A God Thing

Church of the Good Shepherd

Church of the Good Shepherd, Jacksonville, Florida

I met Norma Folsom a few months ago while browsing at the Antique Market. Ms. Folsom was sitting in her chair cleaning items from her booth when she caught my eye and stopped me with a “hello”. Thirty minutes passed quickly and we both learned a lot about one another. Ms. Folsom was in Peace Corps, taught at a Strawberry School and is currently a member at Church of the Good Shepherd in Avondale. She should have been a reporter, within the time we spoke she had gathered key details about my background, work and most importantly where I went to church. Ms. Folsom also learned that I was gay and had a partner, but even in her 80s, this news didn’t change her smile.

A few weeks passed and I decided to walk the few blocks to church. Before I was able to take my seat, from across the aisle came “I was beginning to think you weren’t going to come; Come sit with me.” It was Ms. Folsom who guided this Presbyterian through an Episcopalian service.

Yesterday, Norma left me a message on my voicemail asking for me to call. Today I did.

“I called you yesterday, but it’s probably not important,” she said. Reassuringly, I said that wasn’t the case and asked her to share what was on her mind. “Well, I was thinking about what [someone] said during coffee last week, about his daughter waking up and deciding she was gay..” She paused. “His response (which was ‘big deal’) was the right one but, I just don’t believe you get to decide.” She went on to talk about how her friends who are gay, mostly older, have suffered awful discrimination and that she knew those friends didn’t “decide” their sexual orientation. “You’re sweet” I said. She stopped me before I could continue and kindly but plainly said, “I’m not being sweet, just honest.” After reminding me that she would see me at church this Sunday and we were to schedule a visis in the near future, we ended our call.

Ms. Folson simply called to tell Julius and I that we are who we were made to be and that we are welcome within the church.

Last Sunday, the sermon spoke about faith. The lesson: there is one, or several people, who are responsible for where we are in our walk. I am thankful that I was raised in a family who believed. I am thankful that I watched my Grandmother get up every morning for her devotional. I am thankful that God placed Ms. Folsom into our lives.

Betty Rae

Betty Rae Lasher

When you meet Ms. Folsom, it’s hard not to notice a similarity between her and my grandmother. It’s unfortunate that Julius never got to meet Betty Rae and even though I try to replicate, he won’t get to experience the her “love pat”, blackberry cobbler & coconut cake, or the laugh that you can’t help but join. But, I think that Ms. Folsom came into our lives for a few reasons: to remind us of love, to encourage us in our walk and to model a few great “Betty Rae traits”.

My grandmother always stressed the importance of a church family and now, a little older, I understand why. A church, free from judgement, builds your family up and gives you a sense of community. Whatever your religion or wherever you are on your walk, I encourage you to live by the three words my grandmother taught: faith, hope & charity and to always, always “keep the peace”.