I’m Skylar McVicar ’23, and I’m excited to present We Are Wildcats, a human interest column showcasing the inspiring things that make each and every Wildcat unique.
Q: What is your name, graduation year, and hometown?
A: Grace Cain, Class of 2020, Advance, North Carolina
Q: What is your favorite spot on or around campus?
A: I spend a lot of time in awkward corners on the top floor of the Union. I also really enjoy the student center of DCPC. You can swipe in and they have free drinks and snacks. It is a good study space with couches and such.
Q: Tell me a quick background about yourself.
A: So I grew up in a fairly small, fairly rural town in North Carolina. Not too far from here, actually about about an hour away. And I grew up with my parents and my two younger sisters who I am really, really close to, they are incredible. I grew up in a Presbytarian church and was always really involved and enjoyed that.
Q: How was your transition to campus religious life?
A: Transitioning to college was a major life step. Transitioning to college was tough because I had come out as gay my senior year of high school, and had been involved with church the whole time, and really loved being a part of that community, and had really seen some of the best of the church. I had seen church communities that just really care about each other, show up for each other, fight for justice, show mercy, and do all the great stuff that churches are supposed to do. But I grew up in a small town in the South, so I also experienced, frankly, some of the worst of the church. Growing up gay in the South is not always a Hallmark movie. And so, I really struggled to feel as though I could integrate those two aspects of my identity, especially because I always felt a little bit on the outside. I loved the church but I didn’t feel totally connected or totally accepted by this community. And so really my first two years of college were me figuring out how to navigate that intersection between two aspects of my identity that were crucial, important, and life giving. And there were times when I really struggled with it, and there were times where I really thought that there’s just no way I can even continue to be involved in church because it just can be so harmful and so painful to people that I really love and care about.
Q: How did you navigate the dichotomy between your two identities?
A: I eventually came to realize that I couldn’t keep the two aspects of my identity separate, and that both were vital. I needed to find a way to integrate the two in a way that was healthy and holy. So, one thing that really helped was speaking to other queer people of faith and queer pastures specifically. Prior to coming to Davidson, I had met maybe two queer people of faith and I had never met a queer pastor before. I thought of those two aspects of my identity as things that had to be separate. Like I could be in a religious space, but I would have to minimize being queer. Or, I could be in queer spaces and have to minimize the religion. But through conversations with queer pastors and queer people of faith that I met since being in college, I discovered a faith that is so deeply enriched and shaped by queer identity. Obviously, nothing is ever going to be perfect. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that whatever church you’re in is going to have its flaws and it’s going to have moments where it falls down. But I found a variety of faith that I think really works for me.
Q: What are some experiences you have had that have helped shape your identity?
A: The first time I ever thought you can be queer and be a person of faith at the same time was on June 26th, 2015. Marriage equality passed on that day while I was a camp counselor at a Christian summer camp. I was really nervous about it and didn’t know how people were going to react. It was the night of the all-camp dance, and a pride playlist was playing. Everyone was cheering and screaming because they were so excited that marriage equality had passed. And I had never seen a Christian space where people were actively celebrating queer identity. So that was really formative.
The summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I got a Chaplain’s Office grant to go abroad and meet queer pastors in the UK. So I spent a whole month wandering around totally by myself meeting gay pastors who were serving in a huge variety of settings. There were some who were in non-profits, some who were head pastors in big steeple churches, and some who founded tiny one-room churches that met in essentially a strip mall. I met a huge variety of people from a variety of faith traditions who were living out their faith in really authentic and wonderful ways. So that was really impactful to meet people who
were both queer and of faith and were living a happy life. Their lives impacted the world around them and made safe, welcoming, and progressive communities around them. That was really helpful because up until that point, I hadn’t met a ton of queer pastors. They all echoed that you need to have a community of queer people of faith who get the intricacies and joys of that experience. Up until that point, I had only seen being queer in religious spaces as something that was going to be really upsetting and a big challenge to overcome. But after that summer, I realized being queer in church can be fun and joyful.
Last summer, I did a Davidson ministry fellowship. I was an intern at this tiny Presbyterian Church in Baltimore. It has about 60 members. The head pastor is openly gay and she is the most phenomenal person in the world. She has been a wonderful mentor for me, and I spent a whole summer learning how to do ministry as a queer person from a queer person. She helped me navigate the intersection, as well as embrace it and use it as an essential part of who I am and who I want to be as a queer person in ministry.
Q: What are your future aspirations?
A: In the fall, I will be attending seminary where I will be getting a Masters of Divinity in a three year program. I can then use that to be a pastor, a chaplain, work for a non-profit, or other administrative jobs. After that, I see myself in ordained ministry.
Q: Do you have any tips for your peers?
A: The most important thing I learned in college is to realize that your value as a human being does not depend on how much you produce. I came into college with this idea that if I overcommitted and overexerted myself doing all the things you think you are supposed to do, then I would somehow be a better or more valuable person. That’s an idea that persists at Davidson. I’ve really come to realize that your life can be so much better once you realize you have intrinsic value as a human being, and you don’t have to do anything in order to consider yourself valuable and whole.