Blog: Welcome Back

By Rev. Jenn Tafel

By Rev. Jenn Tafel

Classes are about to begin. The telltale signs are around us: the air is a little cooler, traffic has picked up in East Lansing, there are long lines in the store as people scramble for supplies, and if you listen closely you can hear the marching band practicing. There is no doubt about it and there is no avoiding it. Are you excited? Nervous? Eagerly anticipating the parent drop off? That’s all part of the journey. For new students: a new chapter is about to begin. For returning students: the routine is awaiting your arrival. For grad students: the routine, deadlines, and other students anticipate your wisdom. All of this energy creates a buzz on campus that no one can deny.

Photo taken 9/26/15 during game against Central Michigan University

Photo taken 9/26/15 during game against Central Michigan University

For those of us involved in the campus ministry, Q-Cross@MSU, the school year begins with the welcome events Sparticipation and Spartan Remix. We also have a display at Michigan Pride which is move-in weekend. It’s a whirlwind couple of weeks as we celebrate who we are as a campus ministry/student organization in queer, religious, and student-oriented terms.

Our first official gathering as a group is on Wednesday, September 14th at 7:30pm. We are hosting an Open House where people can gather, reconnect, hang out and play games. Our weekly meetings will continue from that point through the semester ending with a meal at a local restaurant during finals preparations.

Photo from our promo video on YouTube

Photo from our promo video on YouTube

Is our group for you? We are a group that meets weekly to support one another, discuss topics relevant to the queer and Christian communities, and we celebrate worship once a month (with an open table for Holy Supper). We laugh, cry, discuss, learn, disagree, and share our lives with each other. It is a space where a person identifying on the LGBTQ+/queer/questioning spectrum and as a Christian/spiritual seeker can have their identity affirmed and valued. We are a space for support in a large community that can be isolating. The routine of classes, papers, and projects can be overwhelming. We offer space where you can be your whole self—whoever that is today or tomorrow.

Blessings on the school year ahead,
Rev. Jenn Tafel

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Blog: Finding the Lost Sheep

By Rev. Jenn Tafel

By Rev. Jenn Tafel

 

 

 

 

 

It is important to share my context before I jump into blogging. I am ordained in the Swedenborgian Church of North America. I grew up in this tradition/denomination and the lineage on my father’s side can trace its ministerial roots in the tradition back to the early 19th Century—this tradition is in my DNA. It’s also in my RNA since there was a minister in this tradition on my mom’s side in the early 20th Century as well. The theology, while rich and complex, has evaded the current mainstream definition of Christianity, but Christian we are. In my tradition, we speak in a language referred to as “correspondences.” This language speaks to the spiritual root of nature and is at the core of Scripture. This means that we have a different understanding of the Bible. My understanding of this theology is that it emphasizes the healing and redemptive power of Christ. It is with this understanding that I choose to use my faith as a driving force for being an ally and advocate for the LGBTQ community.

I get asked the question, “Why would you intentionally put yourself (and career) on the line as an ally for the LGBTQ community?” I suppose for many people it doesn’t make sense. I’ve received hate mail and I sometimes stand alone at meeting after introducing myself as the religious advisor for a queer Christian campus ministry/student organization. These instances are few and far between, but they happen. They remind me not to lose focus on the purpose or core of my calling.

The story from Scripture that I’ve been meditating on lately is the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15: 1-10). As I meditate on this story, I see how the vision of my call to ministry has shifted from when I was first ordained. When I was ordained (2007), I was in the process of helping a group of local Swedenborgians in the Lansing area become recognized as a ministry or society within the Swedenborgian denomination. Since that time, the group has shifted along with the programming of the ministry. Our current focus is on youth ministry and the campus ministry. The focus is different because the people and needs are different.

04072014_Jenn_1

The people who participate in the congregation and campus ministry may not consider themselves “lost sheep” and I would be the last one to use labels. As I mentioned earlier in defining my context, I read Scripture through a different lens than most. This parable references a touchy subject, “sinners” in the text. There are plenty of definitions used to define “sinner.” However, on a deeper level, the inner meaning of sheep refers to the state of innocence at our core and the lost sheep is specifically referencing our affections or loves (not talking about relationships) that reflect this innocent state. An example of this affection or love could be the desire to help others or the desire to be creative. One interpretation is that the lost sheep speaks to the lost affection of innocent trust of the Divine.

With this understanding of the parable, I see my role as ally-clergy as providing and/or maintaining space for those who seek to reclaim this innocent trust in God. Many of us can identify with this lost innocence. We live in a culture that often doesn’t support it since we can’t openly share our belief in God (from whatever religious context) in our daily routines. Though, many of us would use the language of “being led” to people, situations, careers, schools, etc. At the same time, there are many in the LGBTQ community who are not welcome in worship settings, able to become members of a church, are turned away from the Sacrament of Holy Supper, and are unable to be married or ordained. Where can the innocent trust in God be nurtured in such environments? It is in safe-space that we can find community, meditate, sing a new song, give praise to a loving God, pray, love the person I am called to love, seek and receive wholeness, and reclaim what needs to be reclaimed.

04072014_Jenn_2

The biblical passage used for the charter of the group is Romans 8:38-39, “For I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, neither heights nor depths—nor anything else in all creation—will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus, —our Savior.”

It is my desire to lift up the healing and redemptive power of Christ also known as Christ-consciousness, to create and maintain safe-space for reclaiming our wholeness as created by God, and remove any form of separation (both real and perceived) from God who loves us. It is through the passages from Luke and Romans that highlight and emphasize my calling and renewed vision of ministry. It is in this context when asked the question, “Why would you intentionally put yourself (and career) on the line as an ally for the LGBTQ community?” that I answer, “Why wouldn’t I?”