My name is Brandy Vines and I am originally from Birmingham, Alabama. I relocated to North Carolina to continue my college education at Winston Salem State University. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Information Technology in 2012 and have been working in the technology field ever since. I grew up in a single parent home along with my two sisters and we faced a number of serious challenges. Despite the challenges, attending church was a part of our life. We grew up in the Seventh Day Adventist Church and when I was around the age of six we transitioned to a Baptist Church. Both of these church experiences have impacted my life in major ways.
The majority of my family is Seventh Day Adventist so there were some weekends when I would find myself attending church on both Saturdays and Sundays. Both churches shared similar messages, however, their delivery styles were very different. The Seventh Day Adventist preacher would read the scripture of choice, elaborate on the topic as if having a conversation with the audience, and church was over by 12:30pm. The Baptist Church had a more intense and charismatic way of carrying out church services. A lot of people in the congregation would “shout” for various reasons, the preacher practically yelled his sermon, and sometimes we didn’t leave church until 2pm.
We attended church quite frequently, but as I grew older I found myself straying away from the church setting. I never stopped praying, but it was difficult for me to find a church home that I was comfortable attending and also where I didn’t feel out of place because of my sexuality. It has been my lived experience, that several Black churches I’ve attended have frowned upon marginalized sexual orientations and gender expressions. I went years without attending church, but in my heart there was always a deep desire to be in communion with God and God’s people
After not attending church for several years, it was in 2010 when I knew I had to start going again. A series of difficulties were happening in my life, but something in particular was critical to my faith journey. While I was attending Winston Salem State, a student died in her sleep, and I thought to myself, “what if that was me?” I did not want to leave this world without being in deep relationship with God and others. Soon after this tragedy and realization, I found a church home not too far from the University, but yet again, I found myself receiving “those” looks. The “you know you’re going to hell for being gay” looks. I often ignored them, but it really bothered me and it was simply unjust. I eventually stopped attending that church and also I relocated to the Greensboro area. Once again, it took me awhile to find a church home that would accept me for who I am. A few years passed and I was finally able to find a non- denominational church where I felt comfortable attending. When I attended services, people greeted me with warmth and I was no longer treated as if I didn’t belong.
After a while I found myself missing services, not because I didn’t like the church, but because there were some difficult things going on in my life that I wasn’t aware of at the time and it became increasingly more difficult to get out of the bed on Sundays. Also, there were days that I just didn’t feel like going because I was either really tired from working or, to be honest, I was too hungover from the night before. A few months ago when I was laying on my couch, I said a prayer to God. The prayer was about how I really wanted to be more involved in the community and I wanted to learn more about God. I also wanted to figure out my purpose in life. I was tired of feeling like I was simply going through the motions of life and not being of service to my community including among marginalized persons.
Coincidently, I met Reverend Brandon Wrencher after leaving a restaurant one evening with a mutual friend of ours. He invited me to attend their meetings on Thursday and I have been in attendance ever since then. I always feel welcome and I am learning more and more about God as well as being more active in the community. I’m thankful that God answered my prayers and much more! Although I have faced many challenges through life and my relationship with God has certainly been a journey, I truly believe that “…nothing will separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:39b).” I pray that other LGBT people are able to find safe places to worship and grow in their relationship with God and serving the community. Places that are more inclusive rather than the exclusivity of heteronormativity in many different kinds of Christian churches today. A Christian church where people are not being or feeling separated from the love of God. Thank you God, I found a place!