It’s become a tradition of mine to look back through my Instagram on New Year’s Eve and reflect on the past twelve months. I did it two years ago as I was traveling to Fort Lauderdale for my first Q Christian Fellowship conference, and then I did it again last year, sitting on my red couch in my studio apartment here in Santa Rosa. Who knew that I’d be here again on New Year’s Eve in 2021, looking back over another wonderful, strange, sad, joyful and tragic year?
And looking back always takes longer than I expect, hence the publication date of this finished post. I scroll through my Instagram, and then I look through the photos on my iPhone and review the last twelve months in my Google Calendar. I think about organizations I work with like The Quest, Common Sanctuary, The Journey Center and The Christian Closet, and I’m amazed by the opportunities I’ve been given. Again and again, I’m reminded of the goodness of God and the love of God’s people. No matter how difficult our circumstances – and let’s face it, 2021 was basically 2020 redux – there is always grace, beauty, truth and love to be found, usually embodied in graceful, beautiful, truthful and loving human beings. As Rich Mullins once wrote, “There’s so much beauty around us for just two eyes to see… But everywhere I go, I’m looking.“
- I watched in horror as Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol in a deeply misguided attempt to thwart the will of the American public. Biden and Harris, of course, were the rightful winners of the 2020 election, and they were ultimately inaugurated, but this day further divided our nation, and it will live in infamy.
- We celebrated my son Jacob’s 23rd birthday.
- I blogged about The Glorious Miracle of Simply Being and Sin.
- We welcomed ten new members, including our first international member (my boyfriend Alejandro) to my church, The Quest.
- I had a great conversation over on Instagram Live with Candice Czubernat, founder of The Christian Closet. We talked about mixed-orientation marriages and my support groups.
- My dear friend Mary Nichols (@SisterMaryDande on Twitter) was the guest preacher at The Quest on February 7. We talked about Christian sexual ethics and got into all kinds of trouble.
- I enjoyed an afternoon of wine tasting and dinner in Healdsburg with my longtime friend and intrepid seminarian, Sharon DeGraw.
- I got my first dose of the Moderna vaccine!
- I was featured on James Prescott’s Poema Podcast, joining the likes of Rob Bell, Sarah Bessey and Mike McHargue. Seriously, how is this happening?
- I flew to Puerto Vallarta to spend a week with Alejandro. It was magical.
- I blogged about Meeting God in a Gay Spa.
- I started my fifth support group for gay/bi men in mixed-orientation marriages.
- I blogged about Not Believing in “Ex-Homosexuals.”
- The Quest hosted an Enneagram workshop by Chelsea Edwards of Level Up Enneagram.
- The Quest returned to in-person worship on March 7, after nearly a year of online-only worship.
- I got my second dose of the Moderna vaccine!
- Alejandro and I enjoyed some wonderful day trips, including visiting the Peace Obelisk up near Fort Ross and spending a beautiful afternoon at Lambert Bridge Winery, courtesy of my dear friend and former co-teacher, Michele Ferretti.
- I was featured on Penny Sterling‘s Transformation Thursday Podcast.
- The Quest observed Good Friday in an intimate, online-only Zoom gathering.
- We celebrated Easter Sunday in person at The Quest.
- I was so honored to officiate the wedding of my friends Zach and Sarah. Just the three of us and a photographer, surrounded by gorgeous redwoods.
- I spent another week in Puerto Vallarta with Alejandro.
- I found out I was losing my job at Sonoma Country Day School. 2021 would be my final year teaching TK. I was surprised and terribly disappointed, but God had a plan…
- I had a great time at Gundlach Bundschu Winery with my friend Jennie Kay.
- We celebrated the birthday of the Journey Center.
- For the fourth year in a row, Michele and I hatched chicks in the TK classroom!
- After wayyyy too long, I finally had dinner out in Berkeley with one of my very best friends, Annie Steinberg-Behrman.
- I celebrated Mother’s Day with my friend (and local stand-in mom) Susan Collins.
