Floradale Mennonite Church is getting ready to tackle a controversial topic – the church’s relationship with the LGBTQ community.
Members of Theatre of the Beat will be visiting the church on the afternoon of Apr. 10 with their production of This Will Lead To Dancing, a performance that tackles how the church views the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, or Questioning) community.
The plot surrounds the story of two teenagers, Sam and Alex, who are tired of their church’s exclusive stance on homosexuality, and are at the end of a weeklong hunger strike protesting it. News of their protest gets out and creates an abundance of media attention. Through their journey to have their questions answered, Sam is visited by the ghost of Menno Simons, the founder of the Mennonite Church. While the two teenagers wait for word from their church, they have some decisions to make – namely whether it is worth the risk of starving themselves to stand up for the marginalized LGBTQ community.
Dan Bender, the community life chairperson at Floradale Mennonite Church, says at the very least, he hopes the play will spark a conversation amongst congregation members about how the Mennonite Church views people who identify as LGBTQ.
“Each of us have our own perspective on what challenges having relationships with the LGBTQ community might be, but until you at least open the conversation and start to have that discussion, it is hard for anybody to be accepting, loving and caring,” he said. “We pride ourselves in the Mennonite Church in those aspects, and it is important that we are at least looking at that, I think.”
The show has already been performed in Mennonite churches in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and elsewhere in Ontario, and according to a press release, many churches have also refused to host the production. Johnny Wideman wrote This Will Lead To Dancing and says the subject matter is inherently controversial within the Mennonite community. He says theatre is the way to bring the topic to the forefront of people’s minds.
“There is something naturally empathetic and compassionate about live theatre,” he said. “It’s an extremely vulnerable thing which has the power to disarm even the most entrenched ideologies.”
Although the production might change some minds about the LGBTQ community, Bender says that isn’t the goal of hosting the production in Floradale.
“I don’t think we are there to convince anybody of one direction or the other. Really, our hope, desire, our direction or our goal for this project is to get people who are at that point of at least wanting to have discussion, together. They can visualize the play that is being put on for them,” he said, adding that the church is going to be providing a venue for discussion after the performance is over. “It is not different than any other show or play – we all come away with different perspectives. That is one of the reasons that we wanted to host the spaghetti supper following, so that those people who attend and may want to have further discussion, can do that over a dinner.”
With a topic as divisive as the LGBTQ community, it would be expected that the church would receive some negative feedback about the planned performance, but Bender says that hasn’t been the case. However, he welcomes any opinions and comments from the church community relating to the play.
“I wouldn’t say that we have heard a lot of rumblings, but certainly, certain people will have something they want to share with you and again, that is the whole goal for hosting the play,” he said. “Even those people that may not be anywhere close to wanting to having a discussion, at least have that opportunity to reach out to any of us in the church community and advise that they are not ready to have that conversation.”
The play begins at 3 p.m. on Apr. 10, and is followed by a spaghetti dinner at the Floradale Mennonite Church.
For more information, contact the church at 519-669-2861.