Many AWAB congregations were represented, and I know all the AWAB folks in attendance had the opportunity to share what's happening locally, celebrate together, and strategize toward a more inclusive future. While the BPFNA Summer Gathering began July the 4th, the official AWAB programming at the gathering began July the 7th. I think it was a Fabulous success! I'll mention a couple of highlights here.
Thursday night worship featured a powerful witness from Robin Lunn- telling her story with her voice and body. The whole service was a kind of liturgical feast: featured preacher Michael Blair, of the United Church of Canada, sharing his coming out story, powerful music, liturgy, and dance, and eight out clergy distributing communion to the gathered body. From worship, we moved the celebration to AWAB's “Prom For All.” The AWAB Prom was a huge success, celebrating and embodying the “Fabulousness of God” with dancers of all ages. (Some of the young women at the gathering visited a thrift store near the campus earlier in the week and came dressed in 80's prom dresses, old wedding dresses, and the like!) I was so heartened by the success of the Prom! I feel like if AWAB can successfully redeem the idea of Prom itself, the other destructive parts of our culture cannot be far behind.
The AWAB events continued on Friday. We had a great round of workshops in the morning: I facilitated a space for some of us to think through strategy and issues related to being allies to LGBTQ people. There were also workshops on contemporary masculinity and on helping congregations consider their relationship with AWAB.
The AWAB Business meeting, after lunch, was in some ways the most powerful part of the conference. I was most excited by a couple of opportunities for us to break into smaller groups. First, we split along denominational lines, and then by geographic regions. A couple of high-school age young women came to the meeting, and spoke in their small groups about the challenges their peers face when coming out: danger in their neighborhoods and bullying in their schools. They were excited to meet the adults of AWAB, and to let their friends know about our message of welcome and inclusion. The gathered body of AWAB voted to instruct the AWAB Board to find some way to support this work institutionally.
I heard some great ideas coming out of each of those small groups, but none of them sprung into action as quickly as those two young women. In fact, when I ran into them an hour later, their new “It's Okay to Be Gay” Facebook page had over a hundred members. One of their friends had printed flyers with messages of inclusion and was posting them in her Atlanta neighborhood, accompanied by a “dad bodyguard.” I think many of us there were touched and convicted by the challenge and energy that these young people offered us.
The AWAB programming closed with a lovely concert from Jennifer Knapp, who shared her powerful story of going from being a darling of the Christian Music world, to being an out lesbian musician. She was glad to meet the people gathered at the conference, and assured us she would tell others about what she had seen there. I feel the same way.
I don’t know where our National Gathering will be in two years but I know it will be an amazing event where young and old, gay and straight, trans, Baptist, Black, Latino, and all others who seek to be God’s Beloved Community will come and share in the Fabulousness of God again! Prom attire optional. ;-)
By AWAB Board Member, David Weasley