RVA Magazine published this feature in their latest issue about Gentle Shepherd – independently Cathloic church in the Fan with an openly gay pastor and offers acceptance to all.
Donna Kaye is used to listening when God calls her – even in traffic.
When she felt called to make a quick right down Ellwood Avenue as she exited the Downtown Expressway two years ago, she didn’t hesitate to turn the steering wheel.
What caught her attention – what had spoken to her so strongly – was an unobtrusive, whitewashed sign set cattycorner on a lawn at the corner of Ellwood and Cameron Street.
“I see ‘Independent Catholic’ and ‘11 a.m. service’ and I think ‘Oh, I can sleep in, and it’s independent!’” says Kaye, a divorced former Catholic schoolteacher, who’d spent the past decade or more living in a church-imposed spiritual purgatory.
Because of Kaye’s divorce, even though it was annulled by the Catholic Church – annulment is Catholicism’s only avenue to spiritually redeem divorcees – she’d found herself an outcast at the Catholic school where she taught.
Even her attempts to publish an otherwise well-received, religious-themed children’s book series, focused on the sacraments and holy days of the Catholic calendar, had been rejected by “every Catholic children’s literature publisher in North America”. It had seemed at every turn, her attempts at spiritual development were stymied by the church she loved.
That fateful January day as she left the highway, Kaye says, her spiritual wandering ended – at the front door of Gentle Shepherd Church of Antioch.