I’m sitting in the Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas on the afternoon of December 30, 2019. I have a few more hours to wait until I board my flight to Fort Lauderdale for the Q Christian Fellowship Conference, where I’ll be performing at Q Night Live and helping to lead three breakout sessions with friends like Candice Czubernat, Jaime Zavala, Laura Beth Buchleiter, Austen Hartke, Aaron Brown and Brenda Zizolfo.
As we humans tend to do around this time of year, I’ve been reminiscing about 2019, scrolling through my Instagram and remembering all the good that has come my way, celebrating all that God has done over the past 12 months.
- We celebrated my son Jacob’s 21st birthday.
- I visited the Simon Wiesenthal Center‘s Museum of Tolerance with colleagues from Sonoma Country Day School.
- I was featured in two episodes of David Strugar’s podcast Dates with a Jesus Gay (Part 1 & Part 2).
- I got to meet up with my longtime internet friend Kenny Pierce and his boyfriend Jeff Ford. We attended Oriented to Love: A Fishbowl Dialogue on Sexual/Gender Diversity in the Church hosted by Evangelicals for Social Action and The River.
- I was featured on Kevin Garcia‘s A Tiny Revolution podcast.
- I visited Austin, Texas and got to see my friends Anthony, Tristan and Melissa, and Curt.
- I had the privilege of performing seven of my original songs for a BraveMaker Film Festival event. It was especially meaningful because three of my kids performed with me, Emily on guitar, Zach on drums and Jake on bass. (You can listen to one of the songs, So This Is What It’s Like, here.)
- I was featured on episodes of Tony Gapastione‘s Holy Cannoli and BraveMaker podcasts
- I was featured on A.J. Mizes’s podcast Share, Inspire, Repeat.
- I graduated from The Journey Center‘s Spiritual Director Formation Program.
- I got to meet Q Christian Fellowship (formerly Gay Christian Network) founder Justin Lee and Preston Sprinkle at the Sexuality, Scripture, & the Soul of Christianity event hosted by Spark Church and Kevin Neuner. Watch the video here.
- I was honored to be invited to join the board of directors of Santa Rosa’s Journey Center.
- I participated in a retreat for staff and leadership of my church, The Quest.
- I was so excited to attend part of the Why Christian? conference and meet some of my heroes, Dave and Tino of Modern Kinship and the amazing Rachel Held Evans, who gave me a big hug and said she knew me from Twitter! Of course none of us knew that day that it would be her last public appearance before her untimely death. I am so grateful I got the chance to hear her speak and meet her. If you’ve never heard of Rachel, please check out her work. She impacted countless lives and literally changed Evangelicalism through her short but powerful life and writing career.
- I visited San Francisco Theological Seminary for a day and hung out briefly with my friend Erin Green, one of the driving forces behind Brave Commons (along with Michael Vasquez and Lauren Iliana Sotolongo).
- I wrote a blog post about Bethel Redding’s dangerous new “#OnceGay” campaign that got a lot of attention. I hope it gets shared far and wide, because that toxic theology continues to do great harm to so many precious LGBTQ+ people.
- We celebrated Easter at The Quest and remembered the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus!
- We got to have all four kids home at the same time, along with Josh’s fiancée, Olivia, and Jacob’s then-girlfriend (now fiancée) Kajsa. We celebrated Josh and Olivia’s 24th birthdays together.
- Jacob and I got to see Gungor, The Brilliance and Propaganda on their stunning End of the World Tour in San Francisco.
- My friend Jeff Ford took me to see Betty Who and Rozzi at The Fillmore in San Francisco. I was in a bathroom stall, slightly buzzed, with thunderous music music pounding all around me when I listened to the voicemail that would change my life. But more about that later.
- I joined Candice Czubernat and several other amazing colleagues as a spiritual director for The Christian Closet, a fully LGBTQ team of counselors and coaches providing online mental and spiritual health services, and I started facilitating support groups for gay men in mixed-orientation marriages.
- I got to hang out with my friend Trey Pearson and several other men like us – gay men who had once been married to women – on a Safe Space retreat in Gilroy. Such a beautiful experience, to be so know, so understood.
- I started offering LGBTQ+ Spiritual Conversations at The Journey Center, a bi-weekly opportunity for queer people to process our spiritual journeys together.
- I got to participate again on a panel about LGBTQ+ issues for the BraveMaker Film Festival in Redwood City.
- I got to meet pioneering LGBTQ+ activist and author Cleve Jones in Sebastopol.
- I got to sing and speak at CityChurch‘s Essentially Human event on the Sunday before SF Pride.
- I was thrilled to again participate in The Vine‘s Sister Act Sing-Along Pride Mass at Grace Cathedral, and I was especially excited to have Jake playing drums in the band and Emily singing in the choir. I finally got to meet Brandan Robertson – author, activist and pastor of Missiongathering San Diego – and hear him preach.
- I got to experience PRIDE festivals in Santa Rosa and San Francisco.
- I wrote about Romans 1, Harvey Milk, and the so-called “Freedom March” on my blog.
- I got to hang out with my friend Amie Shea of the Gay Dad Project.
- I was proud to be featured in Q Christian Fellowship’s #UnchangedLGBTQ campaign.
- I wrote about First Covenant Minneapolis, the church that was booted from my former denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church, because they welcome AND affirm LGBTQ+ identities and relationships.
