“How did you get connected with them?” That’s the question I’ve been asked repeatedly since our church posted a video of the Queer Eye Netflix series cast thanking our congregation for hosting them for a week recently.
Logistically, we were just in the right place. They were searching for locations where they could park production vehicles and cast and crew could rest and eat during filming. When they started scoping out possible locations near one of their filming sites, we popped up as just around the corner. But we were a church, and churches had not exactly been rolling out the red carpet for them. This is where the answer to that question becomes about more than just logistics.
How did we get connected with them? They reached out to us in part because of our location, but also because they learned of our shared values of acceptance and inclusivity.
Crossroads Church, an Alliance of Baptists’ congregational partner, has been welcoming and affirming of the LGBTQ community since its inception in 1999, so opening our doors to Queer Eye didn’t even require a second thought! The cast and crew repeatedly expressed gratitude for the use of our space, but it was our congregation that was honored.
One part of our vision statement is to “create sanctuary,” and we were grateful that for those five days we could create sanctuary for the cast and crew. If you’ve watched the first two seasons of Queer Eye, you know that some of the members of the Fab 5 have experienced firsthand the judgment and hatred towards the LGBTQ community that far too many churches continue to preach and practice.
In the first episode of Season 2 we see Bobby Berk, one of the Fab 5, unable to bring himself to even set foot in the sanctuary of a church because of the lack of love and acceptance he experienced as a teen when he came out as gay. So opening our doors to the cast and crew of Queer Eye wasn’t solely about giving them a place to rest their feet. It also was about giving them a place to rest their spirits; to experience true sanctuary that welcomes all, that loves all, that affirms all.
In the opening episode of the show you hear Tan France say, “The original show was fighting for tolerance. Our fight is for acceptance.” One of the beautiful things about this show is that in each episode you witness these five truly fabulous men enter the lives of individuals who feel far from that same term – fabulous. But when they depart, lives have been transformed.
Each person walks away with a greater sense of their own worth and the confidence to take on that next step in their path. It may appear to some as just an updated look and redecorated home, but it is much more. There is one other greatly significant transformation though that takes place. Tolerance drops its arms that are holding the Fab 5 away and welcomes them in for a great big dose of love and acceptance. Individuals, some of whom admit they’ve had little exposure to the LGBTQ community, are filled with tears and words of gratitude and love as they say goodbye to the Fab 5 at the end of each episode. And for the Fab 5 it’s clear the feelings are mutual.
At Crossroads Church we recently revised our logo. As an affirmation of the power of relationships and the imprints we leave on one another, we invited our members to leave their “fingerprints” in bright colors all over an outline of our logo on a large canvas. When Karamo, Antoni, Jonathan, Bobby and Tan came by the church one day for lunch it was clear what needed to happen next. These five compassionate men are leaving fingerprints everywhere they go, not just in the lives of the people they feature on the show, but upon everyone they meet or who watches an episode of Queer Eye.
They are teaching us about love and acceptance. And so, there was no question about it. We wanted the Fab 5 to leave their fingerprints on our canvas, as a reminder of the imprint of love they are leaving here in Kansas City, and all over the world.
Stephanie Swanson is pastor of Crossroads Church in Kansas City, Mo., an Alliance of Baptists’ congregational partner.