By: Alex Josslyn-Hamilton, director of Devout + Out: Pip
Devout + Out is a three-part series about openly queer leaders in the church. Devout + Out: Pip details Pip's unconventional journey to the priesthood. Alex Josslyn-Hamilton directed this episode; he is also Pip's husband.
I met my husband, Pip, half a decade ago. I was an atheist with no frame of reference for how someone could be both openly queer and a person of faith, let alone a member of the priesthood. I think many people who meet Pip for the first time share this fascination. It’s this curiosity that drives our series, Devout + Out: How do queerness and the church shake hands? And for those who have been hurt by the institution in the past — why in the world do they stay?
The story of Pip’s life begged to be told. Raised knowing he was gay in a conservative religious community, Pip participated in “reparative therapy,” married a woman, had two children and was on the pathway to priesthood. However, when he came out as queer, he was kicked out of his church. He eventually went back to school, became a priest in another denomination and redefined what it means to be part of the church — and part of a family.
While it would be a difficult journey for him to relive, we wondered: What if telling Pip’s story could encourage those who were naively complicit in his trauma to make different choices? What if it allowed another young person to see themselves represented on screen and therefore not feel alone as he did? For these reasons, Pip decided that going back to those dark, ugly places was worth it.
We began with a single day of filming and by the evening we had it: a long interview, containing a mess of memories and details about what has passed and what has come to be. After this, Pip spent the better part of a week unable to get out of bed. But the hardest part was over.
Now, we had to decide which parts of Pip’s life were going to make up the story of the episode. We had several hours of biographical content, but how were we going to condense it into a 20-minute episode while still doing him justice? We tried to narrow down what this story was actually about.
People can imagine what it was like to grow up in a conservative religious community; that’s pretty relatable and didn’t need too much delving into. The heart of Pip’s story was really how reparative therapy had affected a queer priest-in-training and the young woman he was pressured into marrying — and how these two people were rebuilding from that point.
If all that damage stemmed from a religious community’s disregard for queerness, a huge part of its resolution was in Pip and Kris finding a church that included and celebrated that very thing. Conveniently, we were able to capture Pip hosting a pride-themed church service featuring a drag show.
At the time of filming, Pip and I had also just gotten married in a traditional Anglican ceremony, in which Kris was Pip’s “brosmaid,” so we were able to capture a look at our family, too: three co-parents and two kids, living our truth.
In the end, Pip’s episode became a story about healing; being the change you want to see; and denying a narrative that says you aren’t worthy of love — even God’s love. It became a reminder that real happiness can arise from the darkest of beginnings.