by Brian Hayes, Staff Writer

I am a member of this institution for several reasons, chiefly being that here, individual identity is held in highest regard. If you haven’t already noticed, who you are matters here. In fact, it is central to everything we are about. At Wake Div, where you’ve come from, how you were raised, your family dynamics, what you believe, what you’ve experienced, who you’ve encountered (and more) are not to be pushed aside to do theology and prepare for ministry. Rather, you are encouraged to bring all of that—every element of who you are—unashamedly to God’s table.

It is in this environment over the past two years that I have finally been forced to recognize who I am. Having been asked to articulate my identity several times, I have learned to own the image of God expressed through me. I have slowly learned that I do not have to hide who I really am. My sincerest hope is that you learn that too.

Before coming to this school, so many of us have felt like we had to hide. Those who have a sexual orientation that those around them disapprove of have not talked about it. Those who identify as a gender that doesn’t match their sex have kept their feelings secret to avoid being ridiculed. Those who have developed theological beliefs that oppose those of church, family, or colleagues have kept quiet. Those who dream of a completely reimagined world with different values and ideals have remained silent for fear of being deemed “radical.” Those who have been told that their voices don’t matter have kept their thoughts to themselves. Many of us have developed the mistaken belief that if people really knew who we were, we would be unloved and cast aside. Unfortunately, sometimes that does happen. But in communities where God’s inclusive and expansive Kingdom is evident, things are different. In my experience, Wake Div is one of those communities. While we sometimes fail to fulfill the potential of our community, we strive diligently for everything about who you are to be deeply valued here.

So here at this place, I implore you to hide no more. Without your willingness to claim and reveal your identity, this community misses out on a unique expression of the Sacred. God needs to be seen through you. I sincerely invite you to open yourself up fully to God and to this community in your divinity school journey. Make yourself vulnerable and fall into the support and love offered here. Personally, it took me way too long to believe that people would catch me when I fall. I hope you won’t waste any time trying to stand on your own when your knees are weak and feet are weary from a long day’s travels. At Wake Div, God is prepared to catch you through the arms of people you may never have imagined you would fall into. That is the beauty of the Kingdom I have experienced here.

I’d like to take this chance to let you know that each issue of The Tablet includes a column entitled “Why I Am A…” This column provides an opportunity for anyone who desires to write about his or her identity. Articles in the past have often been focused on denominational affiliation (such as “Why I Am A…CBF Baptist”), but you are encouraged to stretch the title to encompass any aspect of your identity you feel is important to share. Remember: your voice needs to be heard and who you are is crucial to this community’s growth and understanding of God. You may volunteer to write this year by contacting Elizabeth Corney at Thank you for your contribution to this community simply by being you.