Field of Dreams came out when I was 11 years old. I saw it on video when I was 13 and immediately used the line “If you build it, they will come” for comedy effect with my friends. It was a catchphrase and said at the right moment, it always got a good laugh. Because of the incessant use, it became hard wired in my brain. Sometimes I hear folks talking about a project or an effort they are involved in and that line runs through the back of my mind.
My access to places of worship and faith development post coming out as LGBT was very limited. I had been to a few congregations that expressed a welcome to LGBTQ folks. These churches, though, were largely made up of members who identify as LGBT and very few allies. This was disheartening to me. I wanted to be able to pick a faith community that I could grow spiritually in and not just choose one because they embrace my community. This is further proof to me that the most segregated hour in America is still on Sundays. And I had no desire to participate in that. Then I heard about the UCC and everything changed.
I became introduced to the UCC through the Pastor who served at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Tucson, AZ. She was an out, partnered lesbian, yet her ministry consisted of people from all walks of life; likely people that would never have sought each other out in the world outside the church. Members affirmed and celebrated each other. They advocated openly and unabashedly to ensure those who did not have access to rights would gain access to rights. They just were all so kind and open. It appeared to be church in action. So, I was suspicious. What’s the catch? Why are you guys being so nice to us? And the answer that came consistently was that we were part of them and they were a part of us.
The reason all these things happened is they made an intentional decision to become Open and Affirming, welcoming LGBTQ into the full life and ministry of the church. And I dug it. I shook off the suspicion and embraced the openness. It was delightful and rich. And still, many LGBTQ people would never come through those doors, simply because it’s far too painful. A friend of mine told me the story about her congregation’s decision to become Open and Affirming. They thought it was simply the right thing to do. And it created an expectation for some that the LGBTQ community would pour in. One person said, “I don’t get it. We say we are Open and Affirming. Why aren’t they coming?”
There are a whole host of reasons LGBT folks do not participate in organized religion. Some have experienced churches to express a welcome, only to be condemned when they do attend. The trauma of losing their faith community due to being LGBT is often triggered by churches. In short, many don’t trust us. And that makes perfect sense.
Addressing the trauma that results from faith based rejection is the role of the church. Healing, ministering, listening, affirming. It takes intention and it takes openness to achieve. The church is inviting those who have been wounded from ministers and church members to come to our churches. It is our responsibility to prepare a place for them that will truly heal.
If you build it, they may not come, but we, as the church, must build it still.
Davin “Dax” Franklin-Hicks is a proud member of the United Church of Christ. He was introduced to the UCC in 2003. His primary focus is in supporting those that have experienced trauma within spiritually based communities and/or rejection from family members due to being determined as unacceptable to God for various reasons. Dax had his own church-related trauma experiences after coming out as Queer, and later, as Transgender that included a disfellowship process from a rejecting congregation. What a breath of fresh air the UCC was after that experience.
In 2008, Dax transitioned from female to male, experiencing an incredible affirmation from his UCC congregation at the time, the former First Congregational United Church of Christ in Tucson. The grace and love he received during this coming out and transition process was a very healing experience.
Dax works in the field of recovery in Tucson, is a member of Rincon Congregational United Church of Christ, and currently serves on the Executive Board of the Southwest Conference. He has an amazing wife, Nancy, who is a member of Rincon and a Social Worker in hospice. They have a rockin’ awesome son, named Angelo, who is in his twenties and works in the helping field. He has a cat who shares his point of view nearly constantly, and a pit bull he kisses daily.