St. James Episcopal Church in Dexter is hosting a public reading of the children’s book, “I Am Jazz” by Jazz Jennings, at their Coffee & Conversation Hour this Thursday, Feb. 28. The doors open at 6:30 pm with the reading at 7:00 pm.
The book is the autobiographical story of Jennings’ childhood struggle with gender identity. She uses her own story with its struggles and triumphs as a backdrop to send kids the message to be kind and accepting of one another.
Rev. Carol Mader explains the church’s passion for inclusion at all levels began several years ago. “We heard a few years ago from a Dexter High School student who told us, ‘If you’re gay, you have to go to church in Ann Arbor, because there’s no churches here, that will accept you if you’re gay,’” she says. “We thought we could do something about that.
Saint James began conversations around the need in the Dexter community to provide a space and activities for youth who may feel marginalized based on their gender identity.
“We worked with youth leaders in the high school and the middle schools to discern the need to let the kids know that St. James provides a gathering place for LGBTQ+ youth and their allies,” says church member Erin Butler-Pevin. “This is a space where the kids can interact with each other, play games, share stories and where they know the youth and adults who surround them are affirming and support them without question.”
Kids came, and they named their group “Open Hearts Club” (OHC). The club meets on a monthly basis. When OHC learned that there would be a nationwide reading of “I Am Jazz”, they wanted to get involved knowing that when youth who identify as gender-expansive feel affirmed, their risk for depression, anxiety, suicide and other negative mental health outcomes is greatly reduced.
“Together we can build more supportive spaces at school, at home, and in our communities for transgender and non-binary youth across the country,” says Erin.
“We are called to do it,” says Rev. Mader. “We are an inclusive church and think we can make a difference in some kids’ lives.”
“I Am Jazz” will be read by two Dexter area youth. Everyone of all ages is welcome to come and join in the coffee and conversation.