Calvin College: A Lesson in Hospitality
Our day at Calvin began at noon. As the bus pulled onto campus, we were greeted by a gaggle of students who had volunteered to be our hosts for the day. My host, Audrey, greeted me with a smile and a name-tag, and we sat down and began looking over an article she had brought with her, regarding pastoral care for “homosexuals.” She had underlined parts she thought I might like to take a look at, and we talked about it for a while, until we went to lunch.
At lunch, I sat at a table with a bunch of administrators from other schools who are on a tentative list of schools for next year. They were brimming with questions about our mission, and how we conduct ourselves on campus. One woman said she seemed surprised at how “well-behaved and polite” we were, given that some of the non-welcoming schools have painted us in a negative light. I explained how much easier it is to justify inhospitality when you slander character of the group you’re being inhospitable to. Most importantly, I stressed that we do indeed just want to start a conversation.
After lunch, my host and I went down to the campus café and had coffee, and talked to students. One of her friends had come by campus specifically to talk with an Equality Rider—he had been a student at Calvin, but had dropped out shortly after coming out as gay. I sat and talked with him, while several Riders and their hosts, and whoever else dropped by, had a knitting circle, perling and parlaying.
After a little while, we had a presentation scheduled, so we all made our way to the room where the presentation was to be given. It was standing-room only, with about 2 dozen people standing outside of the doorways, listening.
After the presentation, the floor was open for questions. I can say that I was extremely proud of the Calvin community for the depth of their questions, and for being willing to talk about the issues that face the transgender community. There were too many questions to address within our time limits, which was a shame.
After the presentation, we rushed over to the dining hall. I was seated at a table with my host, two students who were amazing, and four faculty members (including a PC(USA) pastor). We had a great discussion about marriage equality, and I felt as if we made some real progress toward understanding one another. I gave each person a card with my e-mail address on it, so we could keep the discussion going after the day was over.
Next we had a panel, where we were asked questions about how our trip had been. Again, the Calvin community surprised me with the depth of their questions. It was really difficult for me to see all these concerned students and faculty and remember that this school is in the top 20 worst schools for LGBT students to attend, according to the Princeton Review.
After dinner, a student came up to me and hugged me, thanked me for speaking with her gay friend, who was really attempting to reconcile his faith and his sexuality. She asked me for advice on what she could do to make the school better. I hope I had an impact on her, and through her, on the rest of the community. I hope the same for the rest of the Calvin community.