When stories of faith in the LGBT community come up, it’s common to hear about people who feel disenfranchised by their congregation’s inability to recognize them equally alongside their heterosexual neighbors. But occasionally you hear about someone going back to the church as an adult.
In this story, Charles Everson is that person, and he’s studying to be an Episcopal priest. His many years of volunteer service with AIDS Walk reinforce his commitment to pursue the priesthood.
Everson has been on the AIDS Walk steering committee for more than three years and has volunteered with the AIDS Walk Memorial team for eight years. The team’s members lead off the crowd of walkers on the big day, carrying poignant banners that bear the names of people who have died from AIDS. Terry Newell heads the team.
“Until the day of [the walk> … usually we’ll get together once or twice as a team at Terry’s house. We’ll iron the banners and get everything ready, but it’s usually just an excuse to have a few drinks and get everything organized for the event,” Everson said.
Sometimes, though, he said, the banners are muddy from the previous year’s walk and take a bit more cleaning.
“I think that when you have banners or flags or something like that and you’re walking in procession, it definitely gives a bit more formality to it,” he said. “Right when we start the walk is right after a somber song of some sort and sometimes a prayer. Yeah, I think that it helps sets the tone. And I think that it’s very meaningful for the family members and the friends who are carrying the flags on behalf of loved ones who have died.”
As a member of the steering committee, he has also volunteered with the AIDS Walk Open golf tournament and other AIDS Walk events.
He has a fundraising page in this year’s walk under his name as part of the steering committee team, and he wanted people to know they can still contribute after the walk is over.
“Tell them to go to my page,” he said, laughing. “I was in the top five up until last week.” His goal was $2,000, and the team has already raised more than $3,000. You can find his team and others at AIDSWalk.
He’s been involved with his partner, Jay Wolf, for eight years. And that is how he got involved with AIDS Walk.
“It was Jay’s friendship with Terry. Jay and I started dating in February, and next thing you know, I was on the AIDS Walk Memorial team in April.” They live in Hyde Park with two dogs and have been legally married since 2014.
“We had a church wedding two years ago, and we got married last year in Iowa. For me, the church wedding was the big event. The church wedding was when all of our family came. … We had a big reception. All of our friends threw a big party. We had a bachelorette party,” he said.
The two of them went up by themselves to Council Bluffs, Iowa, for the civil wedding at the courthouse and stayed the weekend. “We got the blenders through the church wedding,” he said with a laugh.
Everson, who just turned 35, works as senior vice president and chief compliance officer for Peoples Bank in Overland Park. He’s out at work, he said, and his company has been very supportive.
“Jay has come to every Christmas party since we’ve been together,” Everson said. “He’s on my company insurance since he’s a full-time student.”
He juggles his involvement with his job, serving on the steering committee for AIDS Walk, and his time in seminary.
“I’m kind of a church mutt,” he said, laughing. “I’ve been through a lot of different denominations. I had a kind of born-again experience in junior high in a Baptist church and went to a Baptist college and was ordained a Baptist minister in college. I went to Paris, France, to be a Baptist missionary, and I came back a Catholic and out of the closet. And then I quickly settled into the Episcopal church. I don’t feel the call to ministry ever left. It’s just that the context changed.”
Everson said that he’s a longtime member of the St. Michael &