There is a group here in Kansas City called the Kansas City Coalition for Welcoming Ministries and I am blessed to take part, though I’m not as active in planning and leadership as I would like. KCCWM began just two years ago following a grassroots, LGBT Faith training weekend. The group’s vision is “That all faith communities in the metropolitan Kansas City area will respect and welcome all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.” I came in contact with these wonderful people of faith as they organized their first event called “TRANSforming our Community”. And this was actually my very first transgender understanding presentation – which I have now offered dozens of times to various groups since then.
Recently, KCCWM organized another event called the Academy of Welcome. The plenary session was headed by Dr. Robert Minor, professor of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas and author, who is very active in talking about Scriptures and a more caring reading regarding LGBT peoples. The evening “Service of Healing” featured, among other things, a keynote from Harry Knox, the director for the Religion and Faith Program of the Human Rights Campaign. The four workshops offered were violence in the LGBT community, how to become more or officially “welcoming”, a “check-up” for those already declared as welcoming and understanding transgender. I got to reprise – although greatly revised (and hopefully improved, too!) – the presentation started nearly two years ago.
I was busy getting the projector and screen set up during most of Bob Minor’s talk, making sure the computer and everything was working properly. It’s an old occupational hazard from my years in radio broadcasting – I don’t like technical malfunctions that a little preparation can avoid. So I got set up more than an hour before my talk.
After the plenary – and I got to hear the last half hour or so – we broke for refreshments. I saw some good friends, chatted briefly, grabbed some water and cookies (incidentally…you can always feed me cookies!) and headed to my room at the end of the downstairs hallway. I wanted to be there as my guests arrived. To my surprise, a woman was already there!
We engaged in a little chit chat, this was not someone I recognized, and I asked which church she attended. She seemed rather ashamed. “I attend (a local Baptist congregation). Needless to say, I am here for myself and not for my church.” As others began to file into the room, I had time to simply thank her for her heart and left it at that.
After the workshops, we were able to share a wonderful meal and I would hear her then and as we began to gather for the evening service explain with some embarrassment “We’re not American Alliance or anything like that…we’re SBC”, she lamented. The Southern Baptist Convention is well known for its rigidity regarding LGBT acceptance.
At the Service of Healing, I was honored to read an essay from expatriate Vietnamese Buddhist pacifist Thich Nhat Hahn about a pebble sinking slowly, effortlessly to the bottom of the creek bed. The essay was intended as a meditation and relaxation. Pebbles or Stones were the theme of the service.
The evening now complete, I am face to face with my new friend in the aisle of the sanctuary. She has tears in her eyes and we shared a warm hug. Why she attended, I never asked. How she left, I will always treasure.