Dear Siblings in Faith,
Do you have a favorite question? If I reach for my favorite question, I often think of one that I’ve used in groups of young people, particularly young people that I don’t know. My favorite group check-in question is “if you could stack any two animals, which would they be in what order would you stack them?”
It’s a lovely “ice-breaker” question. It’s a little bit goofy, it’s not too complicated, and it’s often a place for people to make unexpected connections as we introduce ourselves. When we resume meeting in person, feel free to just walk up to me and name two animals, and I’ll probably know what you’re talking about. (Oh, and duck on a giraffe, thank you for asking.)
Some questions draw us in by lighting up our playful sides. Some questions open us up by inviting us to think or feel more deeply- one of my pastors has a lovely way of saying, “do you want to say more about that?” Some questions give folks opportunities to share about particular learning, particular life experience, particular stories.
I first met Amy Johnson some time ago, when I was first training to become an Our Whole Lives Facilitator. Our Whole Lives (or OWL) is an excellent inclusive, whole-lifespan sexuality education curriculum that the United Church of Christ produces jointly with our Unitarian friends. Amy is the coordinator for OWL for the denomination, and she was also one of the trainers who helped me learn to be a facilitator. Some of you might know Amy; she’s here in our Pacific Northwest Conference and goes to Wayside UCC down in Federal Way. There’s a lot to appreciate about Amy Johnson- she’s kind, thoughtful, and wise, and she is deeply dedicated to building our denomination’s capacity for thoughtful sexuality education. She is also someone who LOVES a good question.
Many Our Whole Lives classes end with an opportunity for participants (whether they’re a youth class, a young adults class, or a seniors class!) to write anonymous questions and put them in the sacred “question box.” Then the facilitators have time to read the questions, discuss them with one another, and research the best answer in time to open next week’s class with answers. Most OWL facilitators develop a love of the question box because it creates opportunities for genuine, embarrassing, challenging, or troubling questions to all be asked in space of non-judgement and kindness.
All of this is to say: I was so excited that someone with such a deep love of good questions was able to join me and answer some questions about gender identity and faith. I know that many folks in our congregation have questions that came up when I came out a few months ago as transgender and genderqueer, and I know other questions have arisen since then, and will in the future! I hope you will consider taking some time to watch the little video Amy and I made. We don’t intend it to answer everyone’s questions, or to end any conversations- but we hope it will answer a couple of questions, and begin some other conversations!
It’s important to me, and to our whole pastoral team, that church is a place where whoever you are, whatever your age and life experience, you can feel welcome to bring questions to your pastors: challenging questions, awkward questions, genuine questions- whatever questions you have. God loves curiosity.
Take a look, let me know what you think, and definitely let me know what other questions you have - I can’t wait to talk more.