A few weeks ago we sang “God, We Gather As Your People” (Community of Christ Sings, hymn 274) during church. It was one of those moments when the words just hit me in an unexpected way and I couldn’t finish singing the song. It is also known as “For All the Children” and here is a video of a Catholic Minnesota congregation singing it.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and writing about Mormon women and the sexism that they face and that I faced. I have participated in the Mormon feminist community for years and that remains one of my spiritual homes even though I have changed denominations and find great peace in Community of Christ (RLDS). I have spent little time writing about LGBTQ+ Mormons and what we have faced in the LDS Church. It has felt too enormous, too painful, and shrouded in shame. Holding one marginalized identity was hard in Mormonism, but the intersection of two created more emotional and spiritual pain than my faith could handle. I admire the courage and strength of those who manage better than I did, especially women of color, trans women, and all those who have to navigate multiple marginalized intersections their whole lives.
As we were singing that hymn and I was trying unsuccessfully to hold back tears, our community was anticipating the fourth anniversary of the leaking of the Exclusion Policy. That moment broke the last of my faith in the LDS Church and caused my family to leave it. In the same moment I knew that I had to leave my church, I also knew that I needed another church community. I was interested in Community of Christ because of its shared history with the LDS Church and progressive stance, but I came to love it because of its openness, its work toward inclusion, and the many good women of faith who lead the church at every level, who have helped me find a new and better path. For the past several years, my congregation has organized an interfaith service at Pride, where we invite clergy from LGBTQ+ affirming congregations to offer a prayer or blessing to the local LGBTQ+ community. We also sing hymns and songs of inclusion and I hope to include “God, We Gather As Your People” in next year’s service. Looking back, the last four years have been years of happy transformation, but also years of loss and the beginnings of working through a complicated grief.
In a fortuitous turn of events, I created a meme earlier this week with part of the hymn’s affirming chorus and shared it on my congregation’s Facebook page. I checked my weekly seminary assignments a few minutes later and discovered that I had an assignment to do that very same thing. When I see memes like this, which affirm God’s love for all-including-LGBTQ+ people, I feel relieved. I carry a lot of church baggage and trauma and it takes continual work to undo that harm and be reconciled with myself and with God. Encountering affirming messages of God’s abundant love in social media means something to me. I’ve said before that I hate inspirational messages, but sometimes I also need inspiration. I need these constant reminders that God is present in this healing, that this work is important, and to offer those same reminders to others on similar journeys.