A new inclusive church has arrived in Halifax. Queer Spirit Church was co-created by Arla Johnson, deacon at the city’s First Baptist, and Rev. Rick Gunn, minister at St. Luke’s United in Upper Tantallon, N.S., to provide a safe space for LGBTQ2S+ people to meet monthly for services.
While both Johnson and Gunn come from accepting congregations, Gunn says being a church where queer people are the majority, rather than the welcomed minority, does feel different. “The oppressed group may feel like there’s a need for a very safe space that we get to define,” he says. Affirming churches are important and needed, he adds, but “lots of people know nothing about the United Church, and their root of religious knowledge is a very unwelcoming denomination. We [wanted to] be loud and reach any audience we can.”
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Preaching duty is shared between four people, including Gunn, who is gay, and Johnson, who is a lesbian. The team also features two lay people. They all bring differing approaches from their faiths, and work collaboratively to compile resources. Although there is a focus on inclusive hymns and texts, the worship style is traditional — it’s not about recreating liturgy, but seeing how the liturgy is already accepting.
The reception to Queer Spirit Church has been overwhelmingly positive so far, with some tears and much joy. The team hopes to expand by meeting more often and creating more social opportunities.
And Gunn has some takeaways he plans to bring back to his St. Luke’s congregants, who have been very supportive of his new venture in ministry. “I want to be less apologetic in lifting up queerness in my own church,” he says. “I definitely will be wondering how heteronormativity has always been present in how I write prayers and liturgies.”
Kate Spencer is a writer in Halifax. This story first appeared in our March 2022 issue with the title “New queer church creates a welcoming space.”
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