Category Archives: Video

The Gay Christian Network Conference 2017 Recap: Reflections, Setlist, and Videos! #GCNconf

Hey Friends! 

I had an amazing time leading worship at the 2017 GCN Conference.  A few folks have asked about my experience as well as a copy of the set lists so here we go!  

I’m still in awe. I’m writing this weeks after the conference and the awe of being asked to serve as worship leader for this conference still amazes me.  For those who don’t know my story, I’m someone who was told by church leaders that God would never fully use me because I’m gay or that people would never see me as a man of God because of my sexuality.  Years later I’m seeing every one of those words fall to the ground as amazing opportunities to lead and be an advocate for LGBTQ inclusion in churches continue spring up on my path. 

I also had the honor of assembling a world-class team of LGBTQ people and allies. Many of us share the similar stories of being wounded by churches and church leaders and being part of an event like this – while sometimes difficult – is cathartic and redemptive in ways that we can’t fully describe.  When possible I’ll do follow-up posts with stories that I have permission to share.

For those who couldn’t be at the conference or who missed the live stream, videos are here! Our team led worship for the first three general sessions of the conference, which all can be viewed on GCN’s YouTube page (Session 1, Session 2Session 3, Session 4 – Liturgical Worship).  Additionally, please enjoy the keynote speakers who’s talks are also on these videos.

I’ve created a Spotify playlist with most of the songs we shared. You can follow that playlist here

I wanted to be very intentional about the song selections for the conference. With 1400 people in attendance all coming from different churches, denominations, theological leanings, and musical preferences, creating a worship experience for us to have TOGETHER required some intentionality.  Fortunately, this is something that I strive to do year-round, GCN being no different. Our selections tried to incorporate songs that would be familiar when possible or easy to pick-up and follow-along if it was your first time singing it.  The songs range from hymns to gospel to contemporary Christian music and included a bilingual worship song.  We also tried to be mindful of the messages and language of each song to be sure that the sets were as accessible to a wide an audience as possible.  I’m still learning and there are lots of places where I can do better at this, but I think it’s worth the extra effort. 

One of the songs that are not on Spotify is “Room For Us All” by The Many.  In 2016 I started singing with this group and I LOVE the music that we’re making together. You may download the song for free here along with other music from The Plural Guild.  Something I secretly hoped for while we were singing this song is that while we repeat the chorus of “We are on this earth to love” that people would hold hands or lock arms and sing this… and it happened! It’s the little things that make my heart glad. 🙂

Below is the written setlist and after that some cameraphone photos and screen shots of what people shared about the conference on Twitter. 

Thanks for following my grand adventure and stay tuned for more! 

Session 1 – Thursday:

  • Lord, You’re Worthy
  • Medley: Set A Fire, Always, Ever Be, Simple Gospel
  • My World Needs You
  • You Are Good (in Spanish and English)

Session 2 – Friday:

  • Reprise of “You Are Good”
  • For Those Tears I Died
  • Simple Gospel
  • In Christ Alone with On Christ The Solid Rock
  • Glorious

Session 3 – Saturday:

  • Here’s My Heart
  • Deep Cries Out
  • Old School Medley: We Bring The Sacrifice of Praise, In The Name of Jesus, Victory is Mine, 
  • “Here’s My Heart” (Reprise)
  • My World Needs You (Reprise) with Isaiah 58 Spoken Word
  •  Room For Us All
  • Hold Us Together 

Session 3 – Continued at Offering: 

  • Chase Away my Dark
  • It Is Well

“Back then, my RIGHT NOW seemed impossible!” – My Testimony at Urban Village Church

This morning I had the privilege of sharing a tiny bit of my testimony at Urban Village Church.   Check it out!

Here’s what I originally wrote:

I’m Darren, born and raised here in Chicago on the South side and I currently live in East Garfield Park on the West side. I was raised as an only child but have a TON of cousins that were like siblings… Siblings that could go away after they broke my toys. 

