Christ United Methodist Church – RUMOLA member.
My journey as an advocate for change in the United Methodist Church and as an ally for GLBT persons has lead me to grow in my faith and as a person. In that growth has come challenge and conflict, but I have learned that being a person who does not speak out is not who I am.
When I was a child, my Mom and Dad (a Methodist minister) were people who were open to discussions and challenges. They believed in civil rights and human rights, so they laid a foundation in me that was for the rights of others. They embraced change in old ways that didn’t work.
I grew up in Maine and lived there for 52 years. When I was in my forties I was going to a large (for Maine) United Methodist Church. I decided that it would be good for our church to look into the Reconciling Congregation movement. I urged my pastor to hold a class on sexuality or homosexuality. We did this and out of it came a core group of fourteen people who wanted change. We worked for four years and finally after many meetings, discussion groups, classes and worship services our church became a Reconciling Congregation. This was a journey in itself and I learned much.
When I moved to Lincoln, Nebraska I looked for a church whose mission and vision statement matched how I felt about things. Christ UMC fit what I wanted and I started attending. Before I even came to Lincoln I met (online) Maureen Vetter and we felt the same way about homosexuality and the United Methodist Church. I was nervous moving to Nebraska where I had heard that it was conservative. I knew that I did not share many of the people’s feelings, but with Maureen’s help.l met many people who felt as I did.
Over the last few days I have been reflecting more and more about how I came to be part of this journey and how much people’s stories make a difference. When I was a young married woman I lived in a small country town. I lived ten miles from a city and bought many of my groceries and got my mail at a small country store a short way from my home. One day I heard that the older couple who owned the country store were going to retire and it was to be sold. Two men bought the store. Their names were Adam and Roy (I have changed their names). I did not have much experience with homosexuality, but the rumor was that they were a couple.
Adam and Roy were kind, caring people. I got to know them and got to be their friends, especially Adam. Adam was very friendly and we had many talks at the counter. Adam made lovely cakes and when my daughter turned two I had him make her an adorable bear birthday cake. Some people made fun of them, but most people accepted them into the fabric of our little town. One day I heard that Roy had gotten hurt and was hurt badly. He had gone on a trip to northern Maine and had stopped at one of the turnpike’s rest stops. While he was there he was badly beaten with a lead pipe. It took him a long while to recover and because he had been beaten on his head somehow bacteria got introduced into his system and he ended up with bacterial meningitis and almost died. I felt so bad for Roy and for Adam. After this incident they seemed beaten down and depressed. The people who did this never were caught and, if I remember correctly, the police didn’t seem very interested.
As I thought about it I came to realize that this was a hate crime. It was a crime that had been committed just because of Roy’s sexual orientation. This was before Hate Crimes legislation and statutes against such crimes. I think this was the beginning of my wanting to be vocal for change and to speak out. Adam and Roy didn’t stay in my little town. I never could get Adam to tell me why they were moving on, but I think now I can see that they were afraid. They moved to a bigger city – a place where maybe they could blend in more. I missed them when they moved away and I doubt that they ever realized the deep impression their lives had on me. This is why sharing our stories are so important and one example of how someone else’s story worked for change. I am glad that we here in Nebraska are stepping out and sharing more and more. Touching each other’s lives can make a difference.