FROM SORROW TO CELEBRATION:
10 YEARS OF MAKING ROOM FOR ALL

Room for All’s first national conference in 2009 was a huge leap of faith taken by an all-volunteer Board, sounding a clear message of support for LGBTQ people, their families and allies in the RCA: “We’re here, we’re growing, and we’re not going away!” That message has echoed and resonated throughout the Reformed Church in America ever since, and in October, 2015, we gathered to celebrate the first decade of Room for All’s ministry!

“From Sorrow to Celebration” gave us the opportunity to trace difficult events and disappointments in the past decade, and to acknowledge present challenges for our movement and the people we serve. Looking back is crucial for what comes next. But between then and when lies NOW! Room for All’s present ministry is cause for celebration, and that’s what we did! We turn now toward the next decade with gratitude and excitement, “compelled by the inclusive love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.”

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Our conference kicked off with a 10th Anniversary Celebration Banquet
at the gorgeous Grand Rapids Public Museum.

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Current and former board members reconnect.

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RfA friends and supporters from all over the denomination came together
to celebrate 10 years of amazing work in the RCA.

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The evening's program included a number of spectacular people,
many of whom have been involved with RfA since the beginning.

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Our always fabulous Executive Director, Marilyn Paarlberg.

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What better way to celebrate than with a jaunt on a vintage caurousel?

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Our after-dinner speaker, Rev. Dr. Rebecca Voelkel. Not only a "giant" in the Welcoming Church movement,
but also a vital part of Room for All's early success, Rebecca delivered a "love letter to Room for All."

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Marlin Vander Wilt and Mary Kansfield, both former Board members, reuniting!

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We were delighted to have a large number of students at our conference,
including many from all three RCA colleges and Western Theological Seminary!

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Our conference preacher, Rev. Dr. Renee House, leading us in a moving opening worship service.

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Board members Deb Tiemens and Carl Haan provide a musical offertory during opening worship.

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A beautiful space, filled with the beautiful, diverse body of Christ.

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Educational opportunities included 7 different workshops to choose from on Friday.

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Educational opportunities included 7 different workshops to choose from on Friday.

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Educational opportunities included 7 different workshops to choose from on Friday.

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Educational opportunities included 7 different workshops to choose from on Friday.

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Our Friday evening musical guests from Hope College gave us a wonderful choral experience!

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Our Friday evening musical guests from Hope College gave us a wonderful choral experience!

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Our Keynote Speaker, Jeff Chu.

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Saturday morning's "Room for Me! Pushing Pack and Pushing Forward" panel.

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Saturday morning's "Room for Me! Pushing Pack and Pushing Forward" panel.

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A moving and meaningful moment at every conference: sharing Communion at closing worship.

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In a space filled with so much joy and so much love, how can you possibly keep yourself from dancing?

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Friends from Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania
gather for one last photo before saying goodbye!

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RfA's Community Coordinator, Cameron Van Kooten Laughead,
served as our emcee and announcer throughout the weekend.

Conference Videos

Opening Banquet

Keynote Address

Opening Sermon

Closing Service

How Great a Cloud of Witnesses

As Room for All celebrated our 10th Anniversary, we were reminded of the struggles and perseverance of those throughout history who have fought for equality.

As a tangible expression of this truth, we created a timeline chronicling a few highlights of these social justice stories over the past 70 years. We then invited participants to add highlights from their own lives – the date they came out as LGBTQ or allied, the date they married or got their first job, or any number of personal moments.

The result was a collaborative timeline of our shared history – a “Great Cloud of Witnesses” demonstrating God’s grace and encouraging us to persevere in pursuit of the full affirmation of people of all sexual identities and gender expressions in the Reformed Church in America.

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Cameron Van Kooten Laughead preparing the timeline of LGBTQ progress.

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The timeline of LGBTQ progress including participants' milestones.

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Adding a personal milestone to the timeline.

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Resources

Opening Worship Bulletin
Closing Worship Bulletin
Rebecca Voelkel After-Dinner Speech

The Power Point slides from Rebecca Voelkel’s “Intersectionality” Workshop are available – if you’d like them, please contact us.

Happy Birthday RfA Videos

Participants Liked...
  • I don’t go to church in my town because I never felt like I belonged, like I wouldn’t be accepted if the church members knew my true identity. But here, I belong. I have never felt so safe and welcome in a church, or even anywhere, before. Thank you, all!

  • There was such a welcoming, generous, joyful spirit!

  • Great humor and ability to move between inspiration, education, personal story, connection to the wider world, and exhortation.

  • People were intelligent and thoughtful; they have thought deeply about these issues and connected their experiences to research, biblical reflection, tradition and social science.

  • The high point for me was worship and being with others working toward the same goal.

  • I enjoyed the communal feeling of the opening service, with baptismal fonts available for everyone.

  • My favorite part was the conference as a whole – the fact of it! I learned a great deal, met wonderful people and felt the movement of the Holy Spirit.

  • As a straight ally, I loved feeling welcomed by the LGBTQ participants, meeting old friends and making new ones.

  • This conference taught me so much. It gave me hope and it renewed my faith. I was turning away from the church, because I didn’t feel like I belonged.

  • Renee House’s preaching and Rebecca Voelkel’s address.

  • Hope Choirs.

  • I liked how at the end of the self-care session, it turned into a few people sharing their personal stories, struggles and successes. I also really liked the Q&A panel.

  • Gender inclusivity and communication w/ others.

  • Learning opportunities – excellent.

  • Being able to fully embrace both LGBTQ and Christian and feel fully accepted and welcome!!

  • The conversations were my favorite.

  • Loved the music and the music director.

  • All the keynotes and worship – absolutely outstanding!

  • Each sermon or talk was deeply embodied – I felt their engagement on every level – intellect, spiritual, physical, relational.

In case you missed it...

Conference Schedule

Thursday Opening Banquet

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

Friday

Conference 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.

Workshops

Friday Evening Event: This portion of the conference opened 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 incorporated Psalm 34 in his Friday evening address, “Radiant and Unashamed.”

Optional Extra Day

For those who elected to stay an additional day, after a free afternoon and dinner on their own, we attended Listening for Grace, a powerful new play by Ted & Co. and performed at the historic Wealthy Theatre.

Sunday Celebration Worship

On Sunday morning, we returned to Central Reformed Church for worship, with guest preacher Rev. Dr. Norman Kansfield.

Workshops

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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.