- In partnership with The Quest and The Journey Center, I launched the “All Are Welcome” version of my contemplative spirituality group. So many straight folks had heard good things about our LGBTQ+ group, we decided to meet every Monday night and invite them to join us every other week! You can join us too. Register here (LGBTQ+ only) or here (anyone!).
- We celebrated my son Josh’s 26th birthday on the 31st, and his husband Ray’s 26th birthday on the 14th.
- I was featured in an article in Echo Magazine about LGBTQ+ Christians.
- It was awesome to meet Gaines Taylor in real life when he visited The Quest.
- I blogged about losing my job and launching my new 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Common Sanctuary.
- I blogged about Pride Month.
- I had the thrill of appearing in the music video for 40x by Courier feat. Alex Churchman, from the album Serenade produced by Beloved Arise.
- Alejandro and I got to see a screening of In the Heights at Oracle Park for SF Pride.
- The Quest started meeting every Wednesday night for music, fellowship and food. We called it “Wednesdays on the Lawn,” and it was so good to be together.
- On June 19, we officially launched Common Sanctuary with a party at Rod and Lynne Wallace’s house in Santa Rosa. I blogged about it here.
- I got to celebrate Father’s Day with three of my kids and my daughter-in-law!
- I was featured on Aaron Smith’s Cultural Savage Podcast.
- I had one last dinner with my friend Kate Zimmer before she moved to New York.
- I was the guest speaker (via Zoom) at an underground LGBTQ+ group at a conservative Christian college. It was a privilege to encourage these precious closeted kids.
- On July 6, Alejandro and I celebrated one year together. I thank God every day for this loving, kind, thoughtful, handsome, encouraging man.
- On July 15, I celebrated five years on this side of the closet door. It was kind of underwhelming, which was exactly the point.
- I took my longest trip yet to Mexico, from July 12 through the 30th. Alejandro and I had an amazing time together, visiting the Botanical Gardens (complete with hummingbirds!), flying to Mexico City for a long weekend seeing historical and artistic sites like Chapultepec, the Museum of Tolerance, Coyoacán, the National Art Gallery, the Torre Latinoamericano, the incredible Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the ruins and pyramids of Teotihuacán.
- My twins, Emily and Zachary, joined us for the last week of my trip. It was their first trip outside the United States, and we had so much fun sightseeing, dining out, snorkeling, hiking and exploring the Hidden Beach at Marieta Island.
- I got to be the guest preacher (via video) at Artisan Church in Rochester, New York, on July 25.
- I got to blurb my first book! I loved Matt Bays’s beautiful memoir, Leather and Lace, and it was an honor to help him promote it!
- I blogged about Lonnie Frisbee, the gay man who launched the Jesus Movement, and about the new Netflix documentary Pray Away.
- I was featured on Chelsea Anderson’s Recovered Life Podcast.
- I got to teach on sexuality and spiritual direction for The Journey Center of Chicago.
- I hosted Common Sanctuary’s virtual launch party via Zoom on August 13.
- I was featured on the Veterans of Culture Wars Podcast.
- i partnered with my friend Irma Manion to launch The Quest’s Hiking Club.
- I enjoyed the first art opening at the Journey Center in over a year!
- I was invited to speak on a panel about the intersection of faith and sexuality at a large Sonoma County church.
- On the 7th, I hosted my first Common Sanctuary Conversion with Mary Nichols, who lost her ministerial credentials as the result of her LGBTQ+ affirming theological stance. This whole debacle started back in February when she was the guest preacher at The Quest. You can watch our conversation here.
- Thanks to the generosity of some wonderful school parents, Alejandro and I got to spend a few days at the Little River Inn in Mendocino. We visited Glass Beach and the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, rode the Pudding Creek railbikes through the forest, and enjoyed delicious food and glorious sunsets.
- We celebrated Emily and Zachary’s 20th birthday on the 18th.
- It was great to welcome my friend Chelsea Farrington to The Quest in person!
- I hosted another book club with The Quest, this time exploring Brian McLaren’s wonderful book Faith After Doubt.
