In a blog devoted to religion news coverage, every so often I like to delve into reporting about what is happening among people who are at the edges of faith. This is the spiritual-but-not-religious crowd that longs for some transcendence in life.
I found such a story in the Seattle Weekly, an alternative publication that has a fair amount of coverage of the local gay community.
In its March 14 issue, we hear about an unsuspecting gay newcomer to the Queen City (Seattle’s nickname from 1869-1982) who goes to what he thinks is a Saturday-morning brunch, only to find only alcohol being served as a precursor to an orgy.
The newcomer, business coach Frank Macri (who is the guy dressed in pink in the front of the above photo), realizes that his companions were searching for something, albeit not in the wisest fashion.
He declined (the invite to the orgy) and returned home to ponder the opportunities for people like him in the LGBTQ community to connect. “I noticed that a lot of people feel like they need to have drugs in order to open up to someone and be vulnerable, or they need to have sex in order to feel connected to someone,” Macri said. “And I thought, what if there is a community out there of others who are mindful, compassionate, and wanting to have deeper connections with themselves and other people.”
So shortly thereafter, Macri founded Namasgay, a group for spiritually-minded LGBTQ people who are tired of only connecting with others in clubs or on dating apps. Since its creation last October, the Seattle-based group has expanded to include thousands of members in Oakland, New York, and Chicago. Members meet through a couple of events each month, including meditations, dinners, single mixers, hikes, and yoga sessions.
The inaugural Namasgay Summit runs April 20–22. Held at the W Seattle hotel in downtown, the event will feature LGBTQ leaders, such as trans activist and actress Jazzmun Crayton, along with best selling author Kitty Chambliss, international speakers, and life coaches who will talk about attracting “purpose, joy, love and abundance into our lives,” according to Macri.
We never do hear Macri’s reason for naming the group Namasgay, which is a take-off on the Sanskrit greeting “Namaste.” It’s also a popular term for someone who’s so hip into Hindu chic that it's enough to be annoying.
Judging from the web site for the summit, the spirituality we’re talking about here is more Hindu than anything else in that there’s a workshop on “how to align and balance your chakra energy.”
What we don’t pick up from the story is Macri’s own spiritual history. That's a huge and important gap in the story.
There’s a long paragraph about hating himself as a teenager, only to break free of his problems by being authentic and coming out of the closet when he was 18. If I had to make a guess about his past, I’d say he was raised Catholic, in that his grandfather was born in Gioiosa, Italy, and Macri speaks Italian.
But nothing explains the Hindu connection nor his interest in this form of Eastern spirituality.
I looked around and learned he’d taught English in China for several years and he’s obviously a very impressive personal coach, judging from his web site -- plus he’s a compelling enough personality to have already spread Namasgay to four cities in less than a year.
Macri only moved to Seattle early last year at the age of 26 , so it is amazing he’s already got this huge community in not the friendliest of cities. But, as you can see from the photo of the rainbow flag flying from the Space Needle, the Emerald City is very gay-friendly.
But what brought him here? We're not told.
Being that faith and being gay aren’t necessarily on opposing poles, I would have liked to have heard more about this man’s journey. Are Namasgay meetings mainly spiffed-up consciousness-raising sessions with an overlay of meditation or is there something more? Is there any source of religious authority?
There’s been no other coverage that I can see, so hopefully, an observant reporter will wander into this inaugural summit next month and ask around. There's got to be some good backstory here.