Written by young adult guest blogger: K.K.
On March 12 & 13 I attended the Young Adult Initiative Consultation in Indianapolis as a member of the 787 Collective. This was my first time at this conference, the fourth year it’s taken place, and on the flight up from Austin I read a packet of information from the previous year. This packet summarized the demographics and feedback of the young adults, pastors, congregation members, and Innovation Hub leaders. The first task at the conference was to write on posters hung around the great hall our questions and/or observations based on this packet. I asked how both the white dominance of the previous conference and LGBTQ inclusion had been addressed. The answer to the former was, to my delight, that the leadership team from the Lilly Endowment had worked to deliberately amend the racial imbalance!
Amid plentiful delicious food, I met members of similar collectives from across the country. We asked each other questions, shared concerns and stories, networked, and provided an array of resources. After a brief powerpoint presentation about the statistics of young adults who have left institutional Christianity, there was a panel of young adults and a panel of Innovation Hub leaders. Common themes were the importance of authentic connections, service-based faith, and intersectionality. Dr. Anne E. Streaty Wimberly from Connecting With Hope Innovation Hub in Atlanta blew everyone away with her call for using stories to bring different generations together.
That afternoon I attended the breakout session “Beyond Church Walls.” Fifteen people attended and seven were men, seven were women, and one nonbinary person. Rev. Michael Baughman from The Zoe Project in Princeton facilitated this session about where young adults seek community or fulfillment away from church, how congregations can make use of “third space” gatherings, and the functions of social media. I was blown away by a young African American woman who stated “the people you center in leadership are what you get as a result.” I was also pleased that the conversation around social media was multilayered and nuanced, as opposed to labelling it as all-good or all-bad. When a session participant asked what the drawbacks of a social media-less church could be, I pointed out that white nationalist organizations are very skilled at using social media to recruit, network, and plan events. A church with one such white nationalist organization in their community would be helpless without social media.
After the breakout session, representatives from the Lilly Endowment announced that they wanted volunteers to suggest and lead similar breakout sessions the next morning. I leaped out of my chair and offered to lead a session on “how congregations can be more LGBTQ-inclusive or, if that’s moving too quickly for you, how congregations can talk about what their LGBTQ-inclusivity might or might not look like.” The next morning I facilitated this hour and a half long session; ten people attended, six were women and four were men. I was very active in the Milwaukee LGBTQ community in college, I’m a co-leader of my church’s LGBTQ ministry, and I am currently pursuing a Masters degree so that I can work in LGBTQ ministry professionally. Additionally, I provided the list of resources that is posted at the end of this blog entry. The ten participants asked very smart questions, brainstormed what their congregations could do in their local communities, and prioritized bridge-building compassion. When I explained the history of the Stonewall Inn, I suggested using such stories, as Dr. Anne had mentioned the day before, to unite uncertain congregants and LGBTQ youth.
My time at the conference was incredible, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to meet so many different people with a similar mission.
More Than A Monologue: Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church
Sexual Diversity and Catholicism
Radical Love: an Introduction to Queer Theology
Ministry Among God’s Queer Folk
Building a Bridge
The Sexual Self
The Invention of Heterosexuality
The Trouble with Normal
Queer: A Graphic History
She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders
My Gender Workbook
Transforming: The Bible & the Lives of Transgender Christians