Photo by Oliver Chapin-Eiserloh
Pizza boxes lay open under the cross in the Meditation Chapel on Sunday evening, and about 20 students passed around a bag of M&Ms. Talking about everything from Winnie the Pooh to individual spiritual journeys, the new members of Actively Loving and Listening (ALL) kicked off the first meeting of their openly progressive Christian club.
Sophomore Jaden Wielhouwer and senior Kristina Reinis started ALL because they wanted to create an affirming space for all Christians, but particularly LGBTQ+ students and women interested in religious leadership. They tried to get involved in other Christian groups on campus but were never certain if their viewpoints would be accepted if they openly talked about them.
“What we felt was that, on campus, there wasn’t an organization that was very clear on their values about women in their place in leadership in the church and also their position [regarding] LGBTQIA,” Reinis said. “While there are maybe, within those organizations, students who do support those things, we wanted to create a space that was very clear that we’re supporting that and a place for progressive Christians on campus.”
ALL meetings will take place every Sunday at 8 p.m. in the Meditation Chapel. With the goal of engaging in conversation relevant to students’ lives and nurturing each other’s faith, the club will discuss different religious topics each week. They hope to host a female minister and an LGBTQ+ minister to speak, and they also plan to have fun, community-building outings once or twice a semester. The first meeting consisted of an introduction to the club and a discussion about people’s interests and spiritual journeys.
At the perfect time on a Sunday night for a study break, Wielhouwer said ALL should be a good place for students to decompress. Both Reinis and Wielhouwer are excited for the community they hope the new group will bring.
First-year Brandon Niday came to the first ALL meeting partly because he is friends with Wielhouwer, but also because he said he wanted to learn from Christian perspectives outside his identity as a white, straight man.
“This is a really critical form of discourse for the LGBTQ+ community in the church,” Niday said. “I feel like Trinity’s mission of intentionally including people is represented well in this organization because it is an opportunity for people to unload the thoughts that they have.”
Because the nature of ALL is open and transparent, all students are welcome. Wielhouwer and Reinis welcome any discussion ideas or topics that students want to get off their chest.
“We wanted there to be a place where it’s clear what we stand for so that you don’t have to come in with the fear that someone’s going to say something or you’re going to say too much about yourself and then somebody won’t be supportive,” Wielhouwer said. “[I’m looking forward to] being in fellowship with other people who have had similar experiences or are curious about what their faith is or where they are in their faith.”