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Christopher MacDonald-Dennis Essay When I first considered the ministry as a vocation, I balked.

I asked, Would God call someone like? As a gay child of color from a working-class background, I was completely different than what I understood a minister to be. I was not middle, White, nor heterosexual. In many ways, my religious upbringing had taught me that I was considered unworthy of ministry; thus, I felt that God could not call someone like me. In spite of the doubts, however, the call kept coming through the years. The call persisted through the various religious traditions I have been a part of, including Judaism, humanism and Protestantism. My desire to enter the ministry followed me through my being diagnosed with HIV in 1996. Receiving the diagnosis was very difficult, as one can imagine. For most of us living with HIV, the emotional aspects of HIV are as difficult as the physical aspects. The physical problems can often be treated with medicine; the emotional impact, on the other hand, has no easy solution. I thought that HIV would be the most difficult situation in my life and was now ready to follow my yearning to be a minister. Unfortunately, the Universe let me know that I was still not ready. I needed to learn important things about myself before I could be the minister I wanted to be. 2010 was one of the worst years in my life. My partner and I had our identities stolen by a close friend who we had supported through his HIV diagnosis. He took out almost $250,000 in credit in our name; it took us two years to clear our name from the debts he incurred. The same year, my partner was diagnosed with prostate cancer. If this was not enough, I went through a significant major depressive episode. What was I meant to learn from this? I realized that I needed to rely on people. I was always the person with the shoulder to cry on but I did not let people take care of me. In my initial essay, I wrote that I am called upon to serve, to work to eradicate oppression of all forms, to help others and to share my experience, strength, and hope. This is all still true; however, I am also called to share my vulnerabilities. I am now ready to fully serve others by being truly human. I do not need to be Superman, being the one who has effortlessly thrived despite a toxic

family and an HIV diagnosis. I am simply a human being who has experienced the joys and sorrows that all humans face. Living through all of this has given me a richness and depth of experience, a new awareness of the beauty and fragility of life, and a confident hope in my faith in the Divine. These experiences, while important, are not enough to make me a minister. Seminary will allow me to make sense of these experiences in light of my calling. At seminary, I hope to enhance the gifts God has given me. I shall be in fellowship with peers and professors who will help me learn and grow as a Christian, thus helping me to actualize my goals. In terms of what I hope to accomplish as a minister, I am called to do public ministry with LGBT youth. The particulars of my calling highlight the two areas that I believe the church needs to tackle in the coming years: how to stop the spiritual violence perpetrated against queer people by organized religion and how to bring Gods church into the streets in a meaningful way. Too often, the church is a simply seen as building that many people do not choose to enter. I want to show young people that Jesus would want us in the streets, talking about Gods unconditional love for us all. Most importantly, Jesus would want us to manifest that love by creating a more just society. I truly believe that if the church is not able to work with LGBT folks and to engage with people on the streets, we shall increasingly be seen as an anachronism. I know that the church can be different; I pray that my ministry will show how.