Interns like Kendra are invaluable to our work at Believe Out Loud. We need your help today to continue our Internship Program.
As I stepped into the large room, taking notice of the walls adorned with spectacular religious symbols, I reminded myself to breathe. I had to keep telling myself to relax. It was a joyous occasion: Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act had been struck down, and Proposition 8 had been defeated. I was in a church that was celebrating the news, so why couldn’t I relax? Why couldn’t I focus on why I was there? Wasn't it about time for me to get over it?
When I read the Believe Out Loud internship posting online, I was stunned.
The four words that ingrained themselves in my mind were “Christians For LGBTQ Equality.” I never thought those four words could exist together in the same sentence—let alone that actual churchgoers would believe it. I was skeptical that an organization like this could genuinely exist.
People have many reasons for why they avoid religion, but mine were simple. As a kid, all I knew was hell, fire and brimstone. As an adolescent, all I could see was the justification for slavery, and then all I heard was the condemnation of LGBTQ people. Basically, I turned away from the church because I had never seen myself as a part of it—or at least a welcomed part of it.
My general impression was that religion was a tool to oppress. I’m not going to say that after I scoped out Believe Out Loud’s website and Facebook page, I suddenly had a change of heart. However, after looking at all the content, especially the blogs, and seeing all those people of numerous faith backgrounds writing about LGBTQ equality, I was convinced the faith community could be supportive.
I figured if I got this job it would challenge me, and I thought if the organization was real, then I wanted to help share the message.
My first assignment led me to the Washington National Cathedral, and consequently, the one place that made me the most uncomfortable in this world: a church. So there I was with my video camera, standing on the side of the pew, waiting for the service to begin, reassuring myself, “It’s only two hours at the most.” I knew I would have to enter a church when I got this job, but I was wondering why it had to happen so soon.
Then I heard the music start, people began to stand, and I started filming. My stomach flipped as the ministerial staff walked up the aisle, and I caught a glimpse of the Dean. I turned around to get a shot of the crowd, and I saw two flags waving. One was a rainbow flag and the other had the rainbow colors with the word “equality” in the center.
I realized then that although I’d read all those great testimonials from leaders about their welcoming churches and been inspired by their words—I didn‘t actually know. It was not until I was standing in a church, with rainbow paraphernalia sprinkled throughout the congregation and ministers looking on encouragingly, that I truly understood the meaning of feeling welcomed.
As Dean Hall gave his sermon and spoke of God’s love for all of us and the sanctity of all marriage, including same-sex marriage, I realized I didn’t have to remind myself to breathe.
The first time I felt comfortable in a church was due to my internship at Believe Out Loud.
I say Believe Out Loud instead of the Dean or the congregation at the National Cathedral because, if not for my job, I wouldn’t have been there. And as I continued the process of filming for our Washington National Cathedral video, I began to reconsider the importance of having a faith community.
Though I had never thought God believed that being your true self was a sin, it becomes tiring when the only defense you have against those who oppose you is, “I know in my heart that it’s not a sin.” I have to admit it feels kind of nice to have prominent and not so prominent members of faith backing me up.
After I finished interviewing Dean Hall, Richard Weinberg, and Rev. Kim Turner Baker, I knew what affirmation was. Though I could protest I didn’t need it, and in fact, I didn’t know I was looking for it, I am grateful to have found it.
As I finished editing the videos I created during my internship, I realized how much this job challenged and changed me.
Three months ago, the thought of going into a church, even for a funeral, disturbed me. Although I’m a long way from going to a church service (not that long), I’m actually considering it. Due to the conversations I have had with different people of faith and the videos I created to hopefully inspire, I can gratefully say this internship destroyed every negative religious notion I ever had.