Galileo Church

Quirky church for spiritual refugees. Who would Jesus love?

Our missional priorities:
1. We do justice for LGBTQ+ humans.
2. We do kindness for people with mental illness and in emotional distress, and celebrate neurodiversity.
3. We do beauty for our God-Who-Is-Beautiful.
4. We do real relationship, no bullshit, ever.

Mansfield ISD. We just keep showing up.

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Galileo Church continues to serve as a community organizing hub to advocate for LGBTQ+ protections in the policies of Mansfield ISD. We gave a couple of speeches in the public comments at the 10/23/2018 meeting. No one spoke in opposition, despite the rumors…

Katie’s speech

My name is Katie Hays, and I’m a parent, a taxpayer, and religious leader in Mansfield ISD.

My friends and I began attending school board meetings early this year when we realized that district policies do not include protections for LGTBQ+ humans. Adding the terms sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to 3 district policies has been our singular focus.

On several occasions we have been told in private conversations with several of you that you are working on it; that there are legal impediments between you and the justice you know should be done. You have asked for our patience. We have given it.

Then you introduced a new idea, seemingly related to our cause – an anti-bullying commission – to which we asked in this very setting that members of our coalition, who have attended these meetings faithfully for all these months, be appointed. You smiled and nodded and even said in private that you’d very much like to have our applications and recommendations. We gave them.

None of us were selected for that committee, which we now understand was formed by a lottery, which tells us much about what kind of priority the district places on this work. Imagine if a committee of citizens were formed to decide how to spend MISD’s dollars, or build MISD’s buildings. Membership for committees about dollars and buildings would not be formed by lottery, I imagine.

But our lack of representation on that committee doesn’t really matter anyway, as we now have a statement in writing from Dr. Cantu, to the United Educators Association, that the protection of LGBTQ students will not be addressed by the anti-bullying committee. Not because that’s what the committee decided, but because somebody pre-decided that for them. So any hope we had that this committee would be a reasonable stopgap measure to protect our vulnerable kids until you are ready to make the necessary steps for policy change has dissipated.

This leads me to a larger point: in months and months of attending MISD school board meetings, we have witnessed not a single exchange of substantive debate about the issue we’re here to press, nor really any others. These long meetings are padded with self-congratulation for high-achieving schools, students, and staff. They are exercises in feeling great about the privilege we enjoy by living here. (I live here; I enjoy that privilege.) Anything that requires a vote receives a unanimous decision with no actual conversation or debate between you, the members of the board, to which we are privy. I am beginning to think that this board is dangerously close to being in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act. How else can all these decisions get made, such as what the anti-bullying committee will or will not discuss, and who is on it, out of the view of the public? 

Indeed, the names of persons who were selected for that committee, which has already met once outside of the public eye, have not been released to the public. We are so far not able to find out which of our neighbors are already meeting about the issue to which we have been committed with significant investments of time, energy, and prayer.

When I was 19, I articulated a call to ministry from within a denomination that does not recognize the gifts and callings of women. There were many powerful people who would express to me, behind closed doors, that they supported me and wanted to see me succeed. But in public, they offered me nothing, not one gesture toward justice.

When I was 19, I didn’t have a word for this, but now I have a couple. If you know what you’re doing by expressing private support for our LGBTQ students and staff but offering them no actual support in public, we call that gaslighting. It’s a cynical strategy employed to preserve fake peace by convincing us to keep playing by your rules. And make no mistake: the rules that insist that I can talk for five minutes only, and you can’t talk back to me, is a construct of this board’s invention. It’s not gospel. Change it, and let’s talk on the record.

If it’s not your intent to make us feel a little bit insane for believing what you tell us privately when you won’t back it up publicly, if you are really just calculating how much it will cost you to do the right thing, and deciding it’s too expensive, we call that fear. Believe me, it’s nothing compared to the fear that LGBTQ students and staff in Mansfield, in Texas, in our country, are experiencing every day of the world.

Fix it, please. It’s past time to get this done.


Brandi’s Speech

I have come to the point where I’ve realized that it might be legal under current Texas law, and MISD policy, to discriminate against me for mentioning my fiancée at work...for honestly answering a child’s question about my engagement ring. I have to stop and go out of my way to say “spouse” and to use gender neutral pronouns. It is legal for us to get married, but I can’t mention my wife in the classroom without fear of discrimination. My co-teacher can mention her husband during class, and she’s protected from discrimination. She has mentioned her husband in passing, and nobody thinks twice. I can’t do that. 

That’s  the way it is right now I suppose, but I ask you to consider this. Although it might be legal to discriminate,  it is not required. There is no law saying that you, as a school district, have to discriminate.  As a matter of fact, you have the legal ability and authority to add protections for LGBT students and staff to MISD policy. It might be legal to discriminate, but is it right?

Is it moral to treat me differently? I challenge you to consider that it is never right or moral to disrespect or mistreat someone simply because they are different than you.

This brings me to the topic of bullying, since individuals are often victimized for being different. I was initially excited about the anti-bullying committee the board has formed. You see, I had learned the following facts from the districts Safe School videos:

  • LGBT individuals are frequent targets of bullying.

  • Half of the students who are bullied for being LGBT skip school to avoid their tormentors.

  • The dropout rate of LGBT youth is 3 times the national average of heterosexual students.

  • LGBT youth are 3-4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.

So, you can imagine how I felt hope, and possibly even excitement, at the prospect of the Anti-Bullying Committee including our LGBT population in anti bullying programs at MISD. However my hope and excitement was crushed when a representative of MISD explained, and I quote, “LGBTQ language will not be added to the anti-bullying work which is separate and apart from the Anti-Bullying committee…” End quote.

Imagine my confusion. MISD’s teacher training clearly teaches all the facts that I just read to you, but MISD still says that “LGBTQ language will not be added to the anti-bullying work which is separate and apart from the Anti-Bullying committee...”   

I value all kids the same; they should be protected and treated the same. Just because it might be legal for us to discriminate against LGBT students by refusing to protect them, it doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make it moral. LGBT students face hostile peers, hostile adults, and a district that currently refuses to provide them protections. I cannot sit by and do nothing. I cannot allow myself to be another person or institution that they must face discrimination from. I will continue to advocate for this “Invisible Group”. All kids are worth it, these kids are worth it.  It is an honor to advocate on their behalf.  

I guess I fail to understand... The law doesn’t force this board to discriminate. There is no law stopping you from adding protections for LGBT staff, students, and families. Nowhere does it say that LGBT students must be omitted from protections. There is absolutely no law stopping you from protecting a group of students who you as a district identify as frequent targets of bullying. It ultimately boils down to doing the right thing. I guess what saddens me the most is that this board has the legal authority to protect LGBT staff and students but you are choosing not to do it.

Marilyn at MISD, Sept. 2018

Galileo Church continues to serve as the community organizing hub for Mansfield Equality Coalition, an alliance of hundreds of individuals and advocacy groups demanding protections for LGBTQ+ students and staff in the written policies of Mansfield Independent School District. We attend school board meetings each month and coordinate speakers for the public comments — faculty, religious leaders, students, and parents connected with MISD. This is Marilyn B’s speech at the September meeting. Content consideration: a frank description of the bullying of LGBTQ persons, including name-calling, is included.

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My name is Marilyn, and I am a Jesus follower, AP III English Teacher at Mansfield HS, a Galileo church member, and a Mansfield Equality Coalition member.

I have advocated and will advocate for my students and their well-being. I want them to be healthy mentally and emotionally; intellect cannot thrive until these basics are met. I especially advocate for those who are marginalized. 

From what I understand the board is hesitant to take action on implementing LGBTQ protection policies for students and faculty until a certain court case has reached its conclusion.  

I am here to say that we cannot wait years or months until that time.

When we know that LGBTQ youth are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth, 

when talented athletes are afraid to join a team because of their identity, 

when students tell me stories of teachers mocking and belittling the LGBT community, we cannot wait to change our policies.

When 4 out of 10 LGBTQ youth say they are not do not feel accepted in their community, 

when my co-workers who are effective and amazing teachers wondered if they should renew their contracts with MISD for this year,

when my husband, without a second thought, can surprise me by bringing me Starbucks at school, and my LGBTQ co-workers’ spouses are afraid to, we cannot wait to change our policies.

