Paving the path to a brighter future
Updated: Jul 26, 2020
This post is my first post. Where to begin? It seems in this whirlwind of life we all get caught up in I forgot to catch up with myself: You know, sit down for a coffee, ask myself what's going on, if there is any changes happening, what's the deal... A pulse check so to speak.
Way to much has happened. COVID-19 spread into our countries and communities rather quickly and consumed all thoughts and worldly desires, at least for me. Sure I had school to work on, but for the first time I was empty of dreams and plans, and my world outside stopped. Work was gone, church had changed, and pyjamas were a necessary article of clothing (coffee also became necessary in my life). So, for awhile, it was me, myself, and I. Or so I thought.
Prior to this worldwide historic event taking us hostage, I had started a "Lenten Series" of all inclusive services for Lent. Well that was a great idea, and was a kind of 'forward launch' into this. Although few came and it was of very little interest, I was empowered to finally show I could do something for my church community. It was our last one before we shut everything down I was able to have the most meaningful conversation. Only one person came to that last service. Out of respect, I will not say their name here.
They sat down, and instead of the prayer service I had planned, we made impromptu prayers and engaged in meaningful conversation and connection. Their partner had been a huge part of my life when I was finally ready to take the plunge to come back to a religious service. Many times I hesitated just outside our cathedral doors and never dared to venture inside. It was them who reached out and made sure I was comfortable and safe. Sadly though, their partner passed on a while before. They both were involved in the very life of the parish and through outreach and mission work they managed to pull together a movement called Integrity here in Nova Scotia and PEI. Since its founding, Integrity met a need. They advocated for all LGBT people and made independent services for a number of years for the LGBT community, making pride floats for all the parades, and travelled across our diocese to show others support. As the years passed, the movement changed and morphed, and they no longer continued with parts of these services. They still had diocesan pride floats for the parades every year to make sure we were still reaching others and that continues on until now, but I could see parts of it fell to the wayside. They confided in me that we need to change, and I agreed it was time to change, but how? Why are there still other people outside our doors that didn't know we exist, or that we want to help them in any way?
After our prayer service, I went home and rested. The next day was the "shutdown". I lost my job, lost my education, lost my connections, lost my church, all at once. Or so I thought. That gave me more time to think on things and work through some things in my head. After being alone far too much, I had a rough schematic of what I envisioned on paper. I messaged a local priest connection, and we both lamented that we missed church, and that we needed to do something for pride this year in our diocese. Sure, it was a nice dream to see if anyone would do something for our LGBTQ community, but we didn't seem to think it would happen without us. We went ahead and discussed a pride service we could do and stream online for our churches.
A few weeks later, the "bubble burst" and we were allowed to see one bubble family again. I chose my parents down on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. It was so good to hug my mom again, like really good! After my life had virtually shut down I hadn't much motivation other than finishing the remainder of my classes online. I missed church, and felt so distant with God which was kind of new to me on this scale (I am a religious taking first vows this fall-perhaps another blog post on that later). However, I do not come from the most "tolerant" community and far too often people are forced to live in the closet there. I had been out of said closet for a decade, so needless to say there was nothing in there I needed and moved away from my home town around 2010. Hate crimes were something I experienced there and I still work through them with the help of local mental health initiative here in Halifax. When I was home this time something happened:
My home communities Pride Flag was flying for pride month, and this was a relatively new initiative these last few years to show solidarity with its local LGBTQ populace. It was cut down in the middle of the night by a local vandal. Indeed this was not the first time it was done at all. It was not the first act of homophobia in my hometown and it won't be the last, but this triggered me. A fire dwelled inside my belly and I felt like a dragon ready to release hellfire- very non-passive hellfire I am sad to say (how uncharacteristic of me). Suddenly though I recognized God and I knew how I could help and change things. I love how some of the Saints describe a heart on fire for Christ. I think I get this too.
I reached out to a few people across Canada who were trying to do the same thing I envisioned. I gained momentum. I talked with more people. I barrelled forward. I bought two domain names. I became excited. Meanwhile, my home community gained momentum too. As of this writing, they have gained monetary support through donations to install cameras facing the local flag pole to try and catch anyone who attempts this again. I knew I could launch this group, and skipping a bit of details, we are here today.
I didn't wait to have another person pick up the initiative and start something, I saw a need that I could fill. My last term of liberation theology over, I found the strength to challenge ideas within myself and this start is the result. Out of the ashes I found I was able to pick up a torch. This was left for us to continue on. I knew it was a chance to reclaim my faith and show others they can do that too. It was time to deconstruct and challenge others ideas about religion.
So, where does that leave us now? It gives us room. I want to create an open table and have those difficult conversations. I want to be able to show others how they can find answers they seek. I want to create a safe space for anyone and all in our neglected and historically outcast community to learn, grow, and be supported. I want all LGBTQ2A+ people who have no religion or many to find a home here too. I want to deconstruct that systemic homophobia instilled in the roots of Christianity and indeed my very church. I want to change the world like the couple in my story changed mine. I found unconditional, universal, and unapologetic love. So, I hope you can find that here with me too.
And, more importantly,
Welcome to Proud Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. A compilation of resources, people, and places across our diocese where you can find a home too. May Jesus and his Dear Mother be with us on this journey
Br. R Dylan Stewart, cmj