The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
It is not easy being a foreigner. I have been living in Leipzig, Germany for a year now, and it’s honestly been the most difficult year of my life. I moved to a new country in the middle of the Covid lockdown, applied for jobs and a visa, searched for an apartment, and experienced the very tragic deaths of friends and family members. One of the hardest parts of being here has been the lack of a local church community.
Leipzig is in former East Germany, which is, as a whole, not very religious. The churches that are here skew conservative, and it is very apparent to me that welcoming LGBTQIA+ people is something that is simply not talked about. I’ve yet to see any LGBTQIA+-affirming statements on any church website, there are no rainbow flags flying from the front of church buildings, and I’ve not yet been to a church here where I felt fully comfortable and accepted as a queer person. Whereas in the US, both in my seminary community and in organizations such as ELM, it’s been relatively easy to unite my queer and Christian identities, in Germany, this is a lot more challenging.
While I haven’t found a church community in Leipzig, I have found the most loving and accepting queer community here. They have become my church.
For many of us LGBTQIA+ people, we have experienced Christ’s unfailing love in queer community more often than in Christian community. I yearn for the day when the two shall become one, not just in a few places but in all places. I want my queer community to receive love, support, and grace from the church, and I want my church community to experience the love, comradery, and deep understanding I have received and given in the queer community.
Finding a church that celebrates LGBTQIA+ people isn’t yet possible everywhere, but there’s more than one way to be church. My queer community in Leipzig has grieved with me, laughed and cried with me, accompanied me to doctor’s appointments, and even worshipped with me. God shows us time and time again that community like this is holy, no matter where you find it.
I leave this blessing for you: May God bless you and help you find a community that loves you and uplifts you for who you are. May God bring you love and peace on your way. May God unite what has been divided, and may God help us to create communities where all are loved, included, and celebrated.
Bridget Gautieri (she/her) graduated with her Master of Divinity from United Lutheran Seminary in May 2020. She has since relocated to Leipzig, Germany where she teaches English to adults and children alike. She will return to the USA in a couple of years to start her first call, and is thankful for this time of doing something different in a new country.