2019 ESR Spirituality Gathering

Fearless Authenticity:

Exploring the Strength within LGBTQ+ Spirituality

March 2, 2019

Featuring Keynote Speaker Brent Walsh '13

*This year's Gathering will be free to attend, thanks to generous support from individual donors and a Sacred Journey grant from Fellowship in Prayer.

Registration deadline is February 26th - now closed (registration policy)

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Keynote Presentation: Fearless Authenticity

When Brent was born, his parents were delighted to welcome their third daughter, Brenda, into the world. But from an early age, Brent knew he was different than his sisters, and every other girl he knew. As he grew, he quickly discovered that his Christian identity would be challenged by questions surrounding his sexuality, and eventually his gender identity.

Brent will introduce you to Brenda, the conservative girl with a passion for ministry, the heartbroken lesbian who thought God had no use fo her, and the woman who eventually taught Brent that true strength comes from living a life of fearless authenticity.

You may find that Brent’s story is not that different from your own. Transitions are a part of the human experience, and through them we see that courage and tenacity result from the struggle to live a truly authentic life. With stories of heartbreak and humor from his personal experience, Brent will demonstrate that being LGBTQ+ need not hinder one’s relationship with the Divine or the unique testimony we offer to the world.

About Brent 

Brent was born and raised female in a strict religious household that held to traditional Christian definitions of gender roles. Coming out as lesbian in his youth tested the limits of his faith and forced him to grapple with long-held beliefs that contradicted his reality. At the age of thirty-two, Brent transitioned to male, discovering in the process that God's plan for his life can only flourish in fearless authenticity.

Brent will share the story of his journey, one where deep uncertainty about whether God makes mistakes gave way to a clear understanding that being transgender was no mistake at all. In time, Brent learned that he, too, was fearfully and wonderfully made!

Brent’s passion for storytelling through both photography and writing led him to Earlham School of Religion where he earned a Master's of Divinity degree in 2013. He is currently working on several writing projects and continues to accept guest speaking engagements at faith institutions wanting to better understand and support transgender communities.


Breaking the Master's Tools: Queer(ing) Spirituality - Jessica Easter '14

With the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010 and the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and questioning individuals are seemingly more socially accepted than ever. In this workshop, we will explore some of the key issues plaguing LGBT youth and young adults, the role that well-meaning Christian communities have played in helping and/or hindering members of the community, and what Queer Christian spirituality has to offer young and not-so-young adults.

Jessica Easter is a 2014 Master of Divinity graduate of Earlham School of Religion. Her supervised ministry year involved working with precariously housed LGBTQ youth and young adults. She finds the intersection between Christian spirituality and marginalized sexual identities to be particularly interesting. She is currently a pediatric chaplain at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, IL.


Creating Sacred Space - Sue Flynn '16

Feeling stuck, like you need to move or take a vacation because life is taking it all out of you?  You are not alone!  It is easy to get caught up in the frenzy of doing too much, and not taking time for ourselves, paying attention to what we need or ways we can make our day better.  This workshop invites participants to think about how they can be more intentional with their time, energy and space, and asks everyone to make room for what is most important by being active creators of sacred space in their lives.  Sue will discuss how our physical environment impacts us on multiple levels, and offer ways we can rejuvenate and refresh both our space and selves.  

Sue Flynn (pronouns: She, Her, Hers) earned her M Div. in 2016 from Earlham School of Religion with an emphasis in Pastoral Care.  She worked as a chaplain in Charleston SC, and as an intern at a parish on the East Coast.  Sue continues to finish up the requirements needed for U.U. ordination, with colleagues in OH.  She is passionate about spirituality of all kinds and supporting people on their life path.  As a Reiki Master and Feng Shui consultant, Sue has also found joy in studying healing arts from many traditions.  She is grateful for her time at ESR that gave her the opportunity to learn about valuable Quaker practices. Sue delights in spiritual disciplines and appreciates how deepening discernment can be.   


The Word Made Flesh: Jesus' Body and Queer Empowerment - Anthony Kirk

Within Christianity, there is a tendency to focus on Jesus’ divine nature rather than his human nature. And when we do think about Jesus’ humanity, rarely do we think about his physical body. For transgender people who often feel excluded from Christianity, exploring Jesus’ body can be liberating. In this workshop, we will examine Christian art and the New Testament, paying careful attention to Jesus’ physical form. From here, we will explore ways in which such imagery and scripture can empower queer Christians to embrace both their bodies and their faith. Finally, we will discuss how allies and queer people alike can celebrate their bodies in light of Christ.

Anthony Kirk is a third year MDiv student with an emphasis in pastoral ministry. He is a Transgender Christian and a Convinced Friend. Through his studies at ESR, Anthony has discovered his love of writing and preaching about queer people of faith. Anthony’s particular interest is queer liberation and expression in the larger Body of Christ. It is Anthony’s hope that through his ministry he can build a healing bridge between the LGBT community and Christianity.


Chosen Family, Beloved Community, Transformative Love: A Queer Reflection - Kaia Jackson

With the click of a mouse or the touch of a screen, one can find countless portrayals of “queer love” on Google, Netflix, you name it. The representation of queer bodies, queer stories, and queer romance in popular media certainly marks a significant opening in our cultural consciousness--towards greater awareness, acceptance, and sometimes even understanding--in many areas of the country and world. However, what forms of love continue to be left out of these well-known narratives? What stories go untold? Expressions of love in chosen families and queer friendships are among those that rarely make the headlines, but nevertheless can be heard pulsating at the very heart of many queer communities and lives. This interactive workshop will invite participants to reflect upontheir lived experiences of queer friendship, community and love as a foundation for re-imagining Beloved community in our immediate contexts, and beyond. Queer/gay/LGBTQIA+ folks and allies are most welcome! Please feel free to be in touch with Kaia as questions, concerns or accessibility needs arise:kaiajackson180@gmail.com.

Kaia Jackson is in their second year of study in the Writing as Ministry/MDiv program at Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, IN, and the Teacher Training Program at Santosha Yoga School in Indianapolis. They currently serve on the Leadership Team with Survivor Theatre Project, a Boston-based non-profit committed to ending sexual violence through intersectional anti-oppression arts activism, dialogue, and performance. Kaia is passionate about exploring spirituality and community-building through embodied practices and expressive arts. They are called to use poetry, spoken word and ensemble-based theatre collaboration for personal liberation; they are dedicated to creating accessible, expansive, and trauma-informed opportunities for both personal and community healing.



A Parent's Grief - Brent Walsh '13

When a child is born, a parent often imagines an entire future for them based on one thing: their gender. Slumber parties, sports, careers, wedding days, and grandchildren take shape in a parent’s mind, even before the baby comes home from the hospital. The child’s name is chosen with great care, sometimes after months of thoughtful debate over meaning and family legacy. So when it is revealed that the child’s authentic gender is different than the parent had planned for, it can feel like a devastating loss. A Parent’s Grief addresses the pain that many parents (even affirming ones) experience when their child comes out as transgender. We will explore how the stages of grief can shake the foundations of a family unit, and how, for many parents it is absolutely critical to the healing process. 



8:00 am Registration & Breakfast
8:40 am Optional Waiting Worship
9:00 am Keynote Presentation - Brent Walsh
10:30 am Break
10:45 am Workshop Session I
12:00 pm Lunch
1:30 pm Workshop Session II
2:45 pm Break
3:00 pm Panel Presentation
4:30 pm Closing