Monday, April 18, 2011

How to make soup

By Theresa D. McClellan
GIFT Faith Advocacy Coordinator

The soup pots are empty. The wine glasses are clean. Happy bidders walked away with their prize winnings, including the huge framed drawing of Barbra Streisand, and the conversations and laughter has temporarily ended.

Our second annual Soup, Wine & Silent Auction at the Cascade Winery was a success in so many ways as connections were made and renewed. Saturday's event occurred because so many people said "YES!"

Yes, I will open my doors to you and your organization. Yes, I will take time from my busy schedule and create and ladle soup for you. Yes, I will take my merchandise, my livelihood, and offer it up to you for the benefit of your organization and the important work you do. Yes, I am busy, but I will find a way to spend a few hours on a cold and wet Saturday to support you by purchasing a ticket.

And those who said no or not at this time created an opening for more conversations. Everyone in our GIFT family worked hard to make this happen, culling our resources and calling in favors.

I remembered at the last minute that I had tapped multiple sources except my own Blackberry, a phone that just keeps alphabetizing all the contacts and numbers I've thrown in there and imported from previous phones. So I started making calls, renewing conversations from relationships past.

"Yes, I retired from the Press in 2009. I work with GIFT now as their Faith Advocacy Coordinator. GIFT is an acronym for Gays In Faith Together."

Silence. Then "Wow. Really? Wow. My church feels strongly about that gay issue, that it's wrong. ...But I can't judge." I was told this more than once. And because of relationships built over the years, the conversation didn't stop there.

One woman told me she, too, felt strongly about the "gay issue" and agreed with her church. We've had a professional relationship built on mutual respect. She did not know I was gay. She realized it is hard to embrace church traditions that shun when you see the person as whole.

As we talked, she also realized there may be some in her Christian Reformed Church who could benefit from a message of God's love for all God's children and from connections with other gay Christians who embrace all that God has made them to be. She vowed to pass on my email address ( the GIFT website ( and the fundraising event to some in her church. We've also set up time to discuss my work further.

I spoke with a minister who let me know that "this will be a hard sell in the black church. Most black churches believe homosexuality is sin. It's a choice," he said.

It is a choice, I said. I choose to accept all that God has given me in order to be all that God wants me to be. We agree to have lunch and discuss this further.

At the fundraiser I spoke with an older black couple who came out to support me. Over soup and sips of wine we talked. "The church can be harsh on this issue. Sometimes I hate what I hear in my own church when they talk about gays. I think really, in 2011?" she said.

I remind her that there are likely members of the LGBTQ community in her congregation hearing those messages and suffering in silence in their pews thinking everyone agrees. Or perhaps the message is being uttered by a pastor thinking this is what the congregation wants to hear.

Another seed has been planted that will garner further conversation or entry into a church for further discussion. I am pleased. Because every time we hold a program or engage in conversation it gives us another entryway into spreading the message that there are no mistakes. God loves us all and Yes, you can be gay and Christian or a person of faith AND a member of the LGBTQ community.

These conversations can create allies and give courage to those who never thought they could be an ally. These gatherings give hope and safe spaces to members of the LGBTQ community and allies who love and support them. This fundraiser will help us continue our work making our way into churches and providing resources that give hope.

And just like a good soup or a fine wine we have brought together the ingredients that over time will make you say aaaaah. Blessings, and thank you all for your role in making this happen.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Where else can you say mmmmm, ahhhh, wow

Carmelized onions. Roasted red peppers. Tender succulent sausages. Baby sweet potatoes. Those are just a few of the special ingredients swirling in my wonderfully rich and decadent soup that you'll get to savor this Saturday at GIFT's fundraising soup competition, wine-tasting and silent auction at the Cascade Winery, 4665 Broadmoor Ave. SE

And that's just one dish. We'll have vegan fare, spicy soups and savory lentils to name a few as well as the chance to taste six wines from our fantastic vinters of the Cascade Winery. You'll be able to vote with your dollars for the favorite soup.

This year we've added an additional attraction with the silent auction that features multiple goodies including a $500-value landscaping package and $400 value custom songwriting gift package.

So join us Saturday April 16 at the Cascade Winery from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 from the GIFT office by calling 774-0446 or $7 at the door on Saturday.

That's a great price to come out, have fun with old friends, meet new ones and support the work of GIFT. So be prepared to delight your senses and say mmmmm! ahhh! WOW as you have fun and support GIFT.