When Casey Tinnin set out to make a difference in the Placer County community that he currently serves as a United Church of Christ Pastor, he knew he wanted to do something for the young people struggling to find their way.
And he didn’t have to look very far to draw inspiration – creating something that he himself could have benefitted from when he was a teenager trying to make sense of a world that he felt out of place in.
Tinnin, who is gay, is a 2005 Manteca High School graduate and has done such impressive work through his non-profit “The Landing Spot” that he’s up for consideration for the honor of Grand Marshal for the 2019 Sacramento Gay Pride Parade.
“It was the mother of one of my students that nominated me for the honor, and it was overwhelming to think that I was deserving of something like that,” said Tinnin, who lives in Citrus Heights with his partner of seven years, Jose. “Growing up I always got to watch my dad at the Boys and Girls Club create a safe space for kids where they could be themselves, and it feels now like I’m getting to do that but in a different way.
“There are lots of young people in this community that feel like this is not a place for them –home is not a safe place, and church is not a safe place – as a Pastor I feel like it’s my job to have a voice for these young people and to show them there is a place that they belong and where they will be accepted.”
Through his role as the Pastor at Loomis Basin Congregational United Church of Christ, Tinnin has turned his church building into a monthly meeting spot for LGBT youth in the area that feel like they don’t have anywhere else to go.
Equal parts a Pastor, confidant, counselor, and friend, Tinnin has opened the doors with the backing of his congregation to dozens of young people who are struggling to come to terms with their identity in the conservative foothill county – even hosting dances in October for Halloween and February for Valentine’s Day.
“It’s a chance for these kids to come out and dance with who they want to dance with, because for a lot of reasons they can’t dance with who they want to dance with at their high schools,” said Tinnin. “I’m grateful to my church for allowing us the space to give these young people a place where they can feel safe, and a place that is authentically for them – not a place where they’re trying to convert them or transform them, but just trying to help them.
“It’s really cool to be a part of that.”
But it hasn’t all been easy street.
Tinnin admits that his coming out wasn’t always the most painless process and having to live that routinely with young people who are struggling can be challenging at times – especially when serving in the role of a trusted adult who has to be strong.
Even then, his own experiences have given him a unique insight and an opportunity to share those outlooks with not just the students that come to his church or the monthly meetings of The Landing Spot, but students from throughout the area. He routinely has teachers, administrators, and counselors asking him to come speak to students on campuses throughout the area because a student can’t stay after school for club activities through groups like the Gay Straight Alliance but needs help from somebody who understands.
This week, for example, he’s on the campus of Sierra College in Rocklin speaking to students from his experience as a gay pastor, and he never knows when his phone will ring for a 1-on-1 meeting with a student that could benefit from his help.
“What I tell people all the time is that Jesus is about the abundance and wholeness of life – you can’t live a whole and abundant life if you’re locked away in a closet,” Tinnin said. “If you’re living that way, you’re living a lie, and in recovery circles there is a saying that ‘you’re only as sick as your secrets.’
“A person who forced into a closet against their will has a lot of secrets and is sick in a sense, and salvation is about the restoration of life. Jesus wanted people to experience the wholeness of life and I want people to know that they can do that as out LGBT people as well.”
To vote for Tinnin as the Grand Marshal of the 2019 Sacramento Gay Pride Parade, visit https://forms.gle/QPCYJfMNuef8fKuP8. Voting will be available through May 27, and the winner will be honored at the annual parade and festival at Crocker Park in Sacramento on June 9th. For additional information about the event, visit the Sacramento Pride website at www.sacramentopride.org.
For additional information about Tinnin’s journey as a gay pastor, check out the podcast Irenicast that he was featured on which can be found at https://www.Irenicast.com/131.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.