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Finding Acceptance in My Church Community

After graduating from Upper Columbia Academy in Washington, I was exhausted. Three years of attending compulsory vespers, church, and evening worship on top of daily devotionals in multiple classes left me up to my ears in “Jesus loves you.” I’d had enough. Besides the disconnect between the messages and behavior of the people around me, the last thing I needed after a long week of classes was dressing in formal clothing and listening to someone share a message I’ve heard a million times. 

I was actually grateful when the Covid-19 pandemic closed schools and churches in 2020. It allowed me to move out of my parent’s house when I turned 18. Within a few months, I started a full-time job that required me to work most weekends, and I started taking hormones as a part of my gender transition. I ended up distancing myself from the church, but not because I revoked my spirituality. I knew the church’s stance against queer people. I didn’t want to risk rejection from the people that watched me grow up.

Two years later, I moved to a new city to attend a public university. My twin sister told me about a local Adventist church that was looking for volunteers for their Journey to Bethlehem show. Despite having never attended the church, I was feeling nostalgic having participated in Journey to Bethlehem in my hometown. I contacted the director for a role and he welcomed me with enthusiasm, extending an invitation to attend a service so I could get to know the other cast members.

The welcome I received was astounding! I arrived fifteen minutes early and yet they were well into the song service by the time I made it to the sanctuary. After the sermon, numerous church members approached wanting to get to know me. Some of them even knew members of my family! The feeling of warmth and community came as a stark contrast to the cool pleasantries I received from my new college. And participating in the show was a blast! Even though I wouldn’t be able to attend regular services due to the inaccessible location, I look forward to being part of Journey to Bethlehem each year. The community I encountered wasn’t unique to that local church. When I returned home as an openly queer man, I found myself surrounded by many supportive people in my church—people I didn’t think cared about me. Many went out of their way to tell me that they supported me in my queerness, which was more than I could have hoped for. 

Having a community that unconditionally supported me reflected the community Jesus formed with His followers on earth. As it says in John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” For them, love was more than a suggestion, it was a requirement.

Image Credit: Adventist Media Exchange

About the author

Eric Van Arsdell is a student at Western Washington University, a joy-filled transgender man, and a lifelong Seventh-day Adventist. More from Eric Van Arsdell.
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