When the Reverend Katy Hawker headed to the altar, her church came, too

When the Reverend Katy Hawker headed to the altar, her church came, too
Mia Ulmer/birchtreestudio.com
They'd been on their honeymoon for a week, and it had been grand. Their road trip began right after the wedding in Iowa, and so they headed west in the heat of July, the science teacher nerding out over the natural phenomena, the pastor basking in love. It was a welcome respite from the construction they were doing on their house and the demands of work, a chance to just be.

They stayed in bed and breakfasts and quirky little hotels along the way. They got warm greetings and Champagne from innkeepers who realized they were on their honeymoon. They participated in Native American dancing in a town square in Arizona and passed through Laramie, Wyoming, infamous for the murder of Matthew Shepard.

In Moab, Utah, they stopped for a meal at a vegetarian restaurant. Red rocks, nature and animal-friendly cuisine seemed to bode well.

Above: Darlene Self and Katy Hawker, bride and bride.
Mia ulmer/birchtreestudio.com
Above: Darlene Self and Katy Hawker, bride and bride.
Right: Boarding the Iowa-bound wedding bus.
Mia ulmer/birchtreestudio.com
Right: Boarding the Iowa-bound wedding bus.

"It was the safe place," says Katy Hawker, the newlywed pastor.

But it wasn't.

Back in Iowa, their getaway car had been lovingly decorated with tin cans and "Just Married!" signs and hearts encircling their names. Outside the restaurant, however, someone had added a different message: "a big orange 'fag,'" says Hawker.

Hawker, who only came out as a lesbian in recent years, was stunned. Not so her bride, Darlene Self, who's been out for most of her 40 years.

"I was expecting it," Self says.

The newlyweds erased the decorations with both of their names, "to make it less of a target," Hawker says. "We left the heart.

"Then, I cried."


Katy Hawker was pretty sure she wasn't supposed to date parishioners. Which made Darlene Self a problem from the minute she walked into Hawker's church.

Self was there because she had been thinking about expanding her family. A soft-spoken schoolteacher who's been known to rock a fedora over her graying waves, she has a 24-year-old daughter, Amber, but was considering adopting and fostering other kids.

"I came to realize I'd need more structure in my life," Self says. "I thought going to church would help that."

Growing up in St. Louis, Self was raised in a Southern Baptist family. But she always knew she was different.

"I knew I was a lesbian before I knew about sex and sexuality," she says. "I was always out — I would say defiantly so."

When Self decided to give religion another chance, two colleagues at her school recommended their church, Evangelical United Church of Christ in Webster Groves. In April 2010, Self checked it out — and loved what she found.

"It was fabulous," she says. "I got in with a rowdy group — we like to crack jokes in the pews. The worship there is really nice and comfortable."

And Self found far more than comfort.

"Let me just say I noticed her the day she walked in," says Hawker. A 49-year-old with shoulder-length brown hair and a propensity for thoughtful pauses before she speaks, she's been the pastor of Evangelical since 1996.

Self held her new pastor's attention as she quickly became part of the community. "What was interesting to me was to watch her fall in love with the church," Hawker says.

The immediate, mutual attraction put Hawker in an odd position. Everyone's heard the cliché about dipping one's pen into the company ink — what about falling in love with someone who's entrusted you with her spiritual care?

"I kept thinking, 'I cannot be on a date with her; she's a parishioner,'" says Hawker. "I talked with close friends, mentors. I ran it by my therapist. She said, 'You don't get to make Darlene's decisions. She's an adult.'"

The pair first went on an outing together in June. Self invited Hawker to Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' production of Hamlet.

"It wasn't a date, even though I wanted it to be a date," says Self. "I was concerned — preachers, they're not supposed to get involved! I talked it over with my daughter. She said, 'Preachers need love too!' I decided I would make a very fine picnic basket."

They learned a lot from each other in the following months. Self learned that religion wasn't all hellfire and damnation. Hawker learned about diving into love.

At first, they played it close to the vest. "We were pretty discreet," Self says, adding to her partner, "I let you do your job."

"When I'm at work, I'm at work," Hawker says.

As it became clear that their relationship was the real thing, the pair realized they'd have to tell the congregation. Although many people suspected a budding relationship, Hawker and Self officially kept it to themselves until after Christmas.

