While music has always brought people together, the styles “Christian” and “Queer” typically aren’t seen together…but artists like Grace “Semler” Baldridge (all pronouns) are trying to change that. With songs such as “Jesus from Texas” and “Hallelujah (In Your Arms),” Semler is transforming the Christian music industry and spreading awareness about the LGBTQ+ community.
And Semler is performing right here in Ohio this month!
People of all identities and beliefs were welcomed to come together for a queer Christian rock concert featuring Semler, who demonstrates how LGBTQ+-affirming messages have a place in not only music, but also Christianity.
On Wednesday, March 30th, Semler appeared to Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights. Sponsored by both Fairmount Presbyterian Church and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, this concert encompassed both a solo performance by Semler and an intimate question-and-answer session with the audience. proceeds of the concert are going to three local LGBTQ+ serving organizations: Colors+ Youth Center, LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland and Central Outreach Wellness Center Cleveland.
Kate McFadden, the Director of Youth and Adult Faith Formation at Fairmount Presbyterian Church, is one of the individuals helping to carry out this fun and inclusive concert. “I am so excited!” she said. “I have followed Semler’s music for quite some time.”
McFadden loved watching Semler’s growth as a musician, from starting a TikTok trend covering Christian rock songs to writing and producing their own music. Semler’s EPs have even reached the top ten spots in Apple Music in the Christian genre, revolutionizing an industry that typically has not been affirming toward LGBTQ+ individuals.
“There’s political weight to this story,” McFadden emphasized. “[Semler] has broken some glass ceilings in what they have accomplished, and have given a voice in the music space to the authentic experience of being a queer person of faith.”
With Semler’s evolution and impact on the industry, McFadden was beyond excited to have the opportunity to host them.
“It’s important to our church and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church to serve the LGBTQ+ community in Northeast Ohio,” McFadden said. “One way we can do that is uplift Grace ‘Semler’ Baldridge’s music and invite them into a safe space to enjoy their music.”
She explained how this concert fits her church’s mission of being a More Light congregation, which calls for churches to serve the community at large through justice work and openness toward others. More Light, in particular, seeks to ensure that LGBTQ+ individuals have a place in all aspects of the church.
“It’s really our way of publicly being affirming and inclusive toward LGBTQ+ individuals,” McFadden explained.
Church leaders highlighted that this concert with Semler is one way of demonstrating that inclusivity.
“My hope is that everyone who attends gets meaning and hope and comfort out of Semler’s music,” McFadden says. “Semler’s music is very theologically rich and beautiful, and speaks truth to what can be the very hard lived experiences as a queer person in America.”
For McFadden, this work is personal.
“I’ve been hurt by the church, too, and seeing Semler perform in a chapel at a church speaking truth to the powers that have caused harm in their life- but being celebrated all the while by our church and welcomed into the space to do that- will be a really beautiful experience, and one that embodies hope.”
The Buckeye Flame also had the privilege to briefly connect to Semler to learn more about their music from their own perspective.
What do you hope people get from listening to your songs?
Semler: Tidings of comfort and joy. I hope people can take what they need from my songs. A sense of belonging, a good cry, a bop, something silly. Whatever you need.
What is the importance of your music to the LGBTQ+ community?
I think I am one of many who represent our community in a place and in a light that we often don’t see portrayed. I’m a queer person of faith and I’m not rare.
How are you able to bring LGBTQ+-related topics into Christianity? Why is connecting these topics with Christianity important?
Because queer people are wholly and beautifully made and it’s time we act like it. My queerness is a blessing. I’m not ashamed of who God made me. It’s awesome. 🔥
- Learn more about the More Light Congregations by visiting their website.