Growing up, one of my cousins – Mike – was ALWAYS getting in trouble.  It wasn’t that Mike was necessarily up to no good. In fact, Mike was usually somewhere being quiet while his younger brothers and the rest of the cousins were wreaking havoc. But Mike’s father (big Mike) had this idea that because Mike was the oldest of his kids, he was always to be “responsible” for everything that went on.  Therefore, anytime anything happened, Mike was the one getting yelled at first.  It became a running gag for us.  To this day we look at Mike ask why he let the most unrelated thing happens.  
 
That’s a humorous way of thinking about how sometimes things that happen to us, aren’t always our fault or even about us. In my own life, I’ve seen this in in a few ways. While my parents weren’t like Mike’s Dad, I did learn early on that stuff happens — these things, for better or worse, impact me and others. 
 
About 16 years ago, In the church I attended during and after college, I had some of the best and worst experiences of my life.  In college I co-founded a campus ministry and would be ordained only 8 months after it’s launch.  This ministry had a profound impact on the university campus but it would be years before we began to realize how toxic that church was.  One day when I have more time I can tell you about how during this season I struggled to sort out my sexual orientation and my faith; How I was taught to be ashamed of my own testimony. How at one point I was living in the basement of a church at the direction of it’s  leadership and cut off from my school, my business, friends, and even family for the sake of “getting delivered” from homosexuality. All of that is the back story to what God would one day do to transform my experiences into something that would help countless others. 
 
You see, that experience set me up for a few things. Here’s three of them:
 
1) I learned that my experiences matter.  The things that happened to me aren’t isolated or even rare.  Lots of people have been wounded in church and something needs to change.  
 
2) I developed an amazing amount of compassion and patience for people who use religion or their power to control and manipulate others. I think fear and ignorance drive people to do terrible things to others.  However, Love Wins over fear. 
 
3) I realized that I could affect change.  Equipped with nothing more than my story and my faith, I help leaders, parents, and friends of LGBTQ+ people understand the negative ways they may have impacted people like me. Now, because of my willingness to be vulnerable with my experiences, churches and institutions are changing their policies, families are reconciling with estranged loved ones, and communities are becoming safer places for everyone. 
 
I think there’s something powerful about the way that our stories can work together for the greater good.  The trauma that at one point made me despair life is now the fuel for my ongoing work for justice, inclusion, and reconciliation.  It’s not easy and most of the time there are road blocks. I have countless frustrating and triggering conversations – sometimes with people who totally ignore or disregard me.  There even are times where it feels like things simply won’t get better. But that’s when I have to pause and take a long view of what’s happened up until now.  I’m reminded of how back then, my RIGHT NOW seemed impossible!  
 
I don’t believe that God necessarily sets us up for bad experiences, but I’m confident that God eventually makes something beautiful out of them.  I’m hopeful that when I go through hard times that something in that experience will be useful for someone else along the way.  I believe that like the song we sang earlier, when I give myself away, that God would use my giving for something awesome. 

Why we said “I’m Sorry” at Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade

Hey Friends and Family,

I just wanted to share a blog post that beautifully sums up the “I’m Sorry” campaign I participated in at the Gay Pride parade in Chicago this past Sunday with The Marin Foundation.  The echoing reactions have been powerful and people across the country have been inspired to take action toward reconciliation with the Gay community.

From Nathan’s Blog Post:


“What I saw and experienced at Pride 2010 was the beginning of reconciliation. It was in the shocked faces of gay men and women who did not ever think Christians would apologize to them.”

Photo Credit: Michelle at maladjustedmedia.com Continue reading Why we said “I’m Sorry” at Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade

The Power (and Danger) of a Single Story

LINK: sat’day riddymz: the Danger of a Single Story «.

Check out the above link to AfroSpear – a blog where I found powerful yet simple video that inspired this post.

I’m becoming more and more interested in the dynamics of story. Not just in literary form but also in music, drama, video, and cultural traditions.  Our worldviews are built on the stories we’ve heard and accepted.  History exists as a collection of stories.  We long to live the kind of life that makes a great story someday after we’re gone.

What also must be considered is the fact that stories are often told from a single perspective.  We often gain new understanding when we hear a story from another perspective – even if the story has been told to us for ages.