- On the 22nd, Alejandro surprised me with a 50th birthday party. So many wonderful people were there from so many spheres of my life, and he pulled it off without a hitch. I’m a very fortunate and grateful man.
- My friend Krystle Jeffers and I were featured on Q Christian Fellowship‘s Fellowship Friday series. We played a set of music live from The Journey Center. You can watch it here.
- On the 26th, I hosted another Common Sanctuary Conversation with pastors Tony Gapastione and Scott Austin. You can watch our conversation here.
- I got away for a night in Dillon Beach with my friend Valerie Kumra.
- We “Kept Church Weird” at The Quest throughout the month of October!
- I got to have dinner with friends Mickey Corcoran and Jaime Zavala in San Francisco.
- I saw a movie in a theater for the first time since 2019: The Eyes of Tammy Faye.
- Our family celebrated Jake and Kajsa’s Wedding 2.0!
- The Quest welcomed hundreds of neighbors to our parking lot for Trunk or Treat on Halloween Sunday.
- I traveled to Puerto Vallarta for a fourth time. We observed Day of the Dead in the largest cemetery in the city, along the Malecón, and downtown; we met up with friends of mine from Tulsa for brunch; and we hiked and swam near a waterfall. It was a lovely trip, and I’m so thankful for the opportunities to be with Alejandro in his beautiful country this year.
- I started my sixth support group for gay/bi men in mixed-orientation marriages.
- We celebrated my daughter-in-law Kajsa‘s 24th birthday on the 13th.
- I hosted my third Common Sanctuary Conversation, talking with Rev. Steve Pieters about his life and work, including his groundbreaking interview with Tammy Faye Bakker on the PTL Club in 1985, as depicted in The Eyes of Tammy Faye. You can watch our conversation here.
- The Quest’s annual Thanksgiving feast, Bowla, was back in person! We had a wonderful meal together and celebrated at least a start to a return to normal.
- Alejandro and I got to have lunch in San Francisco with our friends Jaime Zavala and Robert Garcia.
- Alejandro and I got to see live theater for the first time in 2021. Our friend Mark Clark directed the Novato Theater Company’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest, and we went with a group of Questers.
- We spent Thanksgiving with Zach and his girlfriend, Izzy, at IHOP for lunch and then had dinner at home.
- I mourned the loss of iconic musical theater composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim, along with the rest of the world, by watching YouTube videos all day and posting on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. He meant so much to me. I’ll never forget seeing Sunday in the Park with George on American Playhouse in 1986 or thirty years later in New York City in 2016.
- Alejandro and I enjoyed an evening of dinner and professional theater in San Francisco! We saw the Tony-winning production of A Christmas Carol at the Golden Gate Theater, and it was glorious.
- On the 7th, Common Sanctuary partnered with The Journey Center to facilitate an evening of sharing and listening to one another’s LGBTQ+ faith stories. It was a really powerful experience, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity and for like-minded friends like the Journey Center’s executive director, Mindy Braun.
- I got to experience another evening of live performance when Zach and I went to Izzy’s Santa Rosa Junior College choir concert.
- I was featured in my friend Brian Nietzel‘s Making Things Right Podcast. Check out his work. It’s really powerful.
- I got to spend an evening in Berkeley with Annie and Victoria Steinberg-Behrman celebrating Victoria’s birthday.
- The Quest hosted a holiday petting zoo on the 19th, welcoming the neighborhood to our campus for Christmas cookies, cocoa, coffee, carols, a photo booth and lots of cute animals!
- I enjoyed Advent and Solstice observances at The Journey Center.
- Christmas Eve at The Quest was a wonderful celebration. Emily and Zach played in the band with me, and we were joined by nearly 60 worshippers, our largest in-person gathering since early 2020.
- I flew from Santa Rosa to Burbank on Christmas Day and was able to spend a few days at Jake and Kajsa’s house with Emily and Zach. We had our “Christmas Morning” on the 26th and then enjoyed seeing the new West Side Story movie at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood.
As I close tonight, full of memories, full of gratitude, I’m reminded of this simple but profound prayer from Dag Hammarskjöld: “For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes.”