I sat, phone in hand, staring at the blinking cursor as I wrestled with my fear. My inner narrator was in a foul mood, and she was pulling out all the stops. “What makes you think THIS one will be any different?” “You’re just setting yourself up for failure.”

I had been here before. In fact, I had been here many times. I had typed out the same message with the same questions and told the same painful story over and over again.

“Hi. My name is Darla, and I am gay. If I were to come to your church, would I be welcome? Would my family be welcome? If I felt led to be in ministry, would I be allowed to be in a leadership role? I ask because I’ve been hurt by the church many times, and don’t want to go through that again….”

You see, there’s a difference in being “welcome” and being “accepted”. We’re ALL welcome as long as we change when we get there, right?

The blinking taunted me. I had tapped all this out before and never once received a response. Not one single time. Why did I expect this time to be any different? But man, I missed the sense of community church offered. I missed the belonging and the perceived love. Not having that changed me. My LGBTQ family encouraged me to get back in church, but the church didn’t want me.

My Social Psych Professor had spoken several times about her church and claimed they were “different.” Yeah. I’ve heard it all before. In fact, I’ve BELIEVED it all before. I just shook my head.

She was persistent.

I gave in.

So there I sat, phone in hand, staring at the blinking cursor. Finally, I typed it all out once again. “This is it. This is the last time,” I thought. If they didn’t respond, I was done. I laid my phone down and walked away, not expecting a response.

Less than 30 minutes later, my phone lit up. It was the pastor herself. Her response was just as long as my inquiry, if not longer. As I read it, tears rolled down my face. She invited me for coffee.

Coffee doesn’t seem like much, but let me tell you, it’s everything. I had been told by male pastors they couldn’t have coffee with me because of how it might have looked, my being “female” and all. Since I am gay, I was told the same thing by the female pastors. So an invite for coffee was huge.

I sat outside in the parking lot Easter morning, trying to work up the nerve to go in. I looked up and spotted an equality sticker on one of the cars in the parking lot. It was now or never.

Within the first five minutes I knew my professor was right. This church IS different. I have never felt such genuine love in my whole entire life. When I came back the following week, they remembered my name. I was HOME.

Even though I have been around church and in church the majority of my life, Southminster Presbyterian Church (PCUSA)was the first place I truly found God. It is a place of healing and rest, pruning, and regrowth. I will forever be grateful to my professor, Dr Wilcox, for not giving up, and to my pastor, Rev Olivia, for not only listening and hearing, but for reaching back out and responding.

Almost two years later, I am now going to seminary at Phillip’s Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and studying for my Master’s in Divinity. I’ve heard it said that Phillip’s is the “best kept secret in Oklahoma,” but I’m here to change that. People need to know about them. People need to know that yes, YOU CAN be used by God, YES, you ARE good enough, and YES, THERE IS A PLACE FOR YOU.

I am so unbelievably thankful for a God who loves me enough to allow my path to end up here. It’s been a long and painful journey, and now it’s time to rest in the abundance of it all. ❤️

~Love you Much ❤️

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