We had the good fortune of connecting with Rev. Dr. Katie Hays and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rev. Dr. Katie, do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
Progressive churches that practice the expansive love of God for all people often take a broad approach in their invitation to prospective members. “All are welcome!” they say, and then churn out programming for every possible demographic of human identity. But Galileo Church practices the gift of specificity. We have narrowed and clearly defined our missional priorities — that is, our reason for existence. We have certain core commitments that don’t satisfy everyone who walks in our door, and our aesthetic isn’t for everyone. But those who stay are deeply attached to our weird way of being, and trust that we’ll remain true to our quirky vision, even if it means we’re not as broadly appealing as some expect us to be. I’m always happy to help a dissatisfied newcomer find a better fit with another church; what we’re doing here is truly a niche ministry, and we’re happy in our little corner of the world.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m an ordained clergy person who was raised in a conserving church that did not ordain women. I scrabbled for recognition in a system that had rules against people like me, for an identity I could not change. It didn’t matter if I went to the best schools and got the best grades and proved my competence; my identity was enough to keep me out of the church’s leadership. So when, after two decades of hard-won, underpaid, mostly unappreciated labor in traditional churches, I saw an opportunity to start a congregation of my own, I went for it. From the beginning, I knew this new church would be a haven for “spiritual refugees” — people who have been kicked out, pushed out, and left out of traditional religious communities. And here in hot-red Texas, the people whose marginalization I resonated with were LGBTQ+ people. It was not their character or their devotion that kept them out of church — it was only their God-given identity, something about themselves they couldn’t change (and wouldn’t if they could). These days I’m grateful that I know the experience of being pushed beyond the boundaries of traditional religious community. It’s what makes me able to imagine tearing those boundaries down for gay and trans and otherwise queer believers. It’s the work I was born for.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’d definitely want to show them around the Big Red Barn where, pre- and post-pandemic, Galileo Church meets for worship and so much of our life together. It’s a corrugated sheet metal building sort of tucked under I-20 — not much like a church at all, and that’s on purpose. We didn’t want a “sacred space” where spiritual refugees would feel reluctant to cross the threshold; we wanted safe space with a low bar for entry. We figure if Jesus was born in a barn, a barn is good enough for us.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Galileo Church gives a shoutout to The Gathering, a womanist church in Dallas led by a badass trio of Black clergywomen. We are so glad to be exploring the next-church frontier with The Gathering!
Youtube: Galileo Church
Other: TikTok: @galileochurch