“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect.”
- Audre Lorde, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” from Sister Outsider
“My silence will not protect me,” says Audre Lorde in the same paper quoted above. These are the words that gave me the courage to profess my feelings to a woman for the first time. They are the words that propelled me into my coming out journey.
Fast forward four years and I am an (almost) ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament and 1001 New Worshipping Communities Resident working as the new Re-entry Pastor at Hagar’s Community Church. It is no longer scary to speak my truth and to live into who God created me to be. It has become yet another piece of my identity and is a truth that I simply embody every day: I am a queer woman.
Because the novelty has worn off, I often forget the impact I can have when I am living my truth unapologetically. My very existence can give permission to other people to embrace their own holy belovedness as a queer child of God.
On my first day at Hagar’s Community Church, I Skyped into a service that was happening on the inside of the WCCW and being led by Pastor Lane. I introduced myself and gave space for the members of HCC to ask me questions about myself and my new role as Re-entry Pastor. When I told them I was soon to be married (to a woman), some of them whooped, some stood up, some clapped. I don’t often get this reaction when I tell people I’m engaged. The very simple act of indirectly communicating my queerness was exciting to the members of Hagar’s, many of whom also identify as LGBTQ+. I would guess that the majority of them had never met a queer woman pastor.
During the “Choose Your Own Path” portion of the service, Pastor Lane led a few members through a guided meditation in which they sat with Jesus on a bench. After the meditation, Lane asked how it was for them and one person shared the following (I am paraphrasing): “You know, before Hagar’s, I’d always been told that I had to choose between God and my girlfriend. I broke up with my girlfriend and was told that was a sacrifice to God. But today, I imagined sitting at the bench with Jesus. My girlfriend was there too. And it was the first time I didn’t have to pick between the two.”
My existence is a gift because it communicates to other people that it is very much possible to be both queer and a Christian (even a pastor). That faith and sexuality can exist together. That it can be beautiful, holy, and blessed by God.
How does your very existence preach the Word of God to the people around you? What is your testimony? How do you embody the grace of God every day?
My siblings in Christ at Hagar’s Community Church are a diverse group. They are Black, white, Latinx, Indigenious, Asian. They are straight, queer, transgender. They come from different backgrounds and they each have a unique story. And yet, they are often grouped together and defined by their worst mistake. But they are so much more than their worst mistake.
As the Re-entry Pastor of Hagar’s Community Church, I hope to extend the mission and to walk alongside the members of HCC as they transition into life on the outside. I also hope to be their advocate to churches, a voice that can witness to their gifts to the Church and beyond. Like queer people, currently and formerly incarcerated people have historically been marginalized both politically and socially. The Church has not always welcomed them with acceptance and grace. However, their very existence and life experience offers something special to the Church. We would be wise to listen to them.
I hope to continue sharing these kinds of stories on the blog.
To get in touch with me about how you or your community can get involved with re-entry at HCC, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rev. Riley Pickett (she/her) is the new Re-entry Pastor and 1001 New Worshipping Communities Resident at Hagar's Community Church. She is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and hails from the Gulf Coast, but is loving life in the Pacific Northwest with her partner, Shawna. Riley is passionate about creating church in nontraditional spaces and with people who haven't felt at home in the Church, especially those people who have been excluded on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.