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Rev. Kim Jack­son knew as a child she wanted to be a pas­tor.

Raised near ru­ral Cow­pens, South Carolina, in a small Bap­tist Church, she said the peo­ple in her home church “nur­tured me in the faith, en­cour­aged me to par­tic­i­pate in chil­dren’s and youth min­istries.” When she ex­pressed at age nine she wanted to be­come a pas­tor, she was told that was im­pos­si­ble.

“I was told that I couldn’t be­come a pas­tor be­cause I was a girl,” she told Ge­or­gia Voice.

She moved to At­lanta a decade ago, when she was 22, where she came out as gay, an­other blow, she was told, in her jour­ney to be­come a pas­tor.

“For the Bap­tist church that I was raised in, I now had two strikes,” she said. “When it be­came clear that I wasn’t go­ing to be celi­bate, that was my third strike, and I knew that or­di­na­tion in my home tra­di­tion was not pos­si­ble. That re­al­iza­tion was deeply painful.”

But Jack­son then found kin­dred spir­its in the Epis­co­pal Church, and in 2010 she be­came the first black LGBT per­son or­dained a priest in the Epis­co­pal dio­cese of At­lanta. She was the chap­lain at Ab­sa­lom Jones Epis­co­pal Cen­ter and Chapel at the At­lanta Univer­sity Cen­ter, which serves the stu­dents and fac­ulty of Clark At­lanta, More­house, Mor­ris Brown and Spel­man.

She is now an as­so­ci­ate rec­tor at All Saints’ Epis­co­pal Church in the heart of Mid­town, mar­ried to a Mus­lim wo­man and imam. Her story and spir­i­tual jour­ney, she said, is like so many of those hon­ored in the “Shower of Stoles” ex­hibit she is or­ga­niz­ing at her church to be on dis­play dur­ing At­lanta Pride week­end.

“For me, it is a story of re­silience, and the power of hope and strug­gle,” she said.

300 stoles on dis­play at All Saints’ ex­hibit

A stole is a re­li­gious sym­bol worn by clergy. Be­ing forced to give it up be­cause of who

Oc­to­ber 13, 2017

you are is of­ten painful for LGBT per­sons of faith. In 1995, the Shower of Stoles Project was started to com­mem­o­rate min­is­ters, pas­tors and oth­ers in church that were de­frocked be­cause of their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and gen­der iden­tity.

“The col­lec­tion bears wit­ness to the huge loss of lead­er­ship that the church has brought upon it­self be­cause of its own un­just poli­cies,” ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional LGBTQ Task Force In­sti­tute for Wel­com­ing Re­sources.

The na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion makes the stoles avail­able to be ex­hib­ited across North Amer­ica and on­line, “bear­ing wit­ness to the lives and voices of GLBT per­sons of faith who have been si­lenced by the church.”

Jack­son said the Shower of Stoles Project in­spires her, and gives her a glimpse of what could have hap­pened in her own life.

“I loved my church home and I knew that my call­ing to be­come a pas­tor was in large part due to the for­ma­tion that they gave me,” she said of her Bap­tist up­bring­ing. “If I were 20 years older, then my jour­ney to­wards or­di­na­tion would have ended there and per­haps I would have my own stole in this col­lec­tion.”

There are more than 1,000 litur­gi­cal stoles and other sa­cred ma­te­ri­als in the col­lec­tion. Jack­son said there would be 300 stoles on dis­play at All Saints’ Epis­co­pal Church, each with their own story.

“In many ways, the Shower of Stoles tells a part of my own story, but we are host­ing this ex­hibit at All Saints’ be­cause this is an All Saints’ story, an At­lanta story, and in­deed, a Pride story,” Jack­son said. “So many peo­ple who had the gifts and graces to serve as min­is­ters in this city were re­jected and banned from min­istry be­cause of who God called them to love. Even within our own parish, we hold the sto­ries of gay men who would have made great pri­ests, but they were not al­lowed to do so be­cause they were hon­est and un­apolo­getic about their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.”

Jack­son said th­ese sto­ries are very much like hers, of hav­ing to leave and find an­other church where she was ac­cepted.

“And this is in par­tic­u­lar why the project is near and dear to me,” she said. “Their sto­ries rep­re­sent thou­sands of sto­ries just like mine.”

“To­day, many main­line de­nom­i­na­tions have wel­comed the or­di­na­tion of peo­ple within the LGBTQIA com­mu­nity,” Jack­son added. “This ex­hibit is a tes­ta­ment to the Shower of Stoles Project All Saints’ Epis­co­pal Church 634 West Peachtree St. N.W. At­lanta, GA 30308 Wed­nes­day through Sun­day Oct. 11-15 in the chapel 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wed­nes­day through Fri­day 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Sun­day wel­com­in­gre­ all­saintsat­ ways that ac­tivism, strug­gle, prayer and hope have helped the Church open her doors to all of God’s chil­dren.”

‘We walk this jour­ney to­gether’

The fight for LGBTQ peo­ple to be rec­og­nized as peo­ple who can serve as or­dained min­is­ters in Amer­ica’s main­line churches has been long and dif­fi­cult, Jack­son said.

“The jour­ney is fraught with pain and re­jec­tion, but the sto­ries con­tained within the col­lec­tion of the Shower of Stoles demon­strate that the jour­ney has also been per­me­ated with prayer­ful peo­ple full of hope,” she said.

At­lanta Pride plays a spe­cial role in Jack­son’s life, in­clud­ing her spir­i­tual life.

“When I first ar­rived in At­lanta 10 years ago, from Small­town, South Carolina, I was lit­er­ally brought to tears by the amount of peo­ple and clear dis­plays of love and hope at Pride,” she said.

“I’ve al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated the amount of faith groups that are rep­re­sented in booths and in the pa­rade, but I knew that the story of how, es­pe­cially, main­line Chris­tian de­nom­i­na­tions came to the place of ac­cept­ing gay peo­ple was much more com­pli­cated than the floats in the pa­rade dis­play,” she said.

She knows there will be plenty of peo­ple par­ty­ing in Pied­mont Park over the fes­ti­val week­end. But she said she hopes some will come visit the church and soak up a pos­i­tive spir­i­tual ex­pe­ri­ence as part of At­lanta Pride.

“It’s re­ally help­ful to have a pos­i­tive spir­i­tual ex­pe­ri­ence, just as much as our party spirit,” she said. “I hope peo­ple visit and walk away feel­ing a fuller story of the gay ex­pe­ri­ence. As queer peo­ple, as peo­ple of faith, we walk this jour­ney to­gether.”


Rev. Kim Jack­son, wear­ing her stole, and with the some 300 stoles of de­frocked clergy that will be on dis­play over At­lanta Pride week­end at All Saints’ Epis­co­pal Church. (Photo courtesy Kim Jack­son)

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