This year and a half that I have spent at BMC have been a wonderful learning experience for me. I have enjoyed getting to know Minneapolis, but more importantly the wonderful folks working for LGBTQ inclusion in both the Brethren and Mennonite denominations. I leave with relationships that will have a lasting impact upon me. Specifically, I have grown in my understanding of myself, queer history (both in society and within the church), and community organizing.
A mainstay of my previous college organizing is the fast pace at which you work. Four years to enact change is extremely short, and creating sustainable movement work with student change-over is hard. Moving from short-term, high intensity organizing into the work of BMC was both abrupt, and extremely welcome. Throughout my term here I have been able to learn so much about organizing methods both from BMC and the work I did partnering with the Center for Sustainable Justice.
BMC organizing is first and foremost about relationships, building strong connections within the queer community and outside of it. By prioritizing these relationships over specific outcomes, the movement inevitably is more sustainable. As we have wins and losses, relationships maintain the energy, and maintain the vision of inclusion. The excitement and engagement from SCN congregations, especially within the Church of the Brethren, is evidence that slowly building power across congregations is indeed happening.
Organizing within youth spaces is both extremely fun and challenging. While many organizing principles point to leadership development as a key goal, that wasn’t always the case in my engagement with youth. The likelihood that many queer youth I interacted with stay in the church is unlikely. That was never the goal of BMC, nor one I tried to accomplish. Instead, I prioritized relationships and support, while trying to keep leadership development secondary. I hope that in all my interactions with youth, especially high school and junior high youth, I was able to provide some sort of mentorship. BMC allowed me to explore more nuanced ways of organizing, slowing down to be able to take stock of collective goals and to move forward in healthy and strategic ways.
Over the last couple months I have been focusing on queer history. This year is 50 years since Stonewall, 10 years since Pink Menno inception, and 43 years of BMC. At the Pink Menno Anniversary party we were able to get a taste of the rich history that the queer community holds. In it, there is a lot of pain, transformation, and joy. There are connections that we forget, and lessons that we need to remember.
As younger people grow into leadership claiming and telling our stories for ourselves is vital. Creating ways to continue to grow our history and allow it to inform how we move forward, will allow not to get trapped in cycles of harm, but rather to step outside of those systems, and create healthy community that can confront the church from a place of wholeness. I hope that we can take time to write and tell our histories both for ourselves, and for our future leaders.
The highlights of my time at BMC were definitely in my in-person engagement through college visits and conventions. While all of these can be stressful environments, they also are filled with vibrant people who gave me so much energy and drive. I so appreciated organizing with Pink Menno for the Mennonite Convention, as well as the engaging with Brethren youth at their National Youth Conference. Through this work, I’ve felt more fully that I am at my best when working with people, to collaborate with, and to share energy with.
I want to thank Carol Wise for her thoughtfulness, attention to detail, and snark. Her guidance and encouragement helped me contribute my gifts to this project throughout my time as an intern. As well, I felt very supported by a wonderful board as they provided wonderful direction through my term.
As I finish my term with BMC, I am taking some time to visit my family in Canada before returning to Minneapolis and finding a job in community organizing.