By Sydney Brouillard-Coyle
“More than we can ask or imagine, more than we can ever dare to dream, we are the children of heaven’s creation, God’s own beloved, each called by name. More than we will ever imagine, more than we will ever understand; we are sent to walk with compassion, to live out God’s love by heart and by hand. More than we can ask or imagine, more than we could ever desire; out of the dust God’s building a kingdom, like wine from the press, like bread from the fire.” (More Than We Can Ask or Imagine; Common Praise, 86).
As a music director, hymns have always held a very special place in my heart, and I don’t just pick up the book to sing – I listen to the lyrics and what God is telling me through them.
One of my favourite hymns from the Common Praise is ‘More Than We Can Ask or Imagine’. The chorus is beautiful with its “Glory to God”, “Glory we sing”, “Glory on earth”, and so on. But the verses, as short as they are, have so much to say.
“God’s own beloved, each called by name.” This we know – that God has created and called each of us by name. The name that God has created for us may not be known to us right away. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139, v. 13-14). God has always known who we are, because God is the one who created each of us, and knew that we were beautiful. “We are the children of heaven’s creation.”
“We are sent to walk with compassion, to live out God’s love by heart and by hand.” We know that Jesus came to earth to teach us what the meaning of love truly is. Jesus died on the cross so that all might know that they are loved unconditionally and fully by the One who Created all.
More than that, Jesus calls us to follow that example – to love so fully and unconditionally that all might understand and receive the Gospel of Love through us.
“Out of the dust, God’s building a kingdom, like wine from the press, like bread from the fire.” It can be easy, in moments of difficulty, to ask ourselves: “where is God?” At times, it can feel as though we have been abandoned. But God is still creating through us. God gave us wheat, but not bread; and grapes, but not wine; so that together, we may share with God in the act of creation. For God is more than we could ever ask or imagine; thus, those created in the image and likeness of God are more than we could ask or imagine. Together, we are sharing in the act of creation and celebration of the diversity of humankind.
Every year on March 31, we celebrate the Transgender Day of Visibility, a day dedicated to celebrating trans people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide. This day is essential, because with more visibility comes more understanding.
I first learned what transgender meant when I was 14 years old. I was hanging out with my best friend, E, and made a comment about something that another friend, R, had said in class. I had used “she” pronouns in reference to my friend R; my friend E immediately corrected me by saying: “actually, R uses they/them pronouns”. A year later, one of my friends from grade school came out as a trans male, and received the support that he needed to change his name and begin the process of medical transition.
Accompanying both of my friends on their journeys provided me the opportunity to explore, for the first time, how I viewed my own gender. Knowing that I was in a safe space at my school, and surrounded by affirming friends and family, I came out as trans at the age of 17. I used different terms and pronouns as I explored what being trans meant to me. I currently use the term “nonbinary”, which means that I don’t identify as either a man or a woman. I also discovered ney/nem/nir pronouns one year ago; similar to they/them/their pronouns, except with an “n” that stands for neutral. I practiced online with these new pronouns until I felt confident with them, before coming out (again) with my new pronouns on the Transgender Day of Visibility in 2020.
I am privileged in many ways – to be surrounded by supportive and loving family and friends, to have had a safe school where I could explore my identity, and to have the resources that I need as I am exploring what transition means to me. I work at Windsor-Essex Transgender and Allied Support as a Peer Mentor, supporting clients who are nonbinary, genderqueer, and those who are questioning from ages 6 through 40. It is very fulfilling work, as I am able to support my trans siblings so that none of them have to experience being transgender and navigating transitioning – whatever that may look like for them – alone.
As Anglicans, we are called to respond to human need with loving service. And yet, our denomination has far too often erased the voices of transgender individuals. Trans people have been alienated from God’s table, made to feel as though we are second-class citizens, and have had our very identities and existence questioned and frowned upon. We have been told that we are sinners, that we are going to hell, and that there is no place for us at the table of God.
But God is still working through us – the transgender community – to share love with the world and with the church. God has created us exactly as we are, and knows that we are beautiful, we are valid, and loves each and every one of us as our authentic selves. God is urging the church the listen to the stories of those who have been erased; to love unconditionally just as Jesus taught, and to work to be active allies for all of God’s children. We have perpetrated much spiritual trauma to the transgender community. It is time for us to begin the process of reconciliation, so that all of God’s beloved children can feel welcome at the table of the One who created us.
In honour of this year’s Transgender Day of Visibility, let us pray:
O God, whom no image can encompass, no definition encircle, and yet who meets us in the gentle touch of love, the beauty of a butterfly’s wing, and the laughter of children; help us move beyond our attempts to limit You, intellectualize You, or to eliminate You from all that is earthy, sensuous, and vibrant, so that we may greet You in every particle in this spectacular universe which You are creating. Amen.
Sydney Brouillard-Coyle (ney/nem/nir) is co-chair of Proud Anglicans of Huron and music director at St. Paul’s Anglican Church. Ney were the diocesan youth delegate to General Synod 2019, and serves as a consultant to Faith, Worship & Ministry on developing Trans* Liturgies.
(Featured photo: Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash)