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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Conversion therapy doc sparks healing conversation in Hyde Park

by Jess Savage
2023-04-17

This article shared 3049 times since Mon Apr 17, 2023
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On April 15, United Church of Hyde Park, 1448 E. 53rd St., hosted a showing of Pray Away, an Emmy-nominated 2021 documentary depicting the complex harms from conversion therapy. The event was hosted by United Church's Rev. Charing Wei-Jen Chen.

Throughout the challenging documentary, which included descriptions of self harm, deep self-hatred and personal experiences of intense isolation as a result of conversion therapy practices, viewers were wiping away tears, softly whispering phrases of support, and at times, exclaiming their collective frustration.

Pray Away is currently touring across the country as part of an impact campaign to shed light on the dangers of conversion therapy; so far the film has been shown in Atlanta; Lake Worth, Florida; Austin, Texas; Oklahoma City; and Chicago. Facilitator Shae Washington said that "getting a chance to bring folks together and standing against conversion therapy has been powerful." A care team was on site to support any viewers who might have struggled with the contents of the documentary.

Washington mentions that "in each of the cities [that the film played in], the context has been so different." The goal of showing the film in Chicago was to "come together in community, to show even more of an affirmative presence, and to just be a resource" for anyone who has experienced conversion therapy, or who is interested in taking action against its prevalence in Christian culture.

Following the showing, Washington moderated a panel discussion with four participants: Illinois state Rep. Laura Faver Dias; Pastor Jamie Frazier of Lighthouse Church; conversion therapy survivor Casey Gustafson; and Tasha Mitchell, a conversion therapy survivor and pastor at New Story Church.

Each panelist told stories of their experience with conversion therapy, or in Dias' case, her work to pass HB 2572, a bill that, among other things, prevents state funding from heading to churches engaging in conversion therapy.

In light of ongoing anti-LGBT legislation moving through state governments, Washington lamented that conversion therapy's "false theology connects to so many attacks against trans and LGBTQ people."

The event closed with a gentle call to action from Rev. Jacki Belile of Living Well Ministries, who is also a pastor at Eden United Church of Christ: "All we needed... was to belong" she said, before urging the audience to turn to their own spaces of faith and start talking about the harms of conversion therapy.


This article shared 3049 times since Mon Apr 17, 2023
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