When our LGBTQ youth are bullied twice as much as their heterosexual peers and a third of the time it’s on school property, 

when students tell me that their first name becomes “fag”, their middle name becomes “fairy”, and then last name becomes “that gay kid,” 

when my students tell me that there are only a few rooms in the building where they feel safe, then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait to change our policies.

When the National Alliance for Mental Illness says the LGBT community experiences minority stress,   

when my students are constantly trying not to hate themselves,

when LGBTQ teens experience depression six times the rate of heterosexual teens, we cannot wait to change our policy.

When my students are harassed by day and shamed by their families at night because of who they love or their orientation, regretting who they are, never quite feeling safe, and are plagued with self-resentment; we find it difficult to wait to change our policies

Over the summer, this Coalition was led to believe the policy and procedure committee would take action. I respectfully ask you to take the action now to explicitly protect the LGBTQ teachers and students from bullying and discrimination.

Juliet at Pride

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Some moms from Galileo went to Dallas Pride this weekend to share “Mom Hugs” with anybody who needed one. Jeana took photos, and Juliet wrote her impressions of the day:

Random things about today:
1. So sweaty.
2. Thank you so much to Jeana because I wouldn't have done it without her.
3. Because I am bad at reading details, I figured out like the night before that I had signed up to be IN a parade.
4. So much glitter.
5. So many beautiful children of God.
6. I would do it all again tomorrow for the half dozen people who teared up at the idea of a Mom who wanted to hug them. And the half dozen who kissed my cheek and said, "Thank you so much, sweetie."
7. Even if you're 50 or so, you still might need a Mom to take the back off your sticker for you. 
8. I've never hugged so many people in pasties before. Or any people in pasties, actually.
9. It was my first Pride anything, and my first parade to be in since I was about 8 years old and marched as Betsy Ross in the Fourth of July parade.
10. Giving Mom hugs is the best.

Kieran's Prayer

To help our church experience “Jesus prayed for children,” our theme for Sunday 9/16/2018, high school sophomore Kieran, our youth rep on the Missional Logistics Team, brought us this prayer.

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Church, cross your arms in a shield (Wakanda Forever) position, but put your head down in a position of cowering.

O Guardian of The Galaxies, our Superman and Wonder Woman, we cower behind these shields, scared of what the future holds. Whether it may be the world binding us to its standards, or being taken out by a gun in our own apartment, we have seen what many generations before us have not. Learning AR-15s instead of ABC’s, fences instead of freedom, hands behind back instead of hands on the wheel, the things that fly past us are deadly. We turn away, seeking a defense from all this injustice.

Church, bring your right arm up, fist clenched with righteous anger.

But be warned, we are a fighting generation. We won’t go gently into the night. We won’t snap under pressure. We will rage with righteous anger towards all these injustices, these obstacles in the path towards true liberation. Towards true justice, as the moral arc of the universe bends. We are a hopeful and helpful generation, never taking no for an answer. We are tired of these age-old, rigid, unfair ways; and desiring a change that truly benefits everyone and everything for the world. We will avenge those whose lives have been taken for our cause. And we will hold each other’s hands, close our eyes, bow our heads, and protect our hearts, as we pray what the Watcher above told us two millennia ago…

Church, bring your hands to your heart in a posture of devotion.

Our Mother-Father, who art in heaven…

Amen, and ashe.

Mansfield ISD, here we are again

At the MISD school board meeting on August 28, 2018, the Mansfield Equality Coalition once again sent speakers to advocate for the protection of LGBTQ+ persons in school policies governing anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and anti-bullying for staff and students.


from Whitney Mundt:

My husband and I want our two daughters to grow into people who value diversity. We want them to see that variety is normal and good. So it worries me to think that anyone from MISD might try to restrict what kind of adults my daughters are exposed to in this particular way.

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From a broader perspective, many of us are really excited about the growth Mansfield is experiencing right now. We’re seeing new people, more resources, and a lot of awesome opportunities. The area is not necessarily as conservative as it has historically been. And I think that if we as a district want to continue attracting new people, we can’t hold so tight to those traditional values that many of us might consider just a tad outdated. And to be clear, I am not asking that anyone stifle those traditional values. There is a lot in them that is good. All I’m asking is that different voices and different lifestyles not be censored, either.

We’re never going to all want the same thing and that’s OK. But I think most of us do agree that we want progress and fairness. Most of us don’t need to be reminded of the not-so-proud parts of Mansfield’s history – the desegregation incident comes to mind – but I would remind everyone that we don’t want to see past mistakes repeated. We need to be careful to avoid that. 


from Nathan Berry:

I am a longtime resident of the DFW area, and a proud graduate of Texas Christian University (go Frogs!), and I’m here to speak about the Anti-Bullying Committee. More specifically, I’m here to advocate for the LGBTQ+ students and staff of MISD by sharing my experiences at the intersection of educational institutions, bullying, and LGBTQ+ identity. It is my hope that my story will be helpful as you consider your goals in forming this anti-bullying committee.

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My pronouns are she, her, and hers, and I identify as genderqueer. If that term is unfamiliar to you, think of it as meaning “somewhere in between transgender and not transgender.” I have experienced both a school that did not protect their LGBTQ+ students and staff from bullying AND a school that offers robust support to their LGBTQ+ students and staff.

I grew up going to a Southern Baptist fine arts academy for homeschoolers. The academy was a place where people loudly and frequently used hateful rhetoric regarding LGBTQ+ people. School administration took no action to discourage this, thus tacitly endorsing such bullying. This lack of institutional support was a huge reason why I, for the first twenty years of my life, repressed my gender identity so much that I did not even dare to admit to myself my authentic identity. Unsurprisingly, I developed a deep-seated and all-consuming shame regarding a core part of who I am. The fruits of this were excessive self-criticism and severe depression. On multiple occasions I seriously considered suicide. 

My experiences at Texas Christian University were the complete opposite of that. In my freshman year I started receiving mental health counseling through the university’s mental health center, which vastly improved my ability to manage what was diagnosed as clinical depression. I had professors and staff members who openly and proudly supported their LGBTQ+ students and colleagues. 

So at the beginning of my junior year I was finally at a place where I could actually articulate my gender identity. And thanks to an LGBTQ+ peer support group that was co-administered by TCU’s mental health center and the university’s Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, I had access to the safe spaces I needed to explore and embrace my gender identity. 

I came out the summer prior my senior year, and university officials were proactive in making sure my on-campus housing situation was one where I felt safe. I was inducted into the Pi Kappa Lambda music honor society, and graduated summa cum laude,with honors, with a degree in music composition. 

That makes me think of the statistic that Dr. Cantu cited earlier tonight that indicates bullying prevention improves academic performance. I can tell you, in my experience, this is absolutely is true. Furthermore, the institutional support I received not only produced fruits in terms of academic excellence, but also produced fruits of confidence, courage, energy, and a fully integrated sense of self. 

So in closing, I earnestly ask that the safety and support of your LGBTQ+ students and staff be a serious consideration of the anti-bullying committee, and that you add language in your school policies that explicitly protect LGBTQ+ persons. I am confident that this would yield bountiful fruit for MISD and help you reach the academic goals that you have been discussing throughout tonight’s meeting.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak, and I will be praying for the good work that I am sure the anti-bullying committee will do.


from Katie Hays:

I’m Rev. Dr. Katie Hays from Galileo Church. I live in MISD and have two kids, one who graduated from MHS and one who is a senior there.

My friends and I continue to come to school board meetings to request additional language in the DIA local, FFH local, and FFI local policies for the explicit protection of LGBTQ+ students and staff. We understand that justice is a long game, and that institutional ships are slow to steer; we understand that you are working on more than one thing right now, including a lawsuit that excludes swift agreement with our priorities; and we understand that the voices you hear from your constituents are not all saying the same thing.

In light of all that, we appreciate tonight’s consideration of the formation of an anti-bullying, student emotional health and learning team. We’ve heard so many stories about the reality of bullying in MISD schools these last months. Thank you for being proactive to address that reality.

