Serve Our Society: Queer Grace Community
A church for queers, by queers.
Religious trauma is real, especially within the LGBTQIA+ community.
Queer Grace Community, based in Minneapolis, exists to help Christians and Christian-adjacent individuals make sense of their lives and their faith.
“A lot of us are post-evangelical and dealing with religious trauma from being told to deny ourselves and our identities,” says Pastor Emmy Kegler, a Co-Leader of Queer Grace Community, or QGC, “but we’re still looking for connection to God and to a church community in some form.”
“A lot of our members have known what it’s like to be denied access to their religious community or condemned by family,” Kegler continues. “The loss of community when coming out is one of the reasons we focus on social events and creating community connections.”
QGC holds four events a month, usually on Sundays, including worship, social events, game night and bible study.
Worship is held Sunday evenings so members of QGC can maintain a connection with their home congregations Sunday mornings. QGC services include band-led music, scripture, reflection time, communion and fellowship.
In addition to worship, QGC organizes a free garage sale and clothing swap every few months. “We strive to provide a space where folks can try on and take home gender-affirming clothes and accessories for free in a non-gendered space,” says QGC Co-Leader Emily Szeliga.
At Mojo Coffee Gallery in Minneapolis, QGC hosts a board game night. “We purposefully hold it outside of the church because we want it to be a way for those who may be uncomfortable in a church setting to still be able to participate in the community,” Szeliga says.
The genesis of QGC
Queer Grace Community is supported by Grace Lutheran Church in Northeast Minneapolis.
QGC got its start in 2017 when a member of Grace Lutheran approached Pastor Kegler, who is a Pastor at Grace Lutheran, about creating a space for LGBTQIA+ Christians to connect.
“There are so many affirming churches in the Twin Cities,” Kegler says, “but a lot of them are mainline Protestant and may have certain liturgical practices that feel alien to post-evangelicals. We wanted to have a space where we could connect without strict denominational affiliation or membership, but still give people the option to maintain a connection with their home congregations.”
Today, more than 30 people regularly attend one or more QGC event. “Some members go to every worship, and some members never set foot in the church and only go to community events and culture nights,” Szeliga says. “All are welcome and accepted community members. We aim to hold space for whoever wants it, however they need it.”
Grace Lutheran Church is the host congregration for Queer Grace Community and helps fund their mission. While QGC is a ministry of Grace Lutheran, you do not need to be a member of Grace to attend QGC events.
A Queer Grace Community member named Emily has been a part of the community since 2018. She plays music during the evening worship services.
“The vibe is relaxed, friendly and welcoming,” she says. “Emmy is a really inspiring pastor and her sermons are full of uplifting messages.”
Pastor Emmy believes what happens outside of worship is just as special as what happens during the service.
“I think the hour we sit around for after worship and just chat and connect is as holy as what happens in worship,” Kegler says, “because it’s deeply healing and restorative to find community again and hear your story reflected in others’.”
As for Pastor Kegler’s fellow Co-Leader, Emily Szeliga is very proud of the space they’ve created.
“I first came to a bible study with a couple friends, and instantly fell in love with the space,” Szeliga says. “As a queer neurodivergent person in previous religious spaces, I always felt like I needed to hold back in order to fit in. At QGC, I know I can be fully myself. I’ve learned so much about others, but also so much about myself. QGC has allowed me the space to explore and grow in my faith in a way I never thought possible.”
All the while, Queer Grace Community leaders realize that members are at different steps in their journey with their faith and their identity.
“I and my co-leaders work hard to recognize that not everyone who comes to QGC events can be open about it in their circles of family and friends,” Kegler says, “so we try to be careful about photos posted, people tagged on Instagram, what names we use where, and so on.”
Like so many parts of life, COVID-19 impacted QGC.
“The pandemic definitely changed the shape of our community, and we’re all still coming back from it in different ways,” Pastor Kegler says. “We’re seeing a hit to attendance, but we’re also seeing a lot of new people who did some deep thinking while in social isolation and are looking for a place to connect more honestly with themselves and God.”
To see a list of upcoming Queer Grace Community events, you can Like their Facebook page or head to their website, www.queergracecommunity.com. While on their website, you can sign up to receive email updates or donate to support their community.
Mike Marcotte is an executive producer at KSTP-TV. You can read more of his profiles on Minnesota organizations benefitting the LGBTQ community on his website, www.givemethemike.com.