Sarah Elizabeth Smith
My name is Sarah–I’m a sixth generation Oklahoman. I wear my great-great-grandmother’s wedding ring who came over from Germany to settle here after the land run and the Trail of Tears. Both sides of my family were ranchers, educators, petroleum engineers, musicians, and medical professionals. They were Methodists and Baptists that somehow mixed well enough to marry–and then came me.
Growing up in the Methodist Church should have been a safer place to talk to a pastor about my questions of gender and sexuality, but it proved not to be so. My camp counselors outed me to my parents when I was 16 years old against my will, and left me with no support and nowhere to turn. I slid into a decade of depression and self loathing.
Thankfully, my education and experience at our country’s most prestigious Catholic School saved my life. I was recruited to play softball at the University of Notre Dame, and upon taking my first theology class, I fell deeply in love with the liturgical and intellectual tradition of the Church. I found a language and relationship with God that fed my soul and slowly brought me back to life.
Although my more evangelical roots where damaging to my Spirit, they did not take away my Center, my deep love of God and desire to get to know Her more. My desire to know God more led me to even more studies. I completed a Masters of Theological Studies at Vanderbilt University with the Carpenter Certificate in Religion, Gender, and Sexuality. During my time at Vandy, I received the Arcus Grant to work in a church in Nashville on LGTBQ issues and faith where I helped found their ongoing ministry, Launch Pad, for young adults experiencing homelessness. It was during this experience that mentors, colleagues and friends started to point out to me that I might be called to priesthood.
Today, I am back home in Oklahoma serving as the Coordinator of Media for the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, and am an Aspirant in the Holy Orders Process to become a priest. Throughout my studies and my pastoral field education, I learned that “God loves everyone–really–no exceptions.” This is the motto of Grace Episcopal Church in Yukon, Oklahoma, that is sponsoring me for ordination. Diversity is a gift from God. Who are we to limit God’s great Creation in the beautiful variety and non-binary life forms that exist?
Being queer is simply a reflection of the Creator who made me. It is one aspect of who I am and where I am from. God is not a specific gender or sexuality, either. In fact, God made them all, and they were Good. I consider myself UNCHANGED as a beloved child of God. God’s very Spirit lives inside each and everyone of us as our life Source, our Center and our Hope. If we want to access God in the most primordial place, all we need to do is look inside. She’s there waiting for us to learn we already are–perfect, whole, complete children of God.