I first met Reg when I was 20-something. I was living in Hobart and passionately involved in the local Adventist church. Reg was a few years younger, and he and his family also were attending the same church. I remember he was a quiet guy and a great team player, always eager to please. Reg was in our social group. A few years younger, he felt more comfortable with us young-marrieds than he did with the youth group guys more his own age. He was reliable and dependable. There was never any arguments or complaints about not getting his own way. When he joined the drama group I noticed he became more extroverted with the creative outlet that drama provided. He loved to sing and volunteered for the role of a singer in the music group. He was a gentle soul who was sensitive and easy to get along with.
Reg also found himself the butt of mean jokes played by some of the guys in the church youth scene. He owned an odd sort of car – old and funky – and while he was on a bushwalk the guys manoeuvred it between two big trees – end to end – which left about 2 inches at either end between the car and the trees. All the guys had buggered off home and left Reg to fend for himself. Reg had trouble getting his car out of such a tight spot and had trouble on the way home with multiple flat tyres for some reason.
He was openly attacked by an older church member during a church meeting, while speaking publicly. It was one of those moments when everyone goes quiet and feels sorry for the person under attack. I don’t remember at all what Reg was saying, but I remember the hostile intent targeted at Reg. But Reg was gracious and calm. I remember him responding, “I can see your point”. When I think of the hostility of some of the church people back then I still cringe.
After a time Reg moved to Melbourne and we lost contact. After a long and difficult time of conflict within the general church population I left and moved on too. Years later I learned that Reg was gay. This did not surprise me at all. He was just a little different – although not so much that it really stuck out.
In the meantime I found myself studying ministry at an inter-denominational bible college and furiously churning out attitudes and essays on things like the eschatological significance of the evils of homosexuality. About the same time I found myself in a conflict situation in the Pentecostal church which I had invested my life in and my attempts at resolution only made things worse. After a time I became overwhelmed by a sense of rejection from significant people which effectively excluded me from my church community. It was excruciating and soul destroying. The most painful time of my life. And I found myself church-less, friendless, and grappling with my faith and beliefs. To add insult to injury, I found that I was judged for not attending church anymore. It was not like I chose to leave. It was that I just couldn’t stay in an environment where I had been rejected.
About a year ago I found Reg on Facebook and we hooked up as friends. We invited him for dinner one evening when he was in town. Within 30 seconds of his arrival I could tell Reg was a reflective and thoughtful person. Someone who struck me as a good listener, interested in people with excellent social skills. He was comfortable in his own skin, and very much a spiritually active guy who cared about others a lot. During the evening I was delighted to discover his willing transparency – a person who had come to accept himself as gay and who was gracious and generous in his attitudes towards others who have rejected him for his gayness. I was interested in his story and found Reg only too happy to talk.
So we share something in common – Reg and I.
Both of us have experienced rejection and acceptance and found both in unexpected places.
I have Reg’s permission to tell some of his story. Click here for Part 2 of There’s something about Reg.