I request that you invite membership onto that team from among the dedicated persons who have come to every board meeting for several months, taxpayers and stakeholders in Mansfield ISD who have protections for all students as a clear priority in our lives. This would be one way for us to fulfill the promise we made to you early in this process: that we are here to help the school board do the right, and possibly politically unpopular, thing. I would be happy to recommend persons to you and share contact information.

It’s important to me that you understand the source of the deep well of resolve we have. We are not interested in winning a political battle, or a culture war. We are not interested in press coverage or popularity. We simply believe that to leave LGBTQ+ persons without explicit protections, without clear language that promises that we have their backs when they are made vulnerable, is to let continue the bias that leads to violence, both psychological and physical, that LGBTQ+ persons face every day, just by showing up at school. It’s dangerous to say nothing. 

I’ve brought for your consideration printed articles from The Washington Post. One is about a 9-year-old boy in Colorado who, after only four days in school this fall, having shared with his classmates his summertime realization about himself, was bullied all the way to suicide. 9 years old. What if he had known that his school administration had already acted to protect him? What if he’d had a teacher, or several, who felt safe enough to offer themselves and their families as healthy role models? That 9-year-old might be another week into fourth grade today.

The second is about the school district in Oklahoma that closed an entire school for several days because of virulent online bullying of a trans student. That district’s leadership took a strong and unpopular stand to ensure the safety of that child. Sadly, she and her family have found it necessary to move elsewhere to seek the safety her life deserves and requires.

Let those of us who have been thinking about this and praying about it and living through it for a long, long time be part of the team that has a chance to write a different story for Mansfield ISD. Let us help, as we’ve promised to do.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2018/08/27/a-mother-says-her-9-year-old-came-out-as-gay-then-killed-himself-after-schoolmates-bullied-him/?utm_term=.6d98d8f5fc1c

https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2018/08/21/transgender-girl-family-plan-leave-oklahoma-after-she-was-threatened-using-girls-restroom/?utm_term=.cc650fb67bda

Mansfield ISD: Explicit protections, please!

At the Mansfield ISD school board meeting on June 26, 2018, Rev. Ryan Felber shared his story during the public comments:

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Good evening Dr. V, Board President Marcucci, and Mansfield School Board members. My name is Rev. Ryan Felber; my pronouns are he/him/his; and I work with children and youth as I serve on pastoral staff at Galileo Christian Church, which has been a part of the Mansfield community for a little over 5 years now. I also serve as the chairperson of the Mansfield Equality Coalition. The coalition currently consists of over 800 community members, 6 religious organizations, and 14 partner organizations ranging from local community organizations to large national and international nonprofits.

I want to tell you a short story, a story about me. I went to high school in the early 2000s at Mulvane High School, a small suburb of Wichita, Kansas. I was engaged, outgoing, involved in sports and the theater program, active in my church and in show choir, president of the student body my senior year, and editor of the newspaper as well. I worked at a day care and had a good relationship with my family. I had good grades, was on prom court, and from the outside appeared to be a perfect student.

I also attempted suicide twice and was drinking and using recreational drugs most weekends, if not during the week.

You see, like most queer youth, I felt isolated and had no one to turn to. I had loving parents who I couldn’t turn to because they couldn't understand. I had no role models to look up to other than the Fab 5 from the original Queer Eye and Jack from Will and Grace. However, I am one of the fortunate ones, because I survived high school and college and found people who love me. I found them in Mansfield.

That’s not the case for many young people. Too often, students – good, hardworking, quirky, amazing students, students full of potential – give in because they see no light on the other end, because schools don’t protect them, or refuse to allow teachers to give students good role models.

According to recent studies by the Human Rights Campaign, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the ACLU, queer youth are more than 5 times more likely than other kids to attempt suicide. These numbers are even higher in communities of color and with trans youth. These studies have also shown that one of the key factors in students' mental health is how accepted they feel at schools, by their peers, and by the the staff of the schools. By you...

I’m embarrassed that MISD has chosen to ignore the queer students in its school. For months you’ve heard testimonies from parents and students, faculty and staff, clergy, and businesspeople, all sharing their stories, their faith, and their heartbreak for the students of Mansfield. We have a simple request: protect the students and staff of MISD. We offer a simple solution: include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender express in the non-discrimination and anti-bullying policies. We have statistics and examples of school districts that have done this, places like Fort Worth, Dallas, Austin, Houston, El Paso, Cedar Hill, and the charter schools right here In our school district. Do the right thing; be on the right side of history; and don’t let another child go through your school system thinking they aren’t worthy of your respect, care, and love.

Mansfield ISD: Amend those policies!

At the Mansfield ISD school board meeting on June 26, 2018, Professor and Galileo co-conspirator David Grogan spoke thusly:

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Thank you so much for offering me a few minutes of your time. My name is David Grogan. I do not live in Mansfield. I do not have children in the Mansfield school district. I do, however, teach students who become teachers in public schools, including Mansfield ISD. I teach music at the University of Texas at Arlington. When I heard you might be considering language changes to your discrimination, harassment, and retaliation policies, I became interested, as this impacts my students at UT Arlington.  

I was raised, as many in the audience here, in a church.  My parents worked in ministry at the church I grew up in. To say that I attended church nearly every time the door was open wouldn’t be much of a stretch. To this day, I am a faithful man in my church. If the doors are open, I am probably there, helping in some way. I am heterosexual, and have been faithfully married to my wife for 28 years. She would want me to say that it will be 29 in August! Because of who I am, I have enjoyed certain privileges that I have often taken for granted. For example, being able to openly talk about my wife and my marriage without fear of offending anyone, getting yelled at, or even losing a job that I love.  

My Christianity tells me that “real” religion involves taking care of those that are marginalized.  It informs me that how I treat the “least of these” has a bearing on my relationship with God. I have taught in public high schools and middle schools in Texas, and that is also about taking care of the least of these. Teaching is, no doubt, as much of a mission as it is a career.  

People in the LGBTQ community are often marginalized. They are commonly disowned or ostracized by their families, and often have smaller than average circles of support. There is a sizable disproportionate number of LGBTQ teens who are homeless. They have higher numbers of suicide attempts. The deck is stacked against the beautiful people that I know in this community.

When I have LGBTQ students who have successfully navigated through this social minefield and ask me where they should apply for employment, I definitely take into consideration whether or not a school district will be supportive of them. If I believe that a school district will not support who my student is, then I will not encourage them to apply there.

People who have found success through tribulation, like my students in the LGBTQ community, are holders of that enviable and elusive gift, “grit.” Grit is a such a buzzword today, and for good reason. People with grit make great employees. Many employers now include tests to seek out employees who have this very trait. People with grit get things done, even when there are obstacles. As a former public school teacher, I can tell you that there are always obstacles. My LGBTQ students are adept at finding ways to get things done, because they have grit.

This is why I am encouraging you to be on the forefront of what is going to happen everywhere eventually. Please include language that protects all your employees and students. All of them. Please include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression explicitly in the discrimination, harassment, and retaliation policies of MISD.  

I want to recommend Mansfield Independent School District to all my students as a great place to work; as a place that will support them, as they are. Please help me believe this by clarifying the language of your policies to protect this marginalized but important group of employees and students. Please be at the front of this inevitable change, and not part of the reluctant rear. Thank you for your time, and may God bless your efforts.

Mansfield ISD: protection for all!

At the Mansfield ISD school boarding meeting on June 26, 2018, former MHS student and Galileo co-conspirator Lydia Pape gave this talk during the public comments.

Good evening. My name is Lydia Pape. My pronouns are she, her, and hers. I was a student in MISD from the 6th grade until I graduated from Mansfield High School just over a year ago, and I am speaking in support of adding the terms “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression” to MISD’s anti-discrimination and anti-bullying policies for employees and students.

I joined Mansfield High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance when it was founded just a few years ago, because I thought it was important to be involved in standing up for the rights of LGBTQ+ people; but I soon became a little overwhelmed at how many people started showing up at the GSA’s meetings. We mostly relied on messages sent to our phones to know when and where those meetings would take place. The GSA leaders also put up posters announcing meetings in the halls of MHS, but these were very often torn down and thrown away almost immediately.

