Clergy Lunches


Welcome to POFEV's Clergy Lunches, where ministry colleagues engage each other about important issues relating to our congregations and LGBT Virginians. Join us soon!!

Clergy Lunches Continue; Mark Byrd Honored

Recently, POFEV President Robin Gorsline joined with clergy hosts in Richmond and Norfolk to break bread with area clergy.  And he will join with others, as well as Kirsten Bokenkamp of Equality Virginia, at a NoVA clergy lunch on December 11 in Arlington.

Hampton_Roads_clergy_lunch_Nov_2013.jpgFive clergy gathered on November 21 at New Life Metropolitan Community Church in Norfolk for the first Hampton Roads/Tidewater POFEV Clergy Lunch. All present agreed it is only a beginning, and made plans to meet again on January 9 at Hilton Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Newport News.

Mark_Byrd_honor_presentation.jpgOur host was Rev. Mark Byrd, newly elected Pastor at New Life MCC—and the lunch conversation was interrupted by the arrival of a team from Old Dominion University to present Mark with this year's "ODU Diversity Champion Award."  It is given out to a member of the community-at-large, and is designed to honor and celebrate those individuals who "encourage and advance the principles of inclusive excellence.” Pastor Mark was singled out by the university community for his tireless efforts in encouraging and advancing LGBTQ equality (and he has made a big difference in that in just two years he served as the interim pastor at New Life!).  President Robin and New Life member and minister Jim Whalen, who is helping POFEV online and in the Hampton Roads area as a coordinator, were glad to work with ODU faculty member Tom Chapman, who nominated Mark, to facilitate the presentation (picture shows, l-r, ODU representative, Rev. Mark Byrd, and ODU faculty member, and New Life MCC member, Tom Chapman). 

The group discussion included a description of the work of POFEV, with special emphasis on “Witness for Love” on February 14. All present agreed to participate in the courthouses in their communities and to find others in their congregations to help with the organization of the events in area courthouses. They also shared stories about their personal journeys of becoming involved in equality work.  Their sharing led Robin to ask them if they would be willing to participate in a new program of videotaped clergy stories—a resource to help others find their own way.

Robin also took pictures of those present to add to the cache of “Today’s Witness for Love” photos (see related article).

lunch_basics.jpgFive clergy also gathered on November 19 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Richmond and talked about legislation in the 2014 General Assembly and continued to make plans for the area’s POFEV “Witness for Love” observances. Those present committed to be at Richmond City, and Henrico and Chesterfield Counties, and to encourage members of their congregations to join them at one of these, or to participate at other area county courthouses in Hanover and Powhatan Counties, as well as the City of Petersburg, and others on February 14.  This was the second lunch in Richmond, and the next is planned for January 21 (the third Tuesday of each month is the group’s designated time).  

The NoVA lunch on December 11 will feature a discussion by Robin and Kirsten Bokenkamp of Equality Virginia about the recent election, the upcoming legislative session, as well as the Witness for Love on February 14. This lunch will be hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Arlington, and our NoVA Team of Elizabeth Fogarty, Rhonda  Buckner, and Melissa Capers. 

Upcoming Lunches


 December 11: NoVA

 Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Arlington 

 4444 Arlington Blvd. 

 Focus: 2014 Legislative Notes & Plans for February 14

 12 noon - 1:30 pm 

January 9: Hampton Roads/Tidewater

 Hilton Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

 100 James River Avenue

 Newport News,  VA

 Focus: Getting to Know You . . .  better! And plans for February 14

 12 noon - 1:30 pm 

January 21: Richmond

St. Mark's Episcopal Church

520 North Boulevard

Richmond, VA

12 noon - 1:30 pm

 Focus: Getting to Know You . . . . even better! And plans for February 14 

Gone_for_Lunch.gifWherever you are on the journey toward inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the life of your congregation, you are warmly welcomed.

Share in fellowship with colleagues, grow in knowledge and awareness of LGBT people and their families, find new resources for ministry. All this, and a good lunch, too! 