- I got to meet Marsha Stevens-Pino, whose pioneering song “For Those Tears I Died” basically kicked off the modern praise and worship movement, and who has been openly lesbian for decades now, advocating for full inclusion in the Evangelical churches that were so impacted by her music and ministry. It was a powerful afternoon that felt historically significant to me, and I’m so grateful I could be there.
- My longtime best friend, Tony Gapastione, and I officially became co-pastors of our church, The Quest.
- I visited Indiana, along with Jacob, Emily and Zachary, for my parents’ 50th Anniversary.
- While in Indiana, I ended up in the emergency room thinking I was having a heart attack. This was the beginning of a really scary and painful couple of months. I finally wrote all about it on my blog last month.
- Also while in Indiana, I was finally able to meet my longtime internet friend Darren Calhoun – gay Christian activist, writer, worship leader, QCF board member and singer with The Many.
- I struck up a really cool friendship with LA-based comic and author Aidan Park, and we did carpool karaoke together!
- Sonoma Country Day School sent me to an amazing week of Orff instruction in San Francisco.
- My son Jake got engaged to his girlfriend of six years, Kajsa Johnsrud. They’re getting married on September 12.
- Three of my good friends from SCDS and I got to stay in an Airbnb in San Francisco for a week while we took CATDC‘s Teaching Foundations course at Lick Wilmerding High School.
- In addition to my half-time pastoral position, I started my third year as a full-time elementary school teacher at Sonoma Country Day School.
- I had the sad and sacred privilege of singing and leading worship at the memorial service of an old friend, Donna Misa. I was so honored that her family asked me to participate, and it was surreal, difficult and beautiful to be back at Peninsula Covenant Church after all these years.
- Thanks to William Lee of Doebank Designs, I was able to launch a beautiful new website.
- The Quest welcomed some amazing guest speakers, including Stan Mitchell, Eric Venable and Brian Wo of the Bay Area Anti-Trafficking Coalition, and author Cara Meredith.
- We celebrated Emily and Zachary’s 18th birthdays!
- The Quest, in partnership with BraveMaker, hosted a film screening of the documentary The Edge of Success at Novato High School. Filmmakers Liza Meak and Kathryn Basiji joined us and participated in a panel discussion about teen suicide prevention.
- I blogged for National Coming Out Day.
- The Quest and BraveMaker hosted filmmaker Daniel Karslake for a screening of his documentary For They Know Not What They Do, and I sat in on a panel discussion featuring gay and trans people raised in the church.
- I visited Jacob in Culver City and got to hang out with good friends like Michael McClain and Jerron Hess, shoot some video promo for The Christian Closet, worship with New Abbey in Pasadena and lead worship with Jake and Jess Grace Garcia at New Abbey’s NoHo campus. I posted all about it here.
- I blogged about the importance of LGBTQ representation in churches.
- I enjoyed the Journey Center’s annual board retreat.
- I blogged about my most-used words on social media.
- I saw my long-time favorite band Over the Rhine at the Mystic Theater in Petaluma. (As a second date, no less!)
- I blogged about the #10YearChallenge.
- I spent Thanksgiving (for the third year in a row) with one of my dearest friends and mentors, Annie Steinberg-Behrman, Senior Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco.
- I enjoyed a visit from my good friend Jaime Zavala, and we toured Wine Country in a VW Bus!
- I blogged about my experiences with anxiety and the hope I am finding in Jesus and Remeron.
- I enjoyed a night out in Berkeley with The Christian Closet’s enneagram coach and New Abbey NoHo pastor Darin McKenna – along with Elliot Rossomme, Alex Richardson and new friend and Pacific School of Religion professor Dr. Joyce del Rosario.
- I blogged about leaving your non-affirming church.
- I filed paperwork and secured initial board members for my new nonprofit, Common Sanctuary. I’ll be launching it in 2020, and you’ll hear all about it. I’m so excited!
- We had all four kids (plus fiancées!) in town for a day, and they all got Last Airbender tattoos. Emily made a TikTok about it that went viral.
- Tony and I celebrated Christmas Eve with a beautiful candlelight service at The Quest.
- I flew down to Long Beach to sing at the funeral of my dear friend Steph Latreille’s mother, Flo. What a gift to still be pastor and friend – even after all these years and all these changes. God is good, even on this side of the closet door, and I know that all will be well.
2019 was a great year for live music and theater too! I got to see Audra McDonald and Seth Rudetsky, Come from Away, Hello Dolly! (with Betty Buckley!), Falsettos, Beach Blanket Babylon, Home (at Berkeley Rep), Gungor, The Brilliance and Propaganda, Hamilton, To Kill a Mockingbird (at 6th Street Playhouse), Betty Who & Rozzi at The Fillmore, The Good Book (Berkeley Rep), Imogen Heap at the Masonic, the 20th Anniversary Tour of RENT, Indigo Girls, The Play That goes Wrong, Gypsy (6th Street), Over The Rhine, Oliver! (6th Street), Hamilton again with Zach, Emily and their mom, and Marin School of the Arts’s amazing production of NINE.
I started this post in Houston, and I’m finishing it in my Airbnb in Fort Lauderdale. It’s 2:30am, and I had no idea how long it would take to write this post. Honestly, it’s been a powerful experience for me. My heart is full of gratitude for all that I’ve experienced in 2019. I’m grateful for all of you who have walked through this year with me. I couldn’t have made it through all the challenges and joys without you. Thank you.
Stay tuned for a lot more in 2020. From this weekend’s Q Christian Fellowship conference to the launch of Common Sanctuary, I’m so grateful to have your encouragement and support in my life. Here’s to an amazing year ahead!