- by Helen Ryde, RMN Northeastern Jurisdiction regional organizer -
Indigo Girls at Wild Goose. God's grace is truly amazing! Overwhelmed.
This is why…
It is November 1989, I am living in Canterbury, Kent in the UK, working for my parents helping them run their petrol station business. I am a member of City Church Canterbury, a non-denominational, charismatic evangelical church, part of the New Frontiers International movement.
I got tickets to see 10,000 Maniacs at the Royal Albert Hall, and went with two of my friends. We are late, as usual, and have the cheap seats, way up in the gods, it's a long climb up many, many stairs. As we are climbing the most captivating harmonies are echoing down the staircase towardus. Gorgeous female voices… we were missing something brilliant so we started to run.
Back home, I did a very unBritish thing, especially for someone already in their 20's - I wrote a fan letter. I'd never written one before.
More shockingly, and very unexpectedly, several weeks later I got two letters back, one each from Amy and Emily - handwritten. I've always wondered if maybe mine was the first letter they'd ever got from the UK, I can't imagine why else it would have warranted such a personal response.
Time passes, I buy their CDs, listen, listen, memorize words, get to concerts whenever they are in the UK, wear the T-shirts. I am a fan.
Side Two [which starts before Side One!]
It is 1986, or thereabouts, three years before hearing Indigo Girls for the first time, and I am living in London, working for a bank, attending City Gates Christian Fellowship. I am a Christian, passionate about my faith, committed to the local church, involved in outreach, born again, spirit filled.
I fall in love with my best friend. The experience, unrequited as it was, confirmed what I had known about myself in hushed tones since I was probably about 7 years old. I was gay, attracted to women.
The falling in love with my best friend routine happened at least 2 or 3 more times over the next several years as I moved to Canterbury, became a member at a new church [as noted in Side One above].
One thing I was sure of - it wasn't OK being gay, this was NOT acceptable to my born-again, spirit-filled, Bible believing self.
Both in London, and later in Canterbury, I went through hours and hours of counseling, prayer, casting out of stuff, trying to embrace my femininity (!!), more prayer, an Exodus sponsored conference. The works. I threw everything in my Christian arsenal at my gayness.
At some point during this time, I learned that Indigo Girls were gay, both of them! During one especially intense phase of trying to rid myself of my attraction to women, I think it was around 1994/1995, I determined that if I were to be truly committed to not being gay, I had to rid myself of everything to do with them. They were a stumbling block to my journey to heterosexuality. They had to go. So out it all went - the CDs, the letters, the T-shirts - everything Indigo Girls went in the trash as I tried to prove to God how serious I was about not being gay.
Starting, I think, in 1997 I began to realize that my orientation was as much a part of me as my left-handedness. It wasn't going to change. I did not know what to do about God, or my faith, or church. I just knew that despite my best efforts, nothing had changed.
Over time, I started to discover Christians who loved the Bible, loved God, were passionate about Jesus and everything that he taught, and who did not consider being gay a sin, who did not consider being in a same-sex relationship as being a barrier to being loved and accepted by God. It was a long and liberating journey, that continues today.
I started buying Indigo Girls CDs again (!!) and, especially after moving to the States in 1998, began to go and see them in concert. I'm still a fan.
It's early 2013, I am living in Provincetown, MA with my partner of 13 years Kate and our cute but naughty puppy Bella. I have decided I want to attend Wild Goose this summer, so I buy a ticket. I am excited to hear the speakers, listen to some great music, have fellowship with other Christians.
Several weeks later, they announce the line-up for Wild Goose…
Indigo Girls are the headliners.
God proving to me how serious God is about loving that I am gay, just the way I was made, no mistakes.
The circle was complete.
I am a Christian, I am gay, I love Indigo Girls. God's grace is truly amazing.
. . .
Helen joined RMN in 2012 as Regional Organizer for the Northeastern Jurisdiction. She was born and brought up in the UK and moved to the United States in 1998 to teach at a residential treatment center for children and adolescents with psychiatric and behavioral issues. In addition to her work as a regional organizer, Helen works part-time for a financial services company developing on-line learning courses. She graduated in post-graduate secondary education from Canterbury Christ Church University. She lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts with her partner Kate, and naughty but cute dog Bella. Helen has been a member of Provincetown UMC (a reconciling congregation) since 2006.