Clergy Lunches Help POFEV Grow, Spiritual Leaders Connect and Learn

For almost a year now, almost every month, clergy in Northern Virginia—NoVA—have been gathering for a special time, sharing a meal and business cards and stories, and focusing on a topic of interest and concern relating to the lives of LGBT Virginians and issues that affect them.

lunch.jpgThese gatherings are the brainchild, and special project, of a trio of non-clergy: Elizabeth Fogarty, Rhonda Buckner, and Melissa Capers (although as of August, Melissa is studying at Virginia Theological Seminary, so she now is more of a hybrid). They sometimes call themselves the “worker bees” of POFEV in NoVA, and others call them our NoVA Strategy and Operations Team.

As of October 22, clergy lunches have begun in the Richmond/Central VA area, and on November 21, the first will be held in Hampton Roads (two days after the second one in Richmond on November 19).  One thing we are looking for are folks like Elizabeth, Rhonda, and Melissa! We have one wonderful facilitator in Richmond, Alexandria Hawkins, but she and President Robin Gorsline could use some help! You can contact Robin by email at robin.gorsline[at] or by phone at 804-519-3196. 

There are no rules about participation: some clergy come already fully committed and engaged in the work for equality, others come to feel their way into understanding more and begin to consider how they, and their congregation, might wish to become involved—within their community and possibly even beyond. All traditions are welcome. The gatherings are typically held at a house of worship—moving month by month so that different areas and traditions are highlighted.

Transgender_Day_of_Remembrance_2013.jpgThe lunches feature topics suggested by clergy as well as topics that are pertinent to the calendar. For example, in anticipation of the annual observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance (a time set aside to remember those who have died in the past year due to violence directed at transgender people) on November 20, the NoVA lunch on October 24 featured a panel of transgender Virginians, led by Rev. Emma Chattin, who facilitates Transformations, a ministry of the Metropolitan Community Church of Northern Virginia.

And at the Richmond lunch two days earlier, Robin handed out some brief printed information about web links and programs for religious congregations seeking to be more open and affirming of transgender persons. Rev. Emma offered some very special handouts at the NoVA lunch, and we hope to make all this available very soon at 

This is not the only time the NoVA lunch has focused on gender identity and expression issues. Earlier this year, a parent spoke to the assembled clergy about the family journey with a young child who chooses to dress in what most would consider “gender variant” attire. The parent shared stories about the child’s school experiences as well as praise for the way their church community and pastor have dealt with the situation.

In both cases, those present said they learned much—what to do and say, and what not to do and say, and ways to think anew about gender and change.  

Lunches are not limited to gender issues, of course. We recently heard State Senator Adam Ebbin talk about General Assembly processes, and earlier a panel of clergy spoke about the various meanings of “pride.” Another time, several clergy led a discussion about how to incorporate LGBT individuals and families in religious education. In all cases, there is time for questions and answers, and thoughtful discussion.

Building_Bridges.gifPOFEV is committed to helping spiritual leaders of all traditions learn more about LGBT life and concerns, how to incorporate new understandings in the life of their communities, and to promote not only understanding but also faith-based advocacy within faith communities and the larger world for the well-being of all LGBT persons, and their families (children and adults) and friends.

If you want to be part of this positive and engaging program, or you know a clergy person or other spiritual leader (Quakers, for example do not ordain clergy and other communities may be more informal about the designations—all are welcome) whom you think would benefit from participation, please contact Robin or Elizabeth Fogarty. Or pass on this information and encourage them to contact Elizabeth (for NoVA) or Robin (for Richmond/Central VA and Hampton Roads).  Next year, we hope for a western group, too. Or maybe two!

It’s all part of the work of POFEV to create conversation and community that lead to equality and inclusion for all—helping to create a new Virginia of greater openness and welcome. 

POFEV (People of Faith for Equality in Virginia), P.O. Box 4919, Richmond, VA 23220 •