By that point, Self says, "A whole paradigm shift took place."

For Self's entire life, she'd figured marriage was out of the question. "Gay people are sentenced to a life of serial monogamy, with no access to the concept of strong family structures," she says. "I didn't grow up with the idea of the stability that can come with a family unit, that can come with marriage." But her feelings for Hawker changed everything: "I decided to grow a family with Katy. I'd like to be legally married."

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39 comments
Dragonrider2300
Dragonrider2300

It is great we have religious communities in the Saint Louis area that truly practice the Gospel Of Inclusion-all of God's people have a seat at the table of personhood (as MLK would say). Hateful negative people like Teddbug will reap the karma that they deserve-you can't plant lies and expect the truth to be born. Hatred only begets hatred. God's love will conquer all, despite the hatred and lies-negative people and athiests will dwindle in numbers and influence. Gay people have equal rights to everyone else-if we discriminate against anyone, we are all diminished as people and as a society. Congrats to the married couple and congrats to their church for practicing what Jesus preached-love your neighbor as you love yourself.

hotdogwaffles
hotdogwaffles

If the government would get out of the religion business, then we wouldn't need articles like this. Ignorance is not the reason most gays aren't accepted. They aren't accepted because most people's religion teaches them that being gay is unacceptable starting at a very young age and somehow in a "free" country those religious "values" are allowed to be mainstays in the government.

doc86
doc86

What a liberal joke -- and I am a liberal! If this had been a hetero man falling in love for the first real time with a woman in his congregation he would be defrocked for sexual misconduct.

Tallpool
Tallpool

I guess leviticus is not read anymore at this particular church, homesexuality is a sin just like lying, cheating, stealing etc, I dont judge, I let the JUDGE handle that one, I just state the facts.

Jax
Jax

This is not a story or even an entertaining piece. Who gives a shit. Now if she would have married her dog or something, that would be worth reading.

Sharon von Senden
Sharon von Senden

my maternal side of the family belonged to the church of christ.....when I left to become a roman catholic, I was told I was going to hell. fifty years have passed and I am no longer a believer in anything. I am content. I could not go to church, because I do no longer believe in a god. that being said, if I did believe I would be inclined to join this congregation. I too am a lesbian...will be 70 next year....would have been nice to find a partner in life who believed as I did....I am proud of these two women, their church, and the ex-husband who has handled this as a true man. peace and blessings to each of you...

Dick Saunders
Dick Saunders

If I was behind a car that had a bumper sticker that read 'oral sex causes cancer of the mouth and throat' I would wonder, if one smokes too,are they twice as likely to get cancer of the mouth and throat?

Speaking of equal treatment

Bad drivers/ young drivers pay a higher auto insurance rate.

High risk workers pay a higher health insurance rate.

Smokers pay a higher health insurance rate ..

The Actuaries claim 70 percent of HIV cases are through male to male contact ..

Should all men pay a higher insurance premium,or only those who are at high risk?

How many would give up Oral Sex?

Beth
Beth

Congratulations to Katy and Darlene! I was 14 when Katy became the pastor at our church. She presided over my wedding and the memorial services of both my grandfather and my father...not to mention the countless moving sermons I've listened to her deliver. She is an incredible person and amazing pastor. Now living in Colorado, we're trying to find somewhere similar, but have yet to find something that comes close!

The thing is, you can believe what you want to believe. If you use the Bible to perpetuate your hate for those different from yourself...well, I feel sorry for you, but that's your choice. The beauty of living in our society is we have a right to believe and be what we want. It's a shame that Katy and Darlene had to go to Iowa to get married instead of getting married in their own church or another in the area. You can think same sex marriage is an abomination and again, I feel sorry that you have so much hate towards people you don't even know. You do NOT have the right to tell others what they can and can't do which is what these constitutional amendments do. Think what you want but don't you dare make the decision for someone else. But I don't worry too much...I know they'll all be overturned some day.

I have several LGBT friends and I believe that they feel God's love just as anyone else. I see it in the love, friendship, and support they have shown me. I wish everyone could see it. I wish everyone would see it.

Congrats again!

JUSATYRO
JUSATYRO

IClueless on STDs, Throat Cancer, and Oral SexHPV-related oral cancers are on the rise, which argues for straight talk by parents of teens

By Bernadine Healy, M.D.

Posted: February 19, 2008

JUSATYRO
JUSATYRO

If I was behind a car that had a bumper sticker that read 'oral sex causes cancer of the mouth and throat' I would wonder, if one smokes too,are they twice as likely to get cancer of the mouth and throat? Speaking of equal treatment

Bad drivers/ young drivers pay a higher auto insurance rate.

High risk workers pay a higher health insurance rate.

Smokers pay a higher health insurance rate ..

The Actuaries claim 70 percent of HIV cases are through male to male contact ..

Should all men pay a higher insurance premium,or only those who are at high risk?

How many would give up Oral Sex?

Jeff D
Jeff D

I am so proud to know Katy and to have attended this church going back to her first sermon there. Her church never sits still and is always tilting at the windmills that seek to limit sections of society. Katy is among the most ethical people I know.

JBQ21
JBQ21

You cannot equate gay and straight marriage. The foundation of society is cracked. The mainline churches including Catholic are on the verge of accepting. This means that there is no sin. A socialistic society ejects the issue of morality. That is what the Bolsheviks did and they executed anyone who thought otherwise.

Jonathan
Jonathan

Another legalistic point . . .Though I approve, in general, of gay marriage, I can't approve of this. The article glosses over it, but the pastor getting involved with a member of her flock is a serious breach of ethics.

Justice for me.
Justice for me.

They got married.... yeah for them and so what. Perhaps the lack of this being any news story would reflect that people have accepted this as normal.

Vanessa Edmond
Vanessa Edmond

You make me sick. You two are an abomination to God. In the Bible it says that man shall not lay with man and woman shall not lay with woman for this is an abomination to God. It also says in the Bible that a woman is not to be a preacher either. I am glad that Missouri is not going to be one of the states to allow homosexual marriages. It says in the Bible a marriage is between man and woman not Steve and Steve, nor Darlene Self and Katy Hawker. How dare you get married in your church. God will judge Katy and Darlene once you meet your maker one day. He is going to throw both of you in hell. That is what you deserve.

DogmaticInsularChurroMaker
DogmaticInsularChurroMaker

This story has put a ridiculously broad and enduring smile on my face. Thank you, and congratulations to all the happy couples!

Tedbugg
Tedbugg

I tried to read this and then realized.......why the hell would gay people care if their relationships are recognized by anyone? Do they look for the validation of society before they accept that they are gay? Or is this just another way to beg for attention? Someone called them fags? Oh no......getting called a name is so tragic. Oh and I love how the rules about dating a parishioner were important right up until she decided they were not. Typical of most people......their make believe worlds are all important until they want something else.

This is news? A lady got shot in the face yesterday......I bet she wishes all anyone ever did to her was say she couldnt get married.

Snicker
Snicker

Aw that's nice but keep the Harlequin romance novels at Banes and Noble.

ChrisGorka
ChrisGorka

Can you do me a favor and not throw atheists into the same pot as 'negative people' who spew 'hatred and lies'? Just because you and I are on opposite sides of religion doesn't mean that your moral compass is more accurate than mine. The atheists I know tend to be loving, compassionate people.

ChrisGorka
ChrisGorka

What do you suppose the outcome would have been if she'd fallen in love with a man in her congregation?

ChrisGorka
ChrisGorka

Being that you're well versed in Leviticus, I'm going to go ahead and assume that you don't eat pork, have never eaten rabbit or any kind of shellfish, and you've most certainly not worn "a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together"?

I'm here to voice an obvious judgement, but I'll go ahead and claim that I'm not really judging.

Sluvsgolfing
Sluvsgolfing

I've never personally met this couple however, I DO know my partner and I took the same trip to Burlington, IA and were married in the exact same church just weeks later. It saddens us we live in a state (and country for that matter) where domestic abusers, deadbeat parents, and sex offenders have more rights extended to them than LGBT people.

One small example of ignorance is when the subject of even just "domestic partnership" comes up. Many believe this issue only relates to gay and lesbian couples when in reality it affects more than just the LGBT community. It afffects even those long-term heterosexual couples who CHOOSE NOT to get married because of perhaps legal reasons and/or benefits they receive they are deserving and need to survive.

