I was going to write about my trip to Washington, D.C., last week, but my beloved Rachel Held Evans passed away. I am still at a loss without her. I never knew how much I relied on her guidance.
Rachel is the first person I talked to George about when I said why I am at Wilshire. I had just read Searching for Sunday, and I longed for everything she wrote. I was so mad at church, but I still believed in her too. I knew it could be better than what we were doing. I came with a fire in my belly because of her; and I heard Mark speak these words I longed to hear at Moxie Matters: “We welcome everyone.”
I know I have written about this before, but this matters, because now I find myself going to seminary, and I went to Washington to attend the Alliance of Baptists conference a few weeks ago with the help of a few friends. A few years ago, I thought I was just listening to podcasts and talking on Twitter to pastors for my own healing. Now I have lost the ground beneath my feet, and I have not regained my footing since. Speaking of, I had to take my shoes off in D.C. because I had horrible blisters. A police officer on a bike immediately saw me do this and asked: “Are you sure you want to take your shoes off here?” I told him about my blisters, and he felt compassion for my plight. But I could not help but think that this happened because I am standing on holy ground. I know all ground is holy, but this was a moment. This also happened at the Diana Butler Bass presentation I got invited to attend.
The whole weekend was amazing. Every little detail was savored and enjoyed. I feel like a child who is finally getting to play after years of being benched because I am a woman. I had no idea it took this much of a toll on me. But the joy I am experiencing now leads to nothing but gratitude for the life before — and the life now. The life I had before plays into this weekend too.
I went into the airport by myself. I hadn’t flown in 14 years, and things have changed. Geri McKenzie told me to just look like I knew what I was doing. I did a great job at this, because immediately a TSA agent asked me if I needed help because I looked confused. I totally cannot do anything undercover. Then I got on the airplane, and a kind lady immediately asked me to sit with her. I told everyone around me I hadn’t flown in 14 years. A man immediately got up and helped me put my bag in the overhead bend. I got to my seat saying: “Everyone is so nice.” Then the flight attendant brought me two Dr Peppers because they accidentally prepared two. My neighbor on the flight said: “They heard you hadn’t flown in 14 years.” (Mark Wingfield burst my bubble later by telling me not to be deceived that courtesy has increased in air travel.)
The conference was amazing. I heard sermons by Rev. Jacqui Lewis. She also hugged me and told me she loved my hair. I could have passed out. She is a hero of mine, and her sermon brought me to my knees. Then Judge Wendell Griffen the next day. It was supposed to be Otis Moss III, but he got snowed in at Chicago. But with less than 24-hours notice, Judge Griffen brought us a word. I wanted to join the interpretive dancers during the singing because I was on fire. And I am laughing so hard writing this: A Church of Christ girl-turned weird Baptist, in Washington, D.C., doing almost everything I was told no to. Women preaching, music, dancing, non-binary bathrooms, and I got to be involved in voting. I have never done that before. I got to vote on a statement to counter the Nashville Statement. That is huge to me. That statement grieved me for our LGBTQ siblings, and now I find myself getting to be a part of the counter-narrative. Joy!
What is craziest of all is a friend from middle school who now lives in the D.C. area saw on social media that I was there, and we got together. We had not seen each other since middle school, and that night you would have thought no time had passed. Then the second day in D.C, even though I was tired from all the excitement, a friend from my previous church was sitting next to me in the pew. Neither of us knew it until we turned and looked at each other. I thought I was having a vision. It was pure joy to see her and hug her. I worked with her mom for 10 years, and her mom loved on both of my babies. I also met one of my friends I have chatted with on Twitter for a year. She is a transgender woman, and we had the best time talking face to face. Our God is a God of connection.
I wish I could write more. This journey is wild. There is something about letting go and saying yes to something new — something you never thought you were allowed to do. I am getting to live and tell a better story because of Wilshire.