Happy Birthday, Room for All
2015 Conference: From Sorrow to Celebration


“From Sorrow to Celebration” will be the theme of our special 10th Anniversary conference.  Using the Psalms as a backdrop, the conference worship, workshops, keynote speakers and an interactive timeline will explore RfA’s story in the context of the ever-widening circles of the church’s response to God’s inclusive love. 

The dates are Thursday evening, Oct. 22nd – Saturday noon, Oct. 24, with an optional additional day that concludes after worship on Sunday, Oct. 25.   Once again the conference will take place at Central Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI.




New This Year:

Rev. Rebecca VoelkelThursday Opening Banquet: A gala celebration at the Grand Rapids Public Museum will open this special conference.  The after-dinner speaker is the Rev. Dr. Rebecca Voelkel:  “From Sorrow to Celebration:  A Love Letter from the LGBTQ Movement to Room for All.”


Optional Extra Day: For those who elect to stay an additional day, after a free afternoon and dinner on your own, we’re offering “Listening for Grace,” a powerful new play by Ted & Co. and performed at the historic Wealthy Theatre.  The first 50 people who register for the additional day will get a free ticket (all others plus the general public, $10 through the theater).

Celebration Worship:  On Sunday morning, we’ll return to Central Reformed Church for worship, with guest preacher Rev. Dr. Norman Kansfield.

Plus All These Exciting Opportunities:

Renee HouseConference Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Renee House, minister of the Old Dutch Reformed Church in Kingston, NY will lead opening worship on Friday morning, and a closing service of Holy Communion on Saturday morning.

Jeff Chu


Friday Evening Event:  This portion of the conference is open to the public, and will open with a musical collage presented by guests from Hope College, followed by Keynote Speaker Jeff Chu.  Journalist, RCA elder and author of “Does Jesus Really Love Me? A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America,”  Jeff Chu will incorporate Psalm 34 in his Friday evening address, “Radiant and Unashamed.”


  1. Your Own Best Friend: LGBTQ Self-Care – Dr. Matthew Clark

Taking care of yourself needs to be a top priority for LGBTQ individuals in a society that isn’t always supportive of you or your community.  We will discuss self-care and strengthening suggestions from mental health, spiritual, and community connectedness perspectives.  This workshop will be offered one time, and is specifically for people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* or queer.

  1. Supporting Your Rainbow Youth – Dr. Matthew Clark

What do LGBTQ young people need from their family, and what do family members need from them?  This vital conversation will be facilitated by Dr. Matthew Clark, with assistance by parents of LGBTQ children.  Participants will be invited to learn from others’ experience, and will receive suggestions for reconciling your personal beliefs, getting connected with local and national resources, and how to facilitate healthy, respectful dialogues.  This workshop will be offered only one time, and is specifically for parents, grandparents and siblings of LGBTQ people.

  1. Embracing Inclusion: Guiding Congregations on the Room for All Journey – Leadership for this workshop will be shared by a panel of RCA ministers of Word and Sacrament

Moving ahead with LGBTQ inclusion has particular challenges (and blessings!) for each congregation.  It can be helpful to hear stories and strategies, the missteps and good steps of leaders whose congregations are at varying points of inclusiveness.  This panel of RCA ministers will share some of their experience and resources, and discuss the questions you have from your congregation.  This workshop will be offered only one time, and is specifically for pastors, elders and church leaders.

  1. Disputable Matters? Carnivores, Vegetarians and LGBTQ Inclusion – Dr. James Brownson

In his 2014 book, A Letter to My Congregation, Ken Wilson argues for a “third way” in which one’s position on LGBTQ inclusion is seen as a “disputable matter.” Wilson models his approach on Romans 14 and 15, encouraging differing parties in the church’s current debate on same-sex relationships to accept each other as brother and sister in Christ, despite their disagreements. This is obviously a major question for denominations seeking to find their way through this topic.  In this workshop, we will explore and assess these arguments, and their applicability within the life of the Reformed Church in America.  This workshop will be offered one time only.

  1. Let Me Help You Help Me: A Conversation on Being an Ally – Wendy Gritter and Rev. Annie Reilly

Being an ally for LGBTQ+ people can be a complicated thing. When does the ally speak up? What words are okay to use? When are questions offensive and when are they a welcome relief? What is the queer-person responsible for when it comes to educating allies? Join author Wendy Gritter (mainly straight) and Annie Reilly (queer-identified) as they talk about their experiences of being allies and how both allies and the LGBTQ+ community need to work together to advance understanding and equality. Come ready to share your ideas and participate in this dialogue.

  1. Connecting the Dots: Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation – Alex Patchin McNeill and Ara Lawrence

Ever felt tongue-tied in discussing the nuances of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer  identities? Wish there was a better way to talk about gender identity and sexual orientation that doesn’t segment people into categories but unites us all in a journey of discovery and expression? We promise this workshop will inspire new ways of thinking and teaching others about gender and sexuality that you won’t want to miss.

  1. How Intersectionality Can Save our Souls and Build our Movement- Rev. Dr. Rebecca Voelkel

We know from research that issues related to LGBTQ people and the work of welcoming are deeply tied to other issues of inclusion and justice.  We also know that LGBTQ people are of every race, class, ability and age.  Intersectionality is the study of these related forms of discrimination.  This workshop will explore intersectionality from a theological and spiritual perspective and offer concrete tools on how to organize intersectionally– in your local congregation, community or denomination.



Scholarship Help

Thanks to generous underwriting, full scholarships are available for current full-time students at an RCA college or seminary.  In addition, need-based travel scholarships up to 50% of airfare are available to the first 50 people who request this help.  (If you don’t need this assistance, please be considerate of those who would not be able to attend without it.)  All the information about these scholarships is spelled out in the online registration process.

If you would like to contribute toward a scholarship, please contact Marilyn Paarlberg at 201-364-4538.

Previous RfA Conferences

Follow the links below to read about previous conferences, including links to conference materials, photos and participants’ reflections.


2013 Conference

2011 Conference

2009 Conference