Gina de Vries

Paul Fairley, Toronto, Faith, Sex, & David Wojnarowicz

Filed By Gina de Vries | October 12, 2007 3:35 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: David Wojnarowicz, MCC, paul fairley, san francisco, sex, sexuality, spirituality, spontaneity, theology, toronto

I missed posting here in time for National Coming Out Day because I was searching online for plane tickets to Toronto -- to visit a queer person whose life and work have affected me deeply, whom I barely know.

Reverend Paul Fairley of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto (MCC) is an absolutely brilliant queer theologian. He is contending with a life-threatening illness. A group of people from MCC San Francisco are going to visit him in a few weeks. I've only met Paul once in my life. Still, as of a couple hours ago, I decided to join the other MCC-SF community members in their visit.

Here's why:
I saw Paul preach at MCC San Francisco this spring, and his sermon was one of the first I heard at MCC that hit deep for me. Paul's words echoed in my head for weeks after that sermon. He spoke frankly about cruising and public sex, and he quoted from David Wojnarovicz's Close to the Knives -- "In loving him, I saw great houses being erected that would soon slide into the waiting and stirring seas. I saw him freeing me from the silences of the interior life."

Seeing Paul preach was not just about hearing someone talk at a pulpit -- I felt his words in my body as he spoke: sexual, spiritual, delicious, scary, exhilirating, safe. I'd been attending services at MCC-SF for a few months, and I'd enjoyed most everything I'd heard there. But this was the first time I knew, for a fact, that I belonged with MCC-SF's spiritual community. That if there was room for a pastor to talk about sex and spirit in such an integrated way, to talk about sexuality as a path to divinity so openly and so beautifully, and furthermore, to quote David Fucking Wojnarovicz... Well, it made me realize that there'd be room for me at the church, too -- in all my complicated, delicious, and debauched queerness.

As I've been watching my church community (and I'd like to state for the record that sex-positive radicalpants queermosexual me is still a little shocked that phrases like "church community" show up in my vocabulary now -- but I digress)... As I've been watching my church community prepare to see Paul in the coming weeks, and as I've been trying to coordinate cards and letters and mementos for him, I've found myself wanting to go, too.

Now, I was very recently unemployed for a couple months, so financially, this is not exactly the smartest idea I've ever had. That's a large part of why I was hesitant to go at first. But even more pressing was my desire not to look weird, or to intrude. I didn't want to just show up in Toronto when I've only met Paul once. What do you say, exactly? "Hi, you don't know me, but your work has deeply affected me. I'm sorry you're in pain. I'm here with my community to ask you what you need and to support you and show you love"?

Well, yeah, actually. Maybe that's a start.

Tonight, talking with my bestfriend/housemate about Paul -- about why MCC-SF people are going to Toronto, about what ministry and community and healing really mean -- I thought a lot about what compassion and support can do for people when they're sick and struggling. I thought a lot about Paul's expressed wish to have San Francisco, and in particular MCC-SF, brought to him since he can't travel. I thought about how much MCC has become a part of my life, and how much Paul was a catalyst for that. I realized that if Paul could act as my MCC ambassador, than the least I could do is act as one of many San Francisco ambassadors for him.

I booked a ticket within 15 minutes of talking to my housemate. I never, ever do spontaneous things like this -- but god, it feels very right in this instance.

And it feels oddly fitting that this post is coming on the heels of Coming Out Day. Maybe this is my coming out post about spirituality and sex. About faith and chosen family and community. About how important loving actions really are to me. About surprising myself sometimes.

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Good luck on your trip. Be safe. :)

(and good for you!)