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Meet Katie Hays of Galileo Church in Tarrant County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Katie Hays.

Katie, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Galileo Church was born just over four years ago as an experiment in creating a community of belonging for spiritual refugees — those for whom church has become boring, irrelevant, exclusive, or even painful. We knew that traditional Christianity was leaving out (or pushing out) very young adults as well as LGBTQ+ people and the people who love them. We wanted to see if it’s possible to recover what’s best about the Christian faith without the institutional trappings that turn off Millennials; we wanted to see what it’s like to start a congregation that has inclusion of all people as an explicit priority so that we never have to debate anyone’s status before God.

Galileo Church is now much more than an experiment. It is a close-knit but ever-changing constellation of fascinating human beings who share their best gifts with each other and the world, and who are journeying together on a Christ-following (but not mean or exclusive) path toward the heart of God. We believe fewer things than we used to, doctrinally speaking, but the small set of core commitments we’ve got, we believe in our bones. We believe that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice, and we aim to shape our lives to meet God’s desires for ourselves and our worldwide neighbors.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Galileo Church is in its fourth worship space in four years. We’ve been evicted twice, when our landlords figured out just how queer we are — meaning, that our membership includes LGBTQ+ persons (lots, along with lots of allies, but don’t ask how many of each, because we’re not counting like that). We’re a church that doesn’t own property in part because we can’t afford that, but in part because we have a commitment to a kind of life together that would never permit us to spend money in ownership of real estate. We prefer to spend our resources on life together in the style of Jesus — which means food, drink, and road trips with our friends.

And we’ve had growing pains each time we’ve had to “scale up” to accommodate a new iteration of our community’s size. Church with 30 people is very different from church with 60 people, or 90, or 120; and we’ve needed to shift our attention to create new infrastructure all along the way.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Galileo Church – what should we know?
Galileo Church has named four Missional Priorities that help us know what we should say “yes” to, and empowers us to say a hearty “no” to lots of stuff that might be terrific, but isn’t ours to do. We: (1) do justice for LGBTQ+ people; (2) do kindness for people with mental illness, or in emotional distress, and celebrate neurodiversity; (3) do beauty for our God-Who-Is-Beautiful; and (4) do real relationship, no bullshit, ever. We work really hard on all these priorities, trying not to overpromise (“kindness” is quite different from “justice,” for example) and trying to keep clear about what forms of life (rather than what programs or events) will help us achieve these priorities. Most religious communities, in our experiences, are more vague about what they’re working on, or even hide self-serving agendas in broad categories like “love” and “welcome.” We are doing our best to be clear, with ourselves and our neighbors, about what we think our church is *for*.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Galileo Church is only “successful” in so far as we are providing some protected space for each other to work through our Christian faith commitments, and experiment with what it looks like to embody those commitments in communal life. It’s a small enough community that it requires some effort from everyone to keep it going, even if that effort is simply the steadfast commitment to keep showing up. Because we don’t own space, the church kind of evaporates when we disassemble on Sunday nights. It’s only by showing up again for the next gathering that we re-assemble the shelter that we can be for each other.

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Galileo Church

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