Sadly as it stands, my spouse and I have to spend hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on lawyer fees to protect our right to make health care decisions for each other and to protect ourselves from ruthless family members from coming in and cleaning us out if something were to happen to either of us. As we go through the years together, our state, nor government, won't allow our survivor (God forbid anything happen to either of us) to be awarded survivor benefits either. It's a travesty now, however, I do believe change is coming.

Children are blind to love and the relationships between two adults. They could care less as long as two people love each other. It is the adults in childrens lives who teach them to hate, discriminate, and be prejudice; they are not born that way.

ergogrrl
ergogrrl

"This means that there is no sin." Really? You honestly believe that once a church accepts the concept of gay marriage, it will also decide that murder and theft are no big deal? Or do you believe that consenting relations between two adults of the same sex are morally comparable to murder and theft? Neither option is rational.

Also, I don't remember the Bolsheviks pushing for gay marriage or anything related to LGBT rights. It's possible that the first draft of their mission statement was, "Workers of the World Unite....and All Hail the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name!" But I think it's more likely that you're one of those dudes who cries "Communist!" every time you read something about a belief system that developed after 1950. It's humorous, but not particularly convincing. Or smart. Or even rational. But funny.

Amber
Amber

I understand how it could be frowned upon, but if you meet "the one" and they are two consenting adults. They should be able to do what they want. Being a pastor doesn't mean that you don't get to date. Plenty of heterosexual male pastor find their future wives at church. Why can't she?

ChrisGorka
ChrisGorka

I'd bet money that you've never read the bible. I mean the whole bible, not the bits and pieces that reinforce the hate that you're obviously filled with. You've probably found yourself a hateful, little church with a hateful pastor who preaches the hateful message that your hateful, little ears want to hear. Or do you even bother with church? Are you one of those folks who gets your hate from the TV box? And who the hell are you to decide what anyone deserves? If you truly believe in the bible, shut your pie hole and let your god do the judging.

Luke 6:37 (KJV) "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:"

And speaking of abominations, I hope you've never eaten shrimp or lobster.

"But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you." (Leviticus 11:10)

"They (shellfish) shall be an abomination to you; you shall not eat their flesh, but you shall regard their carcasses as an abomination." (Leviticus 11:11)

"Whatever in the water does not have fins or scales; that shall be an abomination to you." (Leviticus 11:12)

Get a life and stop spewing your message of hate. Some of us are trying to live in peace.

Jonathan
Jonathan

Bit of a legalistic point here, but you're mistaken. The "lie down with" passages (Leviticus 18) cover men but not women.

Devout Agnostic
Devout Agnostic

Vanessa, I hope someday the god you profess to love and obey helps you to accept and love your fellow man. I never stop being astonished at just how hate-filled so many people, who claim to be followers of Christ, can be...Jesus, whether you accept him as divine or simply a historical figure of note, taught love and acceptance and plainly rejected hate. You may find yourself surprised come judgment day...you may find yourself rated on your actions towards others rather than your prayers.

jg
jg

hey asshole, those two ladies happen to be my aunts. its pretty effed up for you to sit and ask why gay couples should care to have their relationships recognized. think about it this way, why would a heterosexual couple want their relationship recognized? its called equal rights.

and on the subject of the hate that was written across their car: while that incident was very minor, very serious hate crimes happen everyday that affect the LGBT community. have you not heard about the suicide rate? people who fall under the LGBT category are twice as likely to commit suicide. why is this? its because of ignorance. think about that.

but you know, im only 16, so what do i know. oh wait, im not a moron who only sees in black and white.

Escondida
Escondida

Tedbugg, when I start to read an article that doesn't interest me, I simply elect not to finish it. I'm surprised that this happy story provoked such a strong, negative response from you. I wonder why you felt it important and appropriate to attack the humanity and motives of the players here, and to tear down and scorn a clear source of affirmation and joy for the hundreds directly involved. Why so reactive, chum? Why so ugly?

Unfortunately, unwavering, loving religious acceptance of same-sex marriage in Missouri IS still news. Fortunately, the fact that attitudes like yours are steadily slipping further into the minority assures ongoing positive change.

