Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM), in collaboration with the Gender, Religion and Health Programme at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), hosted an Ecumenical Queer Clergy Think Tank at Devon Valley Hotel in Stellenbosch from 27 September – 01 October 2021.  

The COVID-19 pandemic brought intersectional challenges to the spiritual wellbeing of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer and allied people in ministry, communities, and the academy. Queer clergy, traditional healers, allies, and students in the Gender, Religion and Health programme at the University of KwaZulu Natal convened and co-created Counter Communities of Care, the third iteration of the Queer Clergy Think Tank. One of the participants remarked that “I have travelled around the world but never felt so safe like this space you have created for us. Thank you so much for the love and patience.” 

The convening aimed to co-create a nurturing space where LGBTIQ+ people and allies could find a space of renewal. Participants started their mornings and ended their evenings with meditation sessions to bring mindfulness to their day and consciousness of how our bodies’ wellbeing contributes to meaningful change.  For Ecclesia De Lange, Executive Director of Inclusive and Affirming Ministries, “it was a beautiful moment to reconnect with myself and fellow companions on the journey less travelled in faith and academic spaces for queer people. It offered me an opportunity to come home to myself, breathe, rekindle the fire within, and the new mantra “no one can shut me/us up” as the journey continues.”

As part of the process, participants were introduced to Voice Movement Therapy as a tool to create an intimate space to explore the known and unknown, beautiful, and unbeautiful facets of their being, expressing through the sounding voice and movement. This journey helped participants drop from their “head space” deeper into their “body space”, where they could become aware of aspects of themselves that they might have forgotten or neglected during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Voice Movement Therapy sessions prepared participants to engage with Vulnerability and Art to ignite new possibilities for actualisation, enhanced feelings of appreciation, and new and enlightened forms of meaning, which participants expressed through art pieces created to reduce trauma and build individual and collective resilience. Another participant remarked: “thank you for allowing me to be myself and for creating a space of God amongst us”. 

IAM’s collaborative partner on the Think Tank, Prof Charlene van der Walt, pointed out that “the Queer Think Tank allowed for reflection, reconnection, and renewed focus, energy, and commitment. I think we have all suffered the pain of isolation and being overburdened in the last couple of months. So it was incredible to reconnect with friends, colleagues, and change-makers and celebrate a counter community of care. It was also inspiring to think, reflect and co-create knowledge from the body. and to re-imagine what faith could mean for African queer people.”

Hear more about the participants’ experiences here.