A Place to Belong
By Pastor Haley Cawthon
We all want to have a sense of belonging. We want our family and friends to accept, love, and affirm us for who we are.
But that’s not always the case.
Growing up, I felt out of place in my family and with my friends. I didn’t fit into the mold that they wanted me to be. I was nerdy. I was shy. I was gay. None of those things would ever be okay.
The one place that should be a place of belonging for everyone—the Church—wasn’t safe for me either. Being gay in that community was not an option. They denied the existence of gay people; there were only those that “struggled with same sex attraction.” And so, I stayed in the closet, hoping that one day I could actually be 100% me and feel like I belonged—in my family, in the church, and in the world. My hope for a community that accepted, loved, and affirmed me seemed impossible.
That is, until I went to college. I came into a community where for the first time that I can remember, I felt like I belonged. While I didn’t come out during my undergraduate studies, I was able to begin processing my sexuality for the first time in a healthy way.
Then I did something crazy: I went to seminary.
I went to a place that encouraged me to study the scriptures for myself. That encouraged me to find my own voice. That encouraged me to love, not judge. That encouraged me to rethink the fundamentalism that I grew up with. That encouraged me to accept who I am as the person that God made.
Seminary gave me the place and community to really delve into what the scripture says (and doesn’t say) about LGBT persons.
Throughout my time in seminary, the people there gave me a community of fellow believers who supported me, who loved me, and affirmed me for who I was instead of for who they wanted me to be.
Coming out has still been hard. It meant being shunned by people that I love. But it also meant finding peace in who I am. Best of all, it has meant the opportunity to partner with Adam, Kali, and the congregation of Redeeming Church to found a place where others can find Christ’s welcome and peace as well.
My hope for Redeeming Church is that we embody the love of Christ. That we become a place for those who have longed to belong to a faith community, but that have nonetheless found themselves without a seat at the table.
Regardless of who you are, you are welcome here. This is the welcome of Jesus.