Monday, July 7, 2008

GLBT Fast and Testimony Meeting

We gathered at The Open Book, a resource center for writers near downtown Minneapolis. As C. and I found conference room number 301 on the third floor and noticed the room schedule neatly printed with the word "Affirmation" in the 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. time slot, I said, "Wow, that looks official." C. laughed.

There were only three of us. In my opening prayer, I reminded God (and us) about Christ's promise "when two or three are gathered" in his name. The promise was kept.

Because there were only three of us, we each were able to bear our testimony without having to worry about how much time each of us were taking. The testimonies were real. They were painfully personal. There were too few of us to fall back on clich├ęs or try to impress each other. These were real testimonies of the Gospel, witnesses of how the Spirit's influence, obedience to divine principles, and Church fellowship have transformed our lives. But they were testimonies born in the specificity of our lives not conventionally Mormon, testimonies where the gay / same-sex attracted part of the story didn't have to be elided. Those parts of our testimonies were just there, just part of the story, without being the main point of the story.

We each told our conversion stories. I told of my re-conversion in the summer and fall of 2005. N. told of his conversion in September of 2006, and C. told of her conversion experience over the course of years, culminating in her baptism in November 2007. Each of us bore witness to the patient work of the Spirit in our lives, planting and nurturing seeds of faith, sometimes in spite of ourselves, sometimes in spite of the homophobia of fellow Saints, always miraculously.

This was an emotional moment for me. I am not permitted to speak or pray in Sacrament Meeting and so intentionally pausing to share my testimony felt momentous. C. had told her bishop about our small gathering ahead of time, and he had given his blessing to her participation. By her account, he even thought it "a good idea," despite strong disapproval from her Evergreen-affiliated ward sponsor. N. told of his ward leaders' perennial discomfort with him. Their only response to him since his baptism has been that he needed to put all this homosexuality stuff behind him. That was all in the past now that he was a Latter-day Saint. That advice had plunged him into depression. Yet the Spirit has spoken to each of us so undeniably, so irrepressibly, we each have been drawn powerfully to the Church despite the ambivalence and disapproval, the denial and the disconnects. So we needed this opportunity to bear witness to the truths in our lives -- all our truths.

Last year I managed to organize a few Affirmation meetings with a somewhat different cast of characters. We gathered to watch and discuss each of the three videos on "Same-Sex Attraction" produced by LDS Resources. But this meeting -- this "GLBT Fast and Testimony Meeting" -- to me felt like the true beginning for Affirmation Minnesota. It was the Affirmation I've always wanted, the one in which we embrace the fullness of who we are. Body and spirit. Faith and life. Struggle and testimony. An Affirmation that affirmed our faith as well as our personhood, where we could come as we are and bear witness! Where the Spirit was present and we were refreshed!

After we had each shared our stories and our testimonies, there were hugs and encouragement and expressions of hope. We discussed our next meeting (same time, first Sunday of the month from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m., same place, at The Open Book, 1011 Washington Avenue). Renting a room at The Open Book is not cheap. But I like the space. It is bright and airy, open and physically accessible, Spartan but attractive. I love the creative energy of a center devoted to writers. But more importantly, it felt right to me. I had a "this-is-the-place" kind of feel about it. C. and I committed to cover the monthly rent out of our own pockets for the time being, until we have a chapter membership willing to pay dues and help defray costs. It felt right to me to commit to this something personal, something as real and tangible as cash. This is how we progress. This is how faith becomes flesh and blood.

This felt like the beginning of something important.


Maraiya said...

This sounds really wonderful. I didn't know you weren't allowed to speak in sacrament meeting at all. That seems not right to me since anyone is allowed to get up and speak in F&T, even those who don't have testimonies or disagree. I understand how necessary it is to be able to share your testimony, share your experiences and to hear the light of the Spirit working with others, particularly those who are in a similar situation.

Good luck to you in forming this group. God bless.

Grey Wolfe said...

It was a great time. I'm glad I'm not the only one who felt the Spirit. Next month, remember, bring a date.

J G-W said...

Next month, I'll try to even bring two!