Photo by Aya Sato
This weekend, we celebrated the second birthday of Nemo, the child of two women who are giants in our community, who has grown up in and with the community. I saw this child who is filled with all of the different emotions we experience in human life, and his parents affirming each one with love and grace, holding space for those feelings. In the children of PAAC, including my own, I saw so much hope. These are children growing up knowing their families will love them for exactly who they are and will be, unconstricted by the restraints I grew up with (a world full of strict gender conformity and restrictive, toxic theology).
The next day, we prayed over a couple who are about to be married. For a moment all of us saw keenly, reflected in this couple, what community with one another can be. We prayed for one another in a way that I thought would not be possible in a Christian community. I saw a future of endless possibilities for this community, and the people we send out from it to do God’s good work in finding and creating justice and love in the world.
Those were just a few things that we celebrated at PAAC Conference 2019 this past weekend. From all over the country and from even as far as Taiwan, 160 of us (so many of whom have not ever met in person before) met together to celebrate and to learn. To grow, and to grieve. Somehow, the wildfire that has been the growth of the PAAC community digitally culminated in a weekend where we laughed, we cried, and most of all, showed each other love.
It doesn’t sound like much, but it is radical in these times.
There are a lot of beautiful resources from this conference that will be shared at a later time, but for now I wanted to reflect a little on my immediate experience of the conference, as an individual.
This conference included a lot of personal firsts for me. This was the first time I heard an Asian woman of color preach in a church service. The first time, since I came out as queer, that I have been in community physically with other queer Asian American Christians. The first time I’ve ever even met another queer Asian American Christian. In many ways, this was us living life together in person for the first time, even though many of us have been living life side by side online for the past two years.
I experienced loss, and I experienced realizing how much I have wronged others. I experienced being able to grasp the chance to apologize and try to do better, and I experienced forgiveness.
The theme of our conference was Caring for Our Community, and we have learned and relearned so many lessons, lesson both new and previously forgotten by our bodies and spirits. In times like these when we are actively resisting with the existence of our very bodies, we learned together that joy is resistance. We learned together that self care and caring for each other is essential for a healthy community and continued resistance, and we practiced both over and over. Over and over, people asked me for my pronouns, and offered their own, as I introduced to multiple people for the first time that my pronouns include they/them. Over and over we practiced honoring each other’s entire being.
We practiced telling each other, in a multitude of actions and words, ‘You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and so loved by God and by me.” I have never had the opportunity to practice telling other queer Christians that in person before, and have never received it from other queer Christians. And wonderfully, beautifully, at this conference, I experienced both and practiced receiving it, giving it, and for the first time, really believing in it.
This is the love that we hold for the myriad of ways that we are holding our different identities as Progressive Asian American Christians. This is the love that I believe is true reconciliation in progress, that will turn the world upside down.
This is PAAC Conference 2019, and I’m so pleased to have experienced it and to share it here with you.