One time some of the GSA’s leaders fished crumpled up posters out of the trash and put them up in a secure display case so they couldn’t be torn down again. When I saw this I remember thinking simply that it was pretty cool to be part of a group that fights the status quo. But that is because I was very privileged. As someone who did not obviously fall in the LGBTQ+ realm, I did not understand what it meant that my fellow GSA members had to fight the status quo every day, just to exist as themselves. I did not understand that these people, just like the GSA itself, were constantly under attack.

When I first came to MISD eight years ago I didn’t even know what sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression were. I have since learned the meaning of these terms and many others, and I have learned that people can take many forms other than the two we so often try to assign them, and I have learned that love can mean so many things other than the one narrow definition we as a society have stuck to for so long.

But I did not learn these things in school. I was lucky and privileged enough to learn all of this from my family, and from my church family; thanks be to God. Meanwhile all school has taught me is that LGBTQ+ issues are political matters and thus something we’re not even allowed to talk about in our primary learning environment.

My point here is, not everyone has a family or a church family who will affirm their identity and that of all their loved ones. Not everyone is told growing up that they can use the pronouns that feel right to them, or that they can marry whomever they fall in love with, without it having to be a political statement, or a secret, or a sin. Such fundamental affirmations ought to be common knowledge. They ought to be things kids learn in school, if nowhere else. Just as much as black and brown students need to learn that their rights, their personhood, and their lives matter just as much as the rights, personhood, and lives of white students, LGBTQ+ students, and those who think they might fall somewhere in the LGBTQ+ realm, need to learn the same. We need to be teaching everyone that it is okay to be the way you are, and that you do not have to change yourself, or keep yourself a secret, for it to be okay.

Thank you for your time.

Justice, Community, Integrity: Online Edition

May 2018

Let’s say you are one of Jesus’s people, and so you are deeply concerned with justice, community and the integrity of a life lived out loud. These three are related. Integrity requires that you speak out and take risks for justice. Community requires that you speak the truth in love, and in ways that strengthen the human family. 

And let’s say you are active on social media, and you bring your justice-community-integrity concerns to those platforms on the regular. Are there better and worse ways to do that? I’ve made enough social media mistakes to have some suggestions. See what you think.

  1. When it comes to posting (let’s use that to encompass posts you generate yourself, along with sharing other people’s posts, tweeting, retweeting, etc. ), narrow your scope. Be intentional in choosing one or two justice issues you feel truly invested in. Perhaps choose one that relates directly to your own experiences, and another that is not about you. Practice integrity by letting your posts reflect your honest investment, not only in your virtual voice but IRL, too. (Mine are justice for women in Christian communities; justice for LGBTQ+ people in North American, Protestant churches and North American culture; with a Texas public education wing. In case you were wondering.)
     
  2. Once you’ve defined your justice investment, do your homework.Become educated in the broad strokes and the finer nuances of the main issues and related topics. Keep an index of links to reputable sources, reports, articles, and studies to share with people who want to learn more about what you have learned. As much as you can, testify to your personal experiences; you are an expert in what you have lived.
     
  3. Most justice issues are not reducible to simplistic solutions; and oversimplification is not persuasive to those who disagree with you, or those who don’t yet know what they think. Therefore, eschew memes. (Except for the “Sup girl” Mark Wahlberg social science memes. Those are indisputably hilarious.) Mostly, facile memes about complex issues are not making the world better; they are not helping us think better. They pretend that issues have binary poles, and aren’t we moving past the binaries in all kinds of ways?
     
  4. On issues that aren’t your own, if it feels important to speak out in solidarity, share something other than an opinion. Share your grief or anger, your hope and your heart. Use “I” language. Whenever possible, connect your virtual expression to an IRL action. Like, “I am heartsick and furious over the school shooting in Santa Fe, TX, and praying for real change this time. I’m spending the afternoon writing letters to my congressional reps, again.” 
     
  5. Resist the rocket-fueled pace of social media, and slow your roll. Combat the pressure to weigh in early. Write your justice-y posts in a word processing document. Edit for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and tone. Put in a load of laundry; drink a cup of coffee; meditate and pray. Come back to your document. Read back through your last 10-20-30 social media offerings. Does this one contribute something new, something helpful? Copy, paste, and post away. Not so much, or not the right time? Save it. You can always use it later. Or not.
     
  6. When the comments turn into combative conversation, do the privilege math. Meaning, who are you “talking” with, and who are you to them? Be especially aware if your role affords you power or special responsibility. For myself, that means being constantly aware that even when I’m voicing personal opinions, the hearer is likely to hear me as a pastor, maybe even their pastor. Or as a white person. Or as a cis-het person. There’s often an inherent power differential to which I should be sensitive. It also means, on issues in which someone else’s personal experience trumps my non-personal interest, I defer, and listen respectfully to their perspective even if it’s not kindly expressed.
     
  7. If someone lights a fire in the comments on your post, practice de-escalation. “Hey, friend, can you say more about that?” often draws out a more considered, less incendiary response. For which you can always say, “Thank you.”
     
  8. When you’re commenting on someone else’s stuff: respond in proportion to your IRL relationship with the poster. You may have more reason to admonish or argue with (or even agree with) your actual friend whom you see often than someone with whom you have a passing acquaintance or have never even met. And don’t assume that being family gives you a pass to speak as you wish; relatedness is not the same as relationship.
     
  9. As a reader, recognize the parts of a greater whole. A public post is often the tippy-tip of a submerged, icebergian mass of wonder and doubt, fear and hope, rage and exhaustion. It’s easy to mistake the part that arrives on your screen as the poster’s whole range of thoughts and feelings on an issue. But what’s under the water? Do you have sufficient relationship with the poster to try and find out? If not, steer clear of that iceberg and sail on. 
     
  10. If your social media engagement takes a dive into conflict that is working against your commitment to community, take it private and offline. Send a message to the real live human being behind the “other side” of the argument and invite them to coffee, or a beer. If it’s someone you don’t want to have coffee or a beer with, then why are you arguing online? See #8, above.
     
  11. If you’re able to resolve a conflict that began online (even if the resolution is, “we agreed to disagree and stay out of each other’s hair”), post the resolution in the same comment stream. More people than you know have witnessed your relational train wreck; their anxiety levels have gone up on your behalf; and it would be so gracious, so good for the world, for us to have examples of people who disagree working it out in civil discourse.
     
  12. Sometimes it’s even best to erase the mistake. I am committed to being transparent about mistakes I’ve made in public, but I sometimes use delete (a) to remove false information, like that time I tweeted a rumor about a school shooter that turned out to be false (he did not have ties to white supremacist groups); or (b) to let someone else off the hook for something they typed in haste. “Love keeps no record of wrongs,” it is somewhere said.

Overall, how about this: imagine that what you’re typing is what you’re saying, out loud, in a roomful of people (and all the people they know, and all the people they know) quietly listening to you speak. If it’s not something you’d say face to face to those people, it’s okay to leave it unsaid. If you decide to speak, imagine that all those listeners have the prerogative to talk back to you, to contest what you’ve said. Be ready to stand firm if you’re speaking from your well-informed heart. 

Social media amplifies everything – our best ideas and our worst expressions of them. Be brave; be care-full; be Christian. Peace. 

protections for all in MISD schools

Galileo Church is the community organizing hub for Mansfield Equality Coalition, a group of parents, students, staff, and taxpayers in MISD, as well numerous human rights organizations, that want to see protections for sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression added to our schools' anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and anti-bullying policies. At the April 24, 2018 school board meeting, we designated three speakers to bring our talking points to the public comments section of the meeting. Here's what they said.

Brandi Grimsley, MISD teacher and taxpayer

I would like to start by saying I am a taxpayer in MISD but much more important and rewarding is that I am finishing my 20thyear teaching, with the last fifteen right here in Mansfield. I have witnessed firsthand the sincerity and concern for our students, families, and employees here at MISD.

