Rev. Jakob Hero-Shaw

January 2024

Here we are at the start of a New Year!

This is traditionally the time of year when people proclaim what they will do differently in their lives and announce what will be changed going forward. Some see this as a fresh start and an opportunity to become their best selves.

I love the idea of a fresh start. What I don’t love is the body negativity and self-deprecating comments that often accompany people’s desire to start anew. So, for 2024, I hope that you might consider kicking off this new year with a different type of new beginning.

It’s perfectly acceptable to want to change something about yourself, and the start of a new year is just as good a time as any for this fresh start. If the change you are hoping for is something in your own physical body, then instead of shoving yourself, kicking and screaming, toward change, try loving yourself into transformation. Personally, I had a significant health crisis this year and I have come to view my body, and what it can do, differently than ever before. Now that I am finally recovered enough to go to the gym, I approach my workouts with gratitude, which is new for me. As I sweat on the treadmill or rower, I try to remember that each workout is a celebration of what this overweight and middle-aged body can do, and not a punishment for being overweight or middle-aged.

The fresh start that the new year can bring need not be limited to our bodies. In fact, my hope is that if we choose to embrace the fresh start of a new year, that we do not allow it to end within ourselves at all. While goals for fitness, or reading, or study are fantastic and resolutions that lead us to take better care of ourselves can help us as individuals, what would it look like to shift the whole concept of the meaning of the new year?

What if we collectively decided that the new year is our fresh start, where we can learn to prioritize solidarity? Instead of traditional new year’s resolutions, maybe we can take this coming year to be better neighbors, allies, accomplices, and partners in transformation.

Speaking from my personal perspective, as a pastor and as a person who is both queer and trans, I find it remarkable how powerful solidarity can be. Countless times I have witnessed that straight and cisgender folks who speak in solidarity with queer people and trans people have a tremendous impact.

Likewise, as a white person, I believe it is absolutely essential that I am educated and passionate about racial equity. As a Christian, I need to know about and advocate for people of other religious traditions. These are essential because solidarity matters.

As we journey into a new year and perhaps reflect on how to be our best selves, let’s make 2024 the year when we do our absolute best at living into the work of solidarity. Let’s prioritize learning from people whose lives and journeys are different from our own. Let’s proclaim ourselves to be accomplices and do everything in our power to make our communities places of radical welcome.

Happy New Year!

Rev. Jakob Hero-Shaw | CLGS Transgender Roundtable Coordinator & Trans Seminarian Leadership Cohort Faculty