I came out when I was 12, prompting several years of severe bullying. Soon after I turned to religion for help, only to find out that I was not welcomed, that I was not “the child of God” the church wanted me to be. I quickly learned that being a member of the church meant hiding a part of myself from those closest to me. Pretending to be something I am not suddenly made me feel unimportant, alone, unwanted and unloved. The very faith that I once loved stopped me from going to church altogether, forcing me to explore a new spirituality of my own.
Sadly, years of being outside of the church walls left me wanting. On January 1, 2017 in entered Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (TVUUC) in Knoxville, TN. Before my first service ended, I found myself sobbing with tears of joy. I finally found the welcome I had been missing all those years. TVUUC welcomed me as I am. I would never again need to hide my sexuality in order to be a “child of God.” Rather, I would be celebrated and embraced in love, with joy. Such radical acceptance moved me to become a member of Tennessee Valley after only one month. The following month, I found myself sharing my journey before the congregation for the first time.
Since discovering the Unitarian Universalist faith, I have grown my entire being has grown exponentially as a result of being in Beloved Community. Being able to be by true self in Beloved Community has unearthed the spiritual fire burning deep within. That fire that had sustained through years of deep thought, meditation, and prayer a fire is now roaring inside me, moving me toward a purpose far beyond my wildest dreams. Starting in September 2018, free from the pain and one of sorrow of the past, I will begin a new journey of hope, love, inspiration, power, and strength to become a Unitarian Universalist minister.
With only two years of undergraduate studies completed, I know the journey will be long and difficult. By living in my truth and surrounded by a welcoming and affirming congregation, these challenges become opportunities. In the words of author Ralph S. Marston Jr.,
“Just because the road ahead is long, is no reason to slow down. Just because there is much work to be done, is no reason to get discouraged. It is a reason to get started, to grow, to find new ways, to reach within yourself and discover strength, commitment, determination, discipline.”
As I strive to answer the call to Unitarian Universalist ministry, I know the road ahead is long. I know the journey before me will be hard, I am ready for the challenges it will bring. I am excited about these new possibilities possibilities and opportunities that a loving God has in story. I am for this great new and spiritual journey of self-discovery and love.