As teachers at MISD we have both an obligation and a privilege to serve all families and students. I am proud to be a member of this amazing district. I want to highlight a specific group that we can protect, through written policy change. Dr. Vaszauskas, Board of Trustees, you have the incredible privilege to lead MISD to protect students, families, and employees who identify as, or have a connection to the LGBTQ community.

Mansfield will be among school districts leading the way when it adds LGBTQ inclusive language to policies affecting employees and students. Already, Fort Worth, Dallas, Little Elm, Austin, Grand Prairie, Cedar Hill, El Paso, and San Antonio have introduced inclusive language into their policies. I implore you to add Mansfield to that list of frontrunners by extending protections to LGBTQ stakeholders.

Victimization among the LGBTQ population across the US continues to grow rather than decline. Unfortunately, MISD is no exception. According to local support organizations, MISD LGBTQ students  overwhelmingly report being bullied at school but fear speaking up. These stories of discrimination saddens me. I want to thank you for recently adopting the TASB’s “Educator Code of Ethics” which protects colleagues and students from educator-initiated harassment based upon sexual orientation. Mansfield has the opportunity to go further by extending protection to LGBTQ victims of student-initiated bullying by implementing inclusive bullying and harassment policies.

To further illustrate this point, examine the plight of students who are being raised by LGBTQ parents. They too need to know that their family is valued. One could argue that acknowledging this may not seem age appropriate; however, early childhood studies point out that waiting creates a reality where children are saddled with “unlearning prejudice instead of preventing it,” to quote one researcher. By putting LGBTQ protections into policy, Mansfield will clearly take its stand in saying that prejudice has no place in our schools. Being able to openly engage in discussion regarding their LGBTQ family and themselves is relevant and age appropriate for ALL MISD students.    

As a final note, LGBTQ employees at Mansfield deserve the same legal rights.  Indeed, these employees are amazing, successful and talented individuals who can serve as role models for our LGBTQ learners. When LGBTQ teachers are not protected from discrimination, they are not allowed to truly be mentors to a precious population of Mansfield’s children.  We all remember certain teachers who had a special impact on our lives.   Imagine when this impact is available to LGBTQ students because they have role models to guide them.  

I believe that you want all students, employees, and families at MISD to have equal protection and treatment.  LGBTQ students, families, employees, and allies wearing purple tonight - as well as many allies not in attendance  – look to Dr. Vaszauskas and Board Trustees to be our leaders.  Lead MISD toward equality and protection.  Include “Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression” into MISD’s FFI(local), FFH(local), and DIA(local) policies. 

Thank You for leading us — ALL OF US — forward as a part of MISD.

 

Hannah Olsen, MISD parent and taxpayer

First, thank you for being here and for your continued service and commitment to the safety and wellbeing of my child and every child in our school district. We are here to represent a group of over 650 stakeholders -- parents, teachers, alumni, taxpayers -- and those who support them, from a variety of backgrounds. Just like all of you, our highest concern is to ensure the safety and well-being of all students in Mansfield ISD, to support an affirming and respectful academic environment where they can all thrive. 

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Part of that environment is learning about the people around you, and the historical figures who came before you, learning how to appreciate diversity, and making peace with those who disagree with you. Unfortunately, people have trouble with this, and so we have bullying and discrimination, harassment, and retaliation policies to protect people so that they have recourse if such things occur, and therefore feel safe to be who they are and, in the case of teachers, feel free to teach about people who fall into those categories, support their students who fall into those categories, and if they themselves are LGBT, feel able to speak about their families without fear of discriminatory retaliation.

As you know, the discrimination, harassment, and retaliation policies of MISD do not include sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity. While the current policies are intended to be all-inclusive, the lack of an explicit policy leaves loopholes that hamper those who need to take action against bullying and discrimination. Unless those words are in print, enforcement will continue to be minimal or nonexistent and our students will continue to be bullied. Teachers and administrators need policies in writing in order to be able to do their jobs.

In elementary school, students get to be the Star of the Week, and create a poster talking about themselves and their families. This includes the children with two moms or two dads. Right now, if the other children choose to say discriminatory, mean-spirited things about that child’s family, they have no explicit recourse in the policies. And the teacher, if he or she wants to defend the student, could run afoul of prejudiced adults, and have no place to stand.

In classes, students learn about historical figures and what in their lives led them to be who they are. Right now, a teacher who chose to speak about a person who is LGBT and how that formed their work could get in trouble for speaking about that aspect of a person’s life, as it may be viewed as controversial.

In high school, students are in an intense time of learning who they are, and wondering if they are valuable and worthy human beings. For those who realize they are LGBT, and dare to live accordingly, the snide comments are the least of it. Right now, that student could go to a trusted adult in the school, tell them what is happening, and that adult could find that because of these loopholes, there is no recourse.

As a parent I want amazing teachers for my child. As a former student I know how important they can be. As someone who values diversity I want my child’s teachers to be able to speak about their families, their beliefs, their lives, in passing -- to be who they are so my child can learn from them. This diversity includes those who are LGBT. Right now, a teacher who mentions his spouse to his students, just like all teachers do, but who also happens to be gay, could have a parent who is against same-sex marriage decide that they do not want their children exposed to that. Even though many would believe one person’s right to keep their children sheltered from alternate viewpoints ends where another person’s legal marriage and family arrangement begins, the policies are not there, and the loophole is vast.

My child is in Mansfield ISD and I have valued the diversity at her school so much. What if my child has friends whose parents are gay? What if my child has teachers who are gay? What if my child is gay? What will my child learn from how the institution that controls her education handles diversity?

In order to protect and support every student and teacher, the FFI Local, FFH Local, and DIA local policies MUST be amended to include sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity in the freedom from bullying and discrimination, harassment, and retaliation policies.

 

Rev. Dr. Katie Hays, MISD parent, pastor, and taxpayer

My husband and I have lived here for eight years. Our daughter graduated from MHS in the top 10% of her class last year and is a freshman in TCU’s Honors College. Our son is a junior at MHS and was inducted into the National Honor Society a few weeks ago. But what I’m most proud of is that both of my kids were founding members of the MHS Gay-Straight Alliance.

In addition to my family, I’m here tonight to represent Galileo Church, a Christian community that I founded in Mansfield 5 years ago, and all the friends we have gathered in support of adding specific protections for staff and students to the policies of Mansfield ISD.

When we became aware a couple of months ago that our school’s policies did not include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression among the protected facets of the diversity of human identity, we knew immediately that we would find a way to come alongside you, the MISD school board and superintendent, in a collaborative effort to make sure that every child, and every person with a vocation for educating children, would find MISD a safe and hospitable place for their life’s work. We were so glad to find that so many of you were responsive to our calls and emails the last several weeks. We have high hopes that Mansfield will be at the forefront of Texas school districts for the protection of LGBTQ+ persons in our system.

While my role as a Christian pastor may indicate that my interest in this matter is primarily theological, which it is, I am also a deeply practical person with an interest in the economic health of our city and its schools. I have been present in meetings in small Texas town governments all the way to Austin in which forward-thinking business owners have expressed concern about the atmosphere into which they would bring their employees and their employees’ families if they located here or there. Jeff Bezos recently revealed that protections for LGBTQ persons will be key in his decision for the location of Amazon.com’s second company headquarters; and Dallas-Fort Worth sent my colleague, the Rev. Dr. Neil Cazares-Thomas, to assure him of the metroplex’s generous welcome to LGBTQ persons and families.

I know that Mansfield eagerly pursues businesses large and small to grow our tax base and continue to improve our city. It is important to assure them that we who already live here are mindful of the diverse persons and families whose work would make them our neighbors, and that we have been proactively thinking about how to communicate our wide welcome through our schools.

I also understand how important it is that our public schools retain enrollment of students against the rising tide of charter schools. My family is staunchly pro-public education, and I serve alongside Rev. Charles Johnson in Pastors for Texas Children, a group of clergypersons who advocate at every level for Texas public schools to be generously and consistently funded by taxpayer dollars. But charter schools in the metroplex are getting ahead of us in providing protections for sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Uplift Education, the largest network of charter schools in DFW, including nearby campuses in Arlington and Grand Prairie, boasts on its website about the safe space Uplift charter schools provide for LGBTQ students and staff. 