Blessings on the newly (and re-newly) married, and on their wonderful congregation!

DogmaticInsularChurroMaker
DogmaticInsularChurroMaker

Spoken like a guy who's never lived on the other side. By the way---it's cute that you think "gay people" and "people who get shot" are two non-intersecting demographics. I'm guessing you're unaware of just how prevalent hate crimes against LGBTs are, and I'm guessing you'd howl in protest if I pointed out that attitudes like yours play a small but crucial part in creating a culture that fosters homophobic violence.

JBQ21
JBQ21

I'm so glad that you and Bugs Bunny or was it Bugsy Moran had a chuckle at my expense. Gay marriage breaks down the foundation of society which is the family and which leads to an increase in murder and theft. It is called decadence.

Jonathan
Jonathan

As far as their both being consenting adults, that's also true when a therapist gets involved with a patient, and no one excuses the therapist in that situation.

Jonathan
Jonathan

I don't think it's true that plenty of hetero male pastors find their wives in their congregations. Certainly it shouldn't be. Speaking from my own experience, I know that my wife (an Episcopal priest) considers it out of bounds.

SLuvsgolfing
SLuvsgolfing

Although those who oppose extending equal rights to anyone they believe are "different" or "not part of their group or of the same beliefs", the truth to the stats you posted (murder rates) are and have been proven to be related to the unemployment rates in America and have nothing to do with the sexual orientation of people. Maybe this person will somehow try to justify blaming LGBT for unemployment rates as well. I think while they are at it they should blame all the wars on LGBT as well. I mean, it only makes sense because folks like this just insist on not putting fault where it truly lies and many people like this refuse to accept any kind of responsibility anyhow.

From my perspective, it's a bit difficult for me to wrap my brain around comparing "murder" to being gay when being in love with someone and having the same rights afforded to me as heterosexual couples are causing harm or death to ANYONE.

I understand the "fear of unknown" along with the issue of accepting and affirming EVERYWHERE LGBT people in addition to sensationalizing the idea from social and spiritual leaders but the truth is many of them love someone or know someone close to them who is already LGBT and have yet to "come out" to them because they fear their reaction. The reality is they are already surrounded by honest, humble, and kind GAY people who are their friends, neighbors, fellow congregants, parents, etc. already.

As for the bible references. It's not hard to figure out if we lived by the bible "literally" we would have fathers murdering their daughters who lost their virginity to someone before they were sold and a lot of dead men because they cut their hair. The bible is used as a reference, NOT to be read and lived by "literally". Ask any theologian who has committed their life to studying the bible. Sheesh!

I forgive all the poorly misinformed, misinterpreted, and misunderstanding folks who choose hate over acceptance and love. If they truly believe in Christ they would know Jesus was attracted to the "broken", "different", and "unfortunate" folks who obviously found comfort in his simple approach of love over hate always wins!

JBQ21
JBQ21

Look up Benjamin Disraeli who said that there are three kinds of lies. They are "lies, damn lies, and statistics". By the way, Bugs Bunny and I both eat carrots. I don't think that Bugsy Moran liked carrots and he certainly doesn't eat them any more.

ergogrrl
ergogrrl

Did you know there's this neat government website that tracks how many crimes occur in the USA each year? I used it to look up murder rates since 1960. Know what it shows? Murder went up between 1960 and 1990, then went down between 1990 and 2009:

Murder in the United States (http://www.ucrdatatool.gov/)1960 9,1101970 16,0001980 23,0401990 23,4382000 15,5862009 15,241

More fun facts: the first state to legalize civil unions did so in 2000, and MA legalized gay marriage in 2004. Now, I could say that crime rates decreased _because_ gay marriage was legalized, but that would be just as stupid as saying that crime rates _increased_ between 1960 and 1990 because of gay marriage.

Oh wait...gay marriage wasn't legal between 1960 and 1990. In fact, by 1990, over half the states still had anti-sodomy laws on the books, and 13 states had them until 2003.

So really, all you're left with is "Gay marriage destroys families and leads to increased crime because I say so." Which you're free to say. But the facts don't back you up.

Oh, and one last thing: You can make fun of me and Bugsy Moran all you want, but the next time you talk s--- about Bugs Bunny, we're gonna have words.

 
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