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In the middle of a pandemic, I felt alone and disconnected. A warm and welcoming church in Normal Heights changed everything (SD Union-Tribune)

by Micah Renner
Jan. 30, 2022

It started with a direct message in the fall of 2020.

I had not been raised in the church but rather found faith in Christianity as an adult. I chose to attend a small, private Christian college in 2019 after completing Army Basic Training. It was there that the Bible was introduced to me as a source of the strength and compassion I so desperately needed to survive being away from home for the first time.

Coming into these beliefs as an adult meant that there was a lot of nuance to being Christian, which I was constantly playing catch up on. I started school just excited to be learning in a place where I would be surrounded by people who believed in the same unconditionally loving God I had come to know.

When the pandemic hit, I had been in my second semester and was already struggling to stay connected both to my faith and the people I was interacting with on campus.

Any moment where I slowed down enough, the painful realities of disconnection confronted me. That fall was also the lead up to me officially coming out as a transgender man, which further complicated what I was able to make out of my relationship to God and the church.

I heard about Normal Heights United Methodist (NHUnited) from several of my university’s alumni and, as anyone raised with social media does, looked them up on Instagram. From the pride flag hanging outside the church in their profile photo to the bio that read “A progressive faith community where all are welcome, loved AND affirmed,” I thought it had to be worth a shot.