Because of (Not Despite) Who You Are
Church of the Resurrection | Sautee Nacoochee
Before entering Georgia Tech to study biomedical engineering, Sophie Alexander grew up in Sautee Nacoochee, with a population of 572. That valley town in north Georgia was a kind of wilderness for her. “I was very acutely aware that I was different,” she said. “It was hard for me to l fully accept and verbalize parts of myself.”
She attended preschool at Church of the Resurrection, which became her home parish and where she served as acolyte and crucifer. It’s 25 miles from Camp Mikell in Toccoa, and in high school, Alexander went to weekend youth retreats like New Beginnings and Happening.
“This community of unconditional love was not something that I had experienced fully until I started going to those weekends,” she said. “And I think that really opened my eyes to who God is, and who God calls me and the people in my community to be.”
To her, God’s love is “just so much bigger than anything that you could be experiencing, from anything that you think you should be ashamed of, from anything that’s holding you back, from anything that other people have shown hate towards you for. God’s love is a place of rest and peace where you can exist as you are,with no need to change, because God sees your entirety as perfect.”
During a time of reconciliation and holy silence at one retreat, Alexander came out to a priest. “That just really speaks to the way that my faith and my identity as a queer person have always been kind of tied together,” she said. “And I’ll never forget that that priest said, ‘God doesn’t love you despite who you are; God loves you because of who you are.’ And I think that’s just the message that the Episcopal Church really always has given me throughout my life. It’s a message that I hold on to when things are hard, when things are difficult.”
For her, hope is a new thing springing forth in 2022.
“I’m looking for the places where people feel maybe left out or excluded, and working to make room for everyone, that every space I enter is working towards being more welcoming and accepting of all people, and being very verbal and affirming in that acceptance.”