The Memories of Colorado
While in Estes Park, Colorado last week, I brought along my old, thrifted Sears film camera for the ride. I figured it would be as good a time as any to test it out. I eventually ended up using three rolls of film, although I tried to be selective in what I took pictures of, as I can’t immediately see the pictures like a digital camera.
Surrounded by a breathtaking landscape of mountains and tall trees, the compulsion to take pictures was immediate.
I am the product of cities and suburbs, and had never seen huge mountains upclose. The song “How Great Thou Art” kept playing over and over in my mind.
While on the campground of the YMCA, we were actually guests of the animals who lived in the surrounding forests.
Sometimes they would pay us a visit, like this herd of elk:
We were also told to cautiously watch for wandering bears. While I did not see one, the thought made me especially careful, and excited. I’m only used to worlds where humans rule, and where animals are kept in zoos and cages. It was amazing to temporarily exist in a space of cohabitation, and to witness the careful dialogue and respect that both man and beast maintained.
I tried to be mindful of this when I suddenly spotted three beautiful deer while walking one day. Can you find them among the trees?
Although surrounded by this terrestrial beauty, my main purpose for being there was to participate in Reconciling Minstries Network’s Justice and Joy Conference, an event to celebrate the inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities within the United Methodist Church. Realizing this, the days leading up to the trip was filled with all kind of fears and worries. I had only recently, in May, joined the United Methodist Church (I was raised Non-Denominational Christian) and had never participated in an open declaration of God’s love and acceptance for everyone , even those of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) community. I grew up with the understanding that while God certainly loved everyone, the LGBT lifestyle was an undisputed sin, one of the worst there was.
Terror and guilt plagued me at an early age, especially when questions surrounding my own sexuality began to bud in my adolescent mind. “If sin was a voluntary deviation from God,” I wondered, “how can these involuntary (dare I say instinctive) thoughts be sinful?” At around age 10, I began the lifelong search to find understanding between what I was taught in church and what I felt in my heart.
This search is far from resolved, but being among people who offered another perspective was refreshing. So many people shared similar stories like my own; stories of exclusion in the church when they simply came looking for comfort and stories of courageous self-acceptance in the face of overwhelming opposition. Among the crowd were also parents, whose LGBT son or daughter encouraged them to see God’s love in a different light. I eventually crumbled in tears, imagining my own parents among those with open arms for their gay sons.
Most of the participants were surprisingly 50 and older. I had expected a room full of young rebels, those who defied traditions of yesterday and aimed to bring the Christian Church in a new, culturally current millennium. While there were a small group of those there, the 500-plus crowd mostly consisted of people who fought years ago but, realizing the work that still needed to be done, were ready to go on fighting.
The event was laden with dreams of a universally inclusive Church, and I dared to dream with them.