Adopting protections for sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in the FFI local, FFH local, and DIA local policies is going to be a help to countless students and staff members of Mansfield ISD, and it will put Mansfield in the news for the best reason of all: because we are people of fearless generosity and unlimited kindness.

Thank you for your good work. Please know that we are in prayer for you, and that we are available to help you in any way we can.

justice in our schools

On March 27, 2018, several co-conspirators from Galileo Church attended the Mansfield ISD school board meeting to give public comment about the lack of protections for LGBTQ+ employees and students in MISD policies. Melina Wikoff used her time at the mic to lift up her brilliant and beautiful kids, who both graduated valedictorian of their high school class from an MISD high school. 

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Thank you, members of the school board, for the opportunity to speak before you. My name is Melina Wikoff. Both of my kids graduated from Legacy High School: my youngest the valedictorian of the class of 2017 and my oldest the valedictorian of the class of 2015.

I was surprised to learn that the Mansfield ISD statement of non-discrimination does not include sexual orientation or gender identity among the protected classes. I was surprised because in my naïveté I believed that the city and schools that my family and I love so much would never discriminate against anyone.

Last year at the assembly honoring the top scholars, Dr. Vaszauskas [MISD superintendent] encouraged the students who aspire to be teachers by guaranteeing them an interview with MISD once they are ready to start their teaching careers. My oldest child would love nothing more than to give back to the community that has given her so much.

But knowing that she would be among the educators who would not be protected against discrimination or harassment is enough for this mom to stand before you now to say that the current policy does a disservice to not only the exceptional educators that are already serving our community, but also to the future of our school district as we strive to attract the brightest and best to our district.

I urge our policymakers to take a true stand toward liberty and justice for all by protecting all people against discrimination in its written policies. Thank you.

"I've Been Away So Long"

Galileo Church • February 2018

A few weeks ago, a newish soul at Galileo Church posted in our Facebook group, where we share prayer requests and knock-knock jokes and outrage and stuff. With that person's permission we're sharing her post almost ver batim. This is what can happen when spiritual refugees are invited back into the spaces from which they were excluded. This is how the Spirit of the living Christ works in us.

I hope it isn’t too late to post on the page, but I need to share. I just got home from a very fun night with S and J, who are great friends and fellow musicians. Even though J and S are very liberal, they have some friends that come to hear them play who are not particularly my cup of tea.

I’ve tried so hard for a couple of years to keep my distance from a particular couple among their friends. His FB posts are Anti-Everything-I-Believe and I have personally witnessed him being an absolute dick to his wife. I’ve just thought it best for him and me to not have that confrontation. It’s always been very cordial and polite; you know, the plastic, “Hi, how are ya”; “Good, thank you.”

BUT as it happens, I was leaving the event tonight and they happened to be fumbling around trying to figure out how to do the Uber thing. Something came over me and I said, “Get your asses in the truck; I’ll take you home.” Jesus!!! Must have been the whiskey!

Just so happens, he had a serious health scare in December. I had kept an eye on it via FB just to make sure the ol’ SOB made it. Obviously he did.

They got in my truck and off we went. I spent the next hour-and-a-half visiting with them. Keep in mind, I’ve known these people for a couple of years, but just refused to get too close because he is such a old, white man with conservative leanings. Royal asshole!!!

(It’s not that I can’t love someone like that. I just don’t want to tell him to his face what a jackass he is, and he makes me so mad!)

SO, we talked, laughed, and sang songs; and I told him how lucky he was to be alive, and how he should appreciate his wife more because without her he would be a dead piece of crap. My words exactly! He hugged me and complimented me, told me how much he admired me, blah blah… I took a few deep breaths, then hugged him back. And then…

I headed home and tears filled my eyes. I began to think: “It’s Galileo’s fault!!! I want to NOT LIKE them so much!!”

Maybe, just maybe, I’ve spent the last 25 or so years filled with anger, resentment, suspicion, caution – and now I have to face the fact that for my life to be peaceful, I have to accept the people I just don’t like. I guess it is after all, “What Jesus would do?” UGH, I really hate that phrase, but I know it is the ultimate goal and where I will find the ultimate peace.

Sorry if this sounds like the ramblings of a fool. I’ve been away so long, it’s hard to be open and vulnerable again. I really just don’t want to. I don’t want to. But here I am.

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Remembering Finn

Finn Spicer was not yet 19 when illness and death came quickly. Galileo grieved this loss and celebrated God's faithfulness with Finn's family and many beloveds at a funeral service on January 6, 2018. Katie H. offered this remembrance.

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 

Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:1-9)


Now that several of Finn’s beloveds have spoken, there’s little that I need to add; the collective memories of the people who love Finn would fill volume after volume on miles of shelves. But allow me to add just this: that it was one of the great privileges of my life to pastor one of Jesus’s own favorites.

Oh, I know it doesn’t sound quite right that the Lord himself would play favorites among the billions of God’s beloved children. But it’s clear from the stories in the gospels that he did. He clearly favored those who were small; those who were vulnerable; those who were, shall we say, uncelebrated by a culture too rough to recognize what is truly beautiful in God’s sight.

He said it that day, right there on that mountainside where his followers gathered, thinking perhaps he would give them marching orders for the revolution against the powers that oppressed them. But instead, he gave them a list of congratulations that sounds at first like a cruel joke.

“Congratulations to those who are sick and sad [those that are mourning]! Congratulations to those whose voices cannot be heard or understood [the meek]! Congratulations to those who don’t have what they need to succeed [those that are poor in spirit, hungering and thirsting for justice]! Congratulations to those who are more kind to others than others are to them [the merciful]! Congratulations to those who don’t hide themselves, those pure in heart, those without sufficient guile to trick the rest of us into thinking they are something they’re not. Congratulations to the lovers, not the fighters [the peacemakers].

“Congratulations to you, little ones,” Jesus said, “because everything God has belongs to you. God’s kingdom is yours, God’s comfort is yours, God’s earth is yours, God’s provision, God’s mercy, God’s own shining face, adoption as God’s own children – God has chosen you for all these prizes. God holds nothing back from you, because you are God’s favorites.”

And so is there any question that Finn is one of God’s favorites?

At our church we begin worship each week with a query, an old question that people of faith have been asking each other for a long time. “How goeth it with thy soul?” we ask, and we take two minutes to talk about it with whomever we’re sitting next to. Some of you know that for just about the entire time the Blythe family was in my church, Finn sat next to me on the very front row, with a notepad and pen, ready to draw and take notes throughout the service. But when the query came, Finn would stop writing and wait for me. “How goeth it with thy soul?” I would ask. About half the time Finn would talk for the whole two minutes. I confess I often didn’t catch all the details, but the honor of Finn sharing life with me was no less for my lack of understanding.

The other half of the time Finn would give a shake of the head; didn’t want to talk. But Finn would listen to me, nodding sympathetically to whatever I poured out about the state of my soul. And knowing as I did that Finn is one of God’s favorites, I felt that God, too, was especially attentive to me in those weeks.

From that front row in our little church, I prayed with Finn, and sang with Finn – Finn sang with gusto, my favorite way to sing, too. I served communion with Finn, lots of Sundays, as I often forget to ask someone before the service, and Finn knew the drill and would join me at a moment’s notice if I asked. Usually with a look of reproach, because Finn knew I was scrambling, but Finn never turned me down.

And one beautiful day, Finn and I baptized Song together. We sat on opposite sides of the cattle trough and cooperated to get her in and out of that water. It remains one of the holiest moments in history, in my estimation. Because of, you know, what Jesus said about Finn: pure in heart; blessed are those; blessed is Finn.

See, it’s not just that Finn was an excellent specimen of a human being. I mean, that’s true, no question. It’s that Finn helped so many of us recalibrate our own sense of what makes a human being excellent, what God actually wants from and for us. We receive our Lord’s congratulation insofar as we are like Finn. And so to have lived any part of this life alongside Finn, to have been invited into Finn’s heart, is valuable beyond measure. I am forever grateful. Thanks be to God. 

