Dossier: Sexuality

Queer pastor wants to change reformed church

Priscilla Schwendimann, 29, is a lesbian and the first queer pastor at the reformed church in Zurich. Her church services are open to everyone, based on the principle of inclusion. She found her calling through her own life story.

Text: Leoni Hof; photo: Mali Lazell

“I want to change the reformed church. Until now, the LGBTQ community hasn’t had a voice in the church. However, my services aren’t intended to celebrate the gay community, but to praise God. We welcome anyone regardless of their sexual orientation or beliefs. But my sermons aren’t interreligious. I also reintroduced the gown in the parish where I last preached. I want to make religion up-to-date and address issues that are really relevant to people’s lives. It’s great to see that gays and bisexuals are finding a place in society. But there’s still a long way to go for transgender people. ​

Reaching young people via Instagram and YouTube.

The reformed church has failed young people. It doesn’t have a place in their lives. I’m trying to change that with the “Holy Shit” programme on YouTube and Instagram, where I speak with pastor Claudia Steinemann about topics such as coming-out and mental health, but also, of course, the bible.

“It took me years to process it”

I came out ten years ago after growing up in the free church. The church was my home, until I realised that I was gay. I didn’t even know that there was such a thing. My coming-out was difficult. My partner had to move out of the shared flat, many people broke off contact. It took me years to process it. During this time, I learned two things: First, that you always have to be ready and willing to forgive, otherwise you will lose yourself. And second, that we can never fall lower than in the hand of God. That’s why I become a pastor. I want to share this message with the world.”