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Members of a Texas church attended Austin Pride this year to offer free hugs to LGBTQ people who have been rejected by family or faith leaders.
The church’s actions were documented by one of their attending members, Jen Hatmaker, a mother, blogger, and author. Her Instagram post showing scenes of the church volunteers at Austin Pride has garnered over 54,000 likes, and tons of comments from people who were moved by the loving outreach.
According to Hatmaker, she and her church, the Austin New Church, were inspired by Sara Cunningham, a Christian mother who last month went viral when she offered to be a stand-in mom at same-sex weddings. Cunningham runs an organization called Free Mom Hugs, which is all about mothers supporting and loving LGBTQ kids. Hatmaker wrote on Instagram “mom hugs” mean “THE KIND A MAMA GIVES HER BELOVED KID.”
Although they took inspiration from Cunningham, Austin New Church was there with more than just “mom” hugs. Hatmaker said they gave out “Free Mom Hugs, Free Dad Hugs, Free Grana Hugs, and Free Pastor Hugs like it was our paying jobs.” Although Hatmaker said they shared many happy embraces with people, there were also people who were clearly in desperate need of the hugs the Austin New Church offered. “These were the dear hearts who said: ‘I miss this.’ ‘My mom doesn’t love me anymore.’ ‘My Dad hasn’t spoken to me in three years.’ ‘Please just one more hug,’” wrote Hatmaker. “You can only imagine what ‘Pastor Hugs’ did to folks.”
“Our arms were never empty,” Hatmaker wrote. “We hugged until our arms fell off.” At the end of the day, the church volunteers were covered in sweat, glitter, and “more than a few tears.” Hatmaker reflected her church’s stated commitment to loving others at the end of the Instagram post, saying, “This is what we are doing here, what we are here for.”
H/T Scary Mommy
Alex Dalbey is a writer and zinester currently living in Saint Paul, Minnesota. They have written for The Daily Dot, Kill Screen, The Lingerie Addict, and Bullet Points.