November 2021
Joy and Gratitude

Bold, Magnificent and True

Tuesdays at 11 am on YouTube, Philip DeVaul, rector of Church of the Redeemer in Cincinnati, and Kira Austin-Young, priest-in-charge at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Nashville, host Are You There God? It’s Kira & Phil. In this segment from September 14, 2021, Paul and Redeemer parishioner Max Firesheets discuss Max’s journey and faith as a transgendered person and the liturgy celebrating that journey with joy.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,” Mary cries out. I’ve misinterpreted her words far too often, as if Mary is simply saying she’s extremely happy. But the words aren’t about her feelings. They’re about her soul – her core identity, the essence of her being. Mary’s soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. Like the Psalmist, who writes that the very heavens declare God’s glory, simply by being themselves, Mary’s saying that her soul, her being, the simple fact of her being herself, is a testament to God’s greatness. This is bold. It is magnificent. And it is true. Mary speaks the truth.

When my parishioner and friend Max told me they were preparing to change their name, they asked if the church would be willing to recognize that change liturgically. This was the culmination of a journey Max and our church had been taking together for some time. The Church of the Redeemer walked with Max and their family through a divorce, through Max’s discernment of their gender and sexuality and through Max’s affirmation of themselves as transgender. And while Redeemer has identified itself as LGBTQ+ affirming for some time, Max’s journey was a first for us as a worshiping community. And it was a first for me as a priest. I have learned so much about faithfulness from Max – about Max’s faithfulness, yes – but also about the faithfulness of God.

Throughout our journey, it is God who has been faithful to us, who has stuck with us and guided us when we weren’t sure what the next step would be. I have seen Max respond to and embody God’s faithfulness. I hope Max has seen God’s faithfulness in their church.

So when Max asked if we could recognize their name within the liturgy of the church, the answer was yes, because how could it not be? We had come to see that the simple fact of Max being themselves was a testament to God’s greatness. Max’s insistence was bold, magnificent and true. What you’ll see here is a bit of how God was working in our shared life, as the people of Redeemer stood shoulder to shoulder with Max in Jesus’ name, renewed our Baptismal Covenant and proclaimed the greatness of the Lord, whose faithfulness is without end.

The Rev. Philip DeVaul is currently serving as Rector at The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Cincinnati, OH.


This article is part of the November 2021 Vestry Papers issue on Joy and Gratitude