Luther Place Memorial Church, Washington, D.C.
Artist and musician, member of N Street Village Ambassadors of Praise, and of Luther Place’s choir and Community Craft Collective ministry

My favorite Bible reading is Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd.” My mom, who passed away, loved that psalm. My pastor, Karen Brau, broke it down and what it really meant in layman terms for me. It really comforts me when I’m going through trials and tribulations.

I’m an artist. Drawing helps me out a lot—I’m into anime, especially Japanimation. I was in the Community Craft Collective, which is a ministry of Luther Place. You just hang out and make art. We get a chance to sell our work at different venues, and give 10% back to the church. Hopefully it can be brought back after the pandemic.

I came to Luther Place seven or eight years ago. I lived at the church’s night shelter for a year and a half before moving to N Street Village (a social service nonprofit). At my old church, they didn’t accept the way that I dressed or acted. I needed to leave. Luther Place actually accepted me. They accepted me as a person, you know? They weren’t judgmental. Belonging to a church that accepts the LGBTQIA+ community was like a big starting point for me to start going back to worship. It’s the best.

The day I got baptized at Luther Place, I remember being nervous. I’m not good in large crowds. Everybody I knew was there; they had my back. What I remember is that there was a basin, and Pastor Karen poured water on my head with a seashell. It felt like forever, but the presence of God was so strong. I never felt that way before. It was just amazing.

“At my old church, they didn’t accept the way that I dressed or acted. I needed to leave. Luther Place actually accepted me. They accepted me as a person, you know?”

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is my favorite time of year. It’s just so fun, and it brings me a little closer to my heritage. You make food for your loved ones who have passed away, and just celebrate them. We had a Día de los Muertos event with the kids at church, and I did the drawings for it. That’s how I give back, through what I love to do—my artwork and music.

I love music. I’ve been playing the alto sax since I was 7. My mom taught me. I just got a new saxophone before the pandemic hit, and I’m starting to get back into it. I sing with Luther Place’s choir and with the Ambassadors of Praise, which is a choir with N Street Village. Sometimes they have me rapping.

My last year in high school I got really sick. I had gallstones in my gallbladder; one gallstone got stuck between my liver and gallbladder. If it went up, I would have died. If it went down, I would have lived. Through God’s help, it went down instead of shooting up in my liver. I live with a genetic blood disorder—I can’t sit or stand for very long periods of time. But I’m here, and I’m still breathing. God has blessed me tremendously.

I pray for my family. I pray for guidance. I thank God for helping me get through stuff that I’m going through, stuff my family is going through, for advice on what to do in a situation.

I’m a Lutheran because my church is like family to me. Many from our LGBTQIA+ community serve as assisting ministers or musicians. We have been to pride parades to welcome the LGBTQIA+ community. We accept everybody and anybody. Some churches say that they do that, and then you get in there and they really don’t—that’s just a ploy to get members. Luther Place is the only church I know that accepts the LGBTQIA+ community with open arms.

Erin Strybis
Erin Strybis is a freelance writer based in Chicago and author of The Beauty of Motherhood: Grace-Filled Devotions for the Early Years (Morehouse Publishing, March 2023). Find more of her stories at her website and on Instagram.

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