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Querying for the New Year

12/31/2017

Every Sunday of the world, Galileo Church begins worship with a query. We say, “A query is an old question that people of faith have been asking each other for a long time. A query reminds us to bring our whole selves into this space, all our experiences, all our life. Nothing left outside.”

We rotate through four queries, one per Sunday, a couple of which we copied directly from Quaker practice, a couple of which we modified a bit:

 from the prayer wall in the Big Red Barn

from the prayer wall in the Big Red Barn

1. How goeth it with thy soul?

2. Where did you see God in the week just past?

3. What is your body saying to your spirit tonight?

4. How are you further along tonight than this time last week?

We take two minutes to process our answers. Some of us talk it over with somebody nearby. Some of us bow our heads and close our eyes. Stephanie strums gentle chords to mute the sounds of talking, whispering, praying.

Some people really hate the Query – they’d rather not think these thoughts, or they’d just like to get out of their own heads for a while. Some people really hate one of the Queries, and when that one comes around every fourth week, they groan. (The one you dislike is somebody else’s favorite, I promise.) Some nights it’s hard to come up with an answer. It’s okay to say, “Huh. I have no idea.” Which is, itself, an important thing to notice.

But mostly, people come to love it. They understand the signal we’re sending – that your experiences, your thoughts, your voice, your not-knowing, are welcome here. All of you is welcome here. In fact, we can’t imagine starting worship without all of you. Get your whole messy, beautiful self in here so we can situate ourselves before our God-Who-Is-Beautiful together.

On New Year’s Eve, I’m thinking these Queries could be s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d to encompass the year we are finishing. It would take more than two minutes, I think, to ask and answer, concerning 2017:

1. How goeth it with my soul at the end of this year?

2. Where did I see God in the year just past?

3. What has my body been saying to my spirit this year?

4. How am I further along at the end of the year than I was at the beginning?

What if you used these Queries as journal prompts for the first couple of weeks of 2018? What if your G-Group took them up as conversation starters for the first month of the year? What if you asked a trusted friend to meet you for Coffee & Queries, and worked through them together?

Oh, here's a thought: What if you thought about how you want to answer these questions at the end of next year, and put practices in place to get you to those answers?

If you try it, let us know how it turns out. We are actually interested in how it goeth with thy soul. 

Find a New Church!

When Galileo people move on from here, literally to a new city or even state, I'm often asked to help them find a church family, "one like Galileo," near their new home. It's rare that I have a specific suggestion. But here's what I share about what it's like to search for a new band of travelers with whom to share this Christian journey.

Friends, I'm glad you asked. God's good people are everywhere in the world. I really believe this. Whether they've formed communities that look like Galileo isn't guaranteed, but still: God's good people, everywhere in the world, even Miami [or Roanoke or Plano or wherever]. ;) 

Here are some things I hope you'll remember after your boxes are unpacked and you find the grocery store and gas station:

1. Churches deserve several chances to show you who they are. More than one visit is important. Not every Sunday at Galileo is our best Sunday, you know? And if a church has gatherings other than Sunday, try those a couple of times, too. Some of our best stuff happens on Tuesday nights at Fuzzy's, or Wednesday morning at AB Coffee, or somebody's living room.

2. Sometimes you can find a little "church within a church," like a young adult subgroup that is doing life together, no bullshit, within the larger structure of a traditional church. It might take a little while to find it; they don't show up in your Google search.

3. Don't underestimate your power to form the church you want simply by being present and sharing yourself. The church IS the people, and if you become part of the people, the church starts to look more like you from the very first time you start sharing yourself in that space. Galileo is not Galileo; Y'ALL/WE are Galileo. Same with other churches. You know what I mean?

4. It was always the hope of the Galileo originals that what we learn by doing community together would be exportable to other places, because Millennials are mobile, and y'all are all going to live somewhere else eventually. If this way of Christian community hasn't equipped you to be/make the church you want to go to, we haven't done our work very well. :) 

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5. Take care not to idealize the experience of Galileo -- it is soooo human, as we've learned recently, and has never been exactly right about anything for everybody. It's important to know where our broken places are so that you can see the advantages of a community that's significantly different than ours -- because they have some stuff figured out that we're still stumbling through. 

6. Be brave. You are God's address. The Spirit of the risen Christ lives in you. You have the power of discernment, and you can do this. But don't neglect to do it while you're feeling strong -- because while God doesn't need the church, God knows we do, or will eventually. Get some people to travel this path with. That's what a church should be, ideally. 

7. Remember how hard it was to find Galileo, and how miraculous it seemed when we discovered each other? Well, if God worked in your life once, what makes it any less likely that God would work in your life again? I'm praying for you. I hope to hear all about your explorations, your earnest and energetic efforts to find the right place. You are so loved. Keep the faith. Peace.

A prayer for Trans Day of Remembrance service 2017

On November 18, Trans-Cendence International and Galileo Church hosted a TDOR service to honor the struggle of trans and gender-diverse people. This bidding prayer was offered at the beginning of the service.

O God of creative energy and power, God of nothing-spoken-into-something, God of all that is and has been and ever shall be, you are the Artist of life, and we are your artwork. With your hands you have formed us from the dust of the ground; with your mouth you have blown your Spirit into our lives. You have made us in your own image; male AND female you have made us, not either/or, but both, and all. Our beauty is reflective of your own: because you are beautiful, we are beautiful.

Friends, let us pause to contemplate our own beauty in the light of our Creator’s beauty.

[light first candle; strike the bell]

 

O God of our ancestors, God of humanity through the ages, you know that our beauty is marred by brokenness. We your people have defaced the earth, spoiling the air and land and water. But nothing is as tragic as the way human beings hurt one another. Those who are made in your beautiful image look on the faces of one another and see something to fear, or hate, or hurt. Tonight we are especially aware of how your trans and gender-diverse children have suffered under the cruel hands of fear and hate.

Friends, let us pause to contemplate the hurt that the trans community has endured.

[light second candle; strike the bell]

 

O God of power, strong Shepherd of the flock, we plead your protection for the vulnerable ones in our world. For the poor, for children, for those in places that are wrecked by violence and warfare. Tonight we are especially mindful of the vulnerability of those who do not conform to society’s expectations for physical appearance and gendered roles. We ask for your strong arm and mighty hand to cover the trans and gender-diverse community with protection. We ask you to grant courage to those who face the potential for harm every single day.

Friends, let us pause to contemplate our own vulnerability, and ask God’s protection.

[light third candle; strike the bell]

 

O God of compassion, gentle Mother of us all, we know that when we weep, you weep along with us. Tonight there will be tears as we push ourselves to remember the lost lives of those who fell victim to the violence of bigots and hatemongers. There will be tears as we consider our own vulnerabilities. We ask that you would be near to the brokenhearted, as you have promised; we ask that you come near to us tonight as we move more deeply into our remembrance. We pray that our remembrance will grow the seeds of compassion in our own hearts.

Friends, let us pause to dwell in God’s compassion for us, and our own compassion for each other.

[light fourth candle; strike the bell]

 

 Katie of Galileo Church and Olivia of Trans-Cendence Int'l.

Katie of Galileo Church and Olivia of Trans-Cendence Int'l.

O God of empowerment, God who hates injustice, God whose Spirit fills us and transforms us, make us strong. Strengthen us to stand against injustices large and small. Fortify us for legislative battles when the civil rights of trans and gender-diverse people are threatened. Shore us up to push back against belittling portrayals of trans and gender-diverse persons in entertainment. Help us to speak up against micro-aggressions and bullying and public harassment and obvious discrimination. Reinforce the bank accounts of organizations that fight for the rights and dignity of all people, and especially trans and gender-diverse people. Make us strong, for ourselves and for each other.

Friends, let us pause to feel our own strength increasing for the battles that lie ahead.

[light fifth candle; strike the bell]

 

O God of human connection, Lover of love, be present in our relationships. Where our families of origin fail us, give us a sparkling rainbow of many colors, our family of choice. Redouble the love that those gathered here tonight feel for each other, and may that love kindle a blazing bonfire of love for every trans and gender-diverse person out there who does not yet know that they are not alone. There is power in community. There is mercy in belonging. Bind us together in love, we pray.

