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Queer workshops to focus on enriching spirituality

Many queer people are faced with spiritual emptiness and abandonment after coming out and feeling rejected by their faiths, said Martha Hales, an interfaith minister. As part of a broader goal of helping queers in all aspects of life, she is working with the Utah Pride Center to sponsor a series of free workshops called “Engage your Spiritual SAGE.”

On March 18, April 15, May 20 and June 24, from 2-5 p.m., at the Utah Pride Center, 361 N. 300 West, the workshops are open to people of all ages, orientations and gender identities.

“We’ve encountered that many queer people, whether originally from the Mormon faith or not, feel rejected by their faith and equate that with being rejected by God and spirituality,” Hales said. “But spirituality and religion are not the same thing. We want to help people understand that and understand how to reclaim their spirituality.”

The workshops, which are open to all faiths, will follow a general format of topics for discussion, but will not be formal occasions, and in place of sermons will be group activities.

“We want to help people on their own spiritual journey. We won’t be advocating any one spiritual belief or practice,” Hales said. “LGBTQ people often have a lot of pain and scars from their previous religious experiences. But spirituality is such an important aspect of life and we can all come together and work on building a community of growth.”

Participants in the workshop will find others with shared experiences in Mormonism and other religions, she said. Hales comes from a Mormon background and left the church in the ’80s. Learning to trust God and understand her own relationship with deity was a difficult process and helping others work through the issues is an important goal for her.

“The main requirement is a desire for a richer spiritual life and a willingness to explore how our past experiences and beliefs may be getting in the way of that,” Hales said. “It’s an experiential group. There will be very little lecturing about theories. Instead, we’ll be engaging in activities that help us discover more about ourselves and exploring how to create the spiritual life we desire. There will be a lot of talking and sharing and supporting each other as group members, with the facilitators helping to create a safe space in which to do this and pacing the discussion so that we get to cover all of the important stuff.”

After a career-developing corporate training, Hales studied to become an interfaith spiritual director and finds great joy in supporting others on their spiritual path.

“This group is for people from all religious backgrounds and all current religious interests – East, West, nature-based, agnostic, whatever. The main requirement is a desire for a richer spiritual life and a willingness to explore how our past experiences and beliefs may be getting in the way of that,” Hales said.

Space for the workshops is limited. For more information and to reserve a spot, call Martha Hales 801-532-3567 or email [email protected].

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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