Holy Ground

After months of studying, exams, child-raising and work, my seminarian husband and I carved out a few hours to go on a date. We spent the evening eating family-style around a long table decked with flowers, candles, and leaves. It was beautiful. What made this date particularly memorable, however, were the people sharing it with us. The event was designed to foster conversation between Christian families with LGBT family members, as well as those without. At first our banter was light and bright, strangers passing dishes back and forth, but as the evening progressed we began to talk more intensely as individuals began opening up painful rooms of their house of experience and memory to host us as guests. 

Photographs by Jonathan Stoner. taken at the Level Ground Festival's Family Dinner, 2015. 

Photographs by Jonathan Stoner. taken at the Level Ground Festival's Family Dinner, 2015. 

A pastor’s family shared how their denomination abandoned them after their godly son came out to their congregation. A young adult described being kicked out of home after his fundamentalist family found out he is transsexual. But these weren’t just stories of abandonment and woe, they were stories filled with grace, goodness, the generosity of faith family, and of God’s voice speaking through the darkness. Seated around this table we found ourselves on holy ground, a place of respect, awe, humility, and honesty. 

As a seminarian and ministry worker in an evangelical context, I wonder how we can nurture our faith communities to become places of holy ground, not just in our posture toward God, but also towards each other. How can we believers, regardless of our gender expression, identity, sexual orientation or theology, find not just common ground but sacred ground together? When divisions are deepened and fears heightened, it seems the first thing we lose is our ability to listen, and listen well. 

Today, regardless of your political leanings, theological stances or denominational affiliations, I urge you to listen. 

Listen to the voices of those you feel threatened by and to the voices with which you disagree. 
Listen to voices of those who come from a different background than yourself. 
Listen to voices of those whose experience is different than your own. 

It’s possible that in our listening, we may very well hear the small yet persistent voice of God.