, and welcome. :)

Hi Ashley, and welcome. Smile I attend the Unitarian Universalist Church and love it. Thanks for the information on the Unity Fellowship Church.

"Fight Prime Time. Read a Book"