Friends, let us pause to give thanks for the love that is in this room tonight.

[light sixth candle; strike the bell]

 

O God of light and truth, whose radiance shines through the darkness, be light for us in the gloom of this night. Expose what is most broken in this world, and illuminate the way forward. We long for the day when a Trans Day of Remembrance will no longer be necessary; a day when all your beautiful children across the whole spectrum of multiple identities will feel themselves welcome in each other’s hearts. Your promises of protection and compassion, empowerment and love, have begun to brighten. Shine forth, O God, and show us the way.

Friends, let us pause to dream about a future when fear and hatred have faded into memory, and love reigns in the hearts of all.

[light seventh candle; strike the bell]

 

O non-gendered, non-gendering God, our lives are in your hands, and you never let us go, even in death. We know you have received the souls of trans and gender-diverse people who have died this year and through the decades; we know that they are held in your heart, as they are in ours. For your presence among us tonight, we give you thanks. Amen.

Overspend, Overspend! For the Love of God, Overspend!

September 2017

We need your help. We overspent, by a lot. And we’re still spending.

Here’s what happened. In our 2017 Ministry Finance Plan, we budgeted $1,800 on “justice for LGBTQ+ people.” It should have been enough.

But who knew 2017 would be like this? Who knew the Texas State Legislature, in particular, would devote so much energy to stripping the rights and dignity of LGBTQ+ people (heavy emphasis on “T”)? Who knew the national environment of acceptance and fairness would melt so quickly under a new administration? (Okay, maybe you knew, but we didn’t.)

So we have spent more money that we planned. Like, a lot more. On things like these:

•    January: We took rainbow-frosted donuts to protest (sweetly) the anti-LGBTQ meanness mailed from a nearby church to every household in that town.

•    January: We sent two learners to the Gay Christian Network conference in Pittsburgh.

IMG_2560.jpg

•    January: We sent six learners to the Texas Tribune's Race & Public Policy conference in Austin.

•    February: We hosted a visit, a seminar, and a sermon from Rev. Allyson Robinson, pastor-preacher-trans-activist.

•    February: We sent one learner to ClexaCon in Las Vegas, a conference advocating for queer women in TV and movie storylines. (We're pretty sure she was the only one whose church paid her way...)

•    March: We offered free tae kwon do self-defense training for vulnerable LGBTQ+ people.

•    March: We showed up for local parade and booth activism in our suburban home base.

•    April: We hosted a big screen viewing of Gender Revolution, the National Geographic documentary on gender, in partnership with Transcendence Int’l.

•    April: We hosted an anti-racism / intersectionality workshop (and preaching!) by Sandhya Jha, co-sponsored with the Trinity-Brazos Area.

•    May: We sent three learners to the Contemporary Relationships Conference in Houston, a weekend with special emphasis on strengthening LGBTQ+ couples.

•    June: We hosted Trans Ally Training with Transcendence Int’l., and provided free dinner for all.

•    Spring & Summer: We paid for numerous trips – so many! – to Austin to lobby, protest, challenge, enlighten our Texas State legislators concerning discriminatory legislation, including several G-people who testified before the Senate and House Committees concerning the “bathroom bills” that threatened all summer long.

•    June: We delivered homemade cookies to our local legislators as they prepared to return to Austin for the special session, asking that our Christian witness to God’s inclusion of all people be allowed to “complicate your vote”.

•    September: We set up a booth presence at the UTA at Activities Fair and Rainbow Reception for LGBTQ+ students.

•    We supply monthly rental and refreshment costs for It Gets Better, a peer-to-peer conversation group for young adults around LGBTQ+ identity, going on three years now.

•    We incurred a few printing costs for the “justice table” in the Big Red Barn, helping people stay aware of current threats to civil liberties for LGBTQ+ persons, with ways to reach out to legislators at every level.

And there’s still more on our calendar for the remaining months of 2017. We’re christening a brand-new float for the Tarrant County Pride Parade in October, laying hands on it to bless its witness during worship the weekend before. (We’ll roll it right through the big garage door into the barn.)

Bottom line: our total spending for the year, against that budget of $1,800, is closer to $5,200 at this point, the treasurer tells me. Almost three times what we planned. 300%. With more to come.

So… don’t these things sound like the kinds of things a church should be overspending on? If we’re gonna blow the budget, isn’t this the way to do it – by announcing loudly, proudly, everywhere we can think of, that God’s love is the only law, the realest thing in the world, the beginning and ending of every conversation about what really matters?

And if you think that’s true, can you help replenish our coffers? We’re not broke, but it’s tight. And frankly, we think there are people out there who would love to fund this kind of ministry, specifically and strategically. We think it’s good work, and exactly the work God has called and equipped us to do. You could help with the “equipping” part by clicking the “donate” button right down there. Thanks for considering. Peace of Christ to you and yours.

David's Journey

David Grogan shows up with enthusiasm for most everything Galileo Church does -- and now he's reflective about what showing up signifies. The occasion? The 2017 Pickle Palooza Parade in Mansfield. We can't say for sure, but we think this may be one of the more serious reflections to come out of that event...

I am not ashamed to speak aloud about my faith or my church. I have moved decidedly left, after years of being pretty moderate, theologically speaking. The church we are attending makes justice for LGBTQ people a priority. I'm not, by nature, an activist, but I have been more challenged by this church, and more engaged in scripture in this church, than I have in decades. Today, as I walked in a parade with my church, I experienced some things for the first time.

First, let me say that I am the embodiment of privilege. I am a white, heterosexual, cisgender male (if you have to look up cisgender, you're probably privileged, too). So I have never really experienced people being "against" me just for being myself.

As we walked through the parade route, many people cheered. Some looked at us askance. But some were a little rude. We heard, "Sinner!" We heard, "I'll pray for you!" to which I replied, "Same." We had people throw back the really cute rainbow bracelets we were handing out. It was a little bit uncomfortable.

But that was it. Uncomfortable. No one attacked us. No one tried to stop us, or hurt us. We, in my counting, had so many more people cheering us on and thanking us than we had disparaging us.

This is progress. It's slow and painful. But it's moving forward. And sometimes that's the best you can do. I salute all the people who have fought for ungiven rights, and I join you, as best I can.

Melina's Testimony, SB6

 Melina Madolora Wikoff

Melina Madolora Wikoff

March 2017: The Texas State Senate is considering Senate Bill 6, which would require transgender students in Texas schools to use the bathroom designated for their assigned gender at birth, rather than their gender identification. Galileo co-conspirator Melina Wikoff testified against the bill before the Senate State Affairs Committee at the capitol, March 6, 2017, with these words:

Good evening, Madam Chair and members of the committee. My name is Melina Wikoff and I am from Arlington. I am here to testify in opposition to SB6. As the mother of a transgender woman of color – whom you now know is among the most vulnerable in the transgender community – one of my most important jobs is to strengthen my daughter against and protect her from a world that has only in recent years begun to understand her reality but is still far from full acceptance. This is evidenced by the introduction of discriminatory bills such as SB6.

But even more important than my job as a mother is my role as a woman of faith, who is called to love God with all of my being and to love my neighbors. The Bible, from beginning to end, is the story of God at work in the world, teaching humanity God’s grace, mercy, and compassion, in a world that is bent toward self-glorification at the cost of injustice toward and the oppression of others.

History reveals that we fail to meet the mark over and over again. And so, as a woman of God who yearns to bring glory to the One who creates all life, I need only look at the example of Jesus Christ, who specifically reached out to those that the religious people of his time looked at as “other” – those that were kept from participating in the fullness of life by discriminatory, human-made rules. Jesus accepted them just as they were and loved them with a perfect love.

The history of God’s work in the world is one of progress that people of faith are called to continue. In Micah 6:8, God answers the question of what is required of us. And that is to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. And so it is with great humility that I ask you to stop SB6 today. The neighbors that you and I are called to love include our transgender Texans. I ask that you would love them as you love yourselves and the God who loves us all.

We’re not sure that she dropped the mic after that, but that’s how we like to imagine it.