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Gays tap into spirituality


srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

NanNan Van Den Bergh grew up in a religious household: born Baptist, raised Protestant, baptized at 12. ''I was pretty involved as a youth,'' Van Den Bergh recalls. ``I had a minister who was very intellectual. He gave me a lot of validation and feedback .''

As a teenage feminist, Van Den Bergh felt less and less comfortable at church and abandoned organized religion.

Then, in the 1970s on the beach of San Diego, Van Den Bergh was writing poetry: ``I felt something was working through me, a voice through me. It made me feel I could reconnect with organized religion.''

Van Den Bergh eventually came out as a lesbian and found Dignity, an Episcopal ''welcoming and affirming congregation.'' She attended services and took communion for the first time in years.

Now 59 and a professor at FIU's School of Social Work, Van Den Bergh wants to help lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth reconnect with their spiritual sides. She and university co-workers have organized ''Spirituality LGBT Style,'' an FIU fair supported by many of South Florida's gay-friendly congregations.

''I never want a child who is LGBT to ever feel he or she is not a child of God because of their sexual orientation,'' Van Den Bergh said.

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