Allies in Action finds common ground

The event worked to unite people and reveal similar interests.

Allies in Action took another step to create change for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning community by meeting with members of the St. Thomas More Newman Catholic Center and other religious denominations on Tuesday.

The event, called Common Ground, served to show members of AIA and the Newman Center their similar interests as people, regardless of faith or sexual orientation.

AIA invited every religious organization on campus, and there were many denominations present, AIA President Lance Pierce said. More than 30 people attended.

"Hopefully, it bridged two groups that have in the past been separated," Pierce said.

AIA Spiritual Chairwoman Yantezia Patrick planned the event.

"The goal is to meet together and talk, so we can find the things that unite us as people," Patrick said.

Patrick said when people do not take the time to get to know someone else based on their differences, they miss out on a great person.

"The beliefs we have as people affect the way we view the world or people," Patrick said. "But there are so many other things that unite us as people."

To begin the event, Pierce facilitated introductions by organizing everyone in the fashion of speed dating. Rotating every minute, AIA and Newman Center members conversed about whatever came to mind.

Angelle Hall is the Director of Campus Ministry at the Newman Center. When paired up with AIA Secretary Monica Wolff, the first thing she noticed was Wolff's shirt.

Wolff's Freshman Interest Group shirt had a picture of a bass fish playing a bass guitar. That led Hall to mention her husband is a musician, and a conversation was born.

From there, everyone moved into groups of five. After brief introductions, the discussion topic moved to directly address tension between sexuality and spirituality, or lack thereof.

Senior Sean Dwyer said his priest at the Newman Center was one of the first people he came out to at MU. The priest, he said, was supportive of him.

"I was really impressed with Newman's ministry," Dwyer said. "You have to find your spot and embrace it."

Following group discussions, everyone came together to reflect on the event and the progress people made. They had already developed inside jokes, Pierce said.

"Everyone was laughing," Pierce said. "There were no tense moments. Everyone became really good friends and we were all on the same page."

Pierce said the event was a success.

"There was a high energy in the room," Pierce said. "Everyone felt very comfortable."

The event was important because it bridged the gap between sexuality and spirituality, Pierce said.

"Some people have the perception that you can be queer or spiritual," Pierce said. "That's untrue. There are plenty of people who are both queer and spiritual."

According to the Chancellor's Diversity Initiative Web site, the Newman Center is one of several LGBTQ-friendly religious centers at MU. Others include the Christ the King Agape Church, Rock Bridge Christian Church, the Unitarian-Universalist Church and Unity Center.

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