Darren Chittick, massage therapist, retreat facilitator and pastor of the Church WIthin

Darren Chittick, massage therapist, retreat facilitator and pastor of The Church Within

This episode features someone that I consider a good friend. Darren Chittick is a multi-passionate artist and maker, a massage therapist, a retreat facilitator, and the pastor of The Church Within in Indianapolis, Indiana. I've had the pleasure of knowing Darren for almost 10 years. Each time we sit down to a conversation, I seem to come away with a different perspective on multiple topics and this conversation was no exception.

We discussed a number of different topics but what stands out the most is how Darren finds spiritual inspiration in seemingly mundane things like crafts and making. Woven throughout the conversation was this emphasis on finding belonging within as opposed to seeking to fit in on the outside. This is a topic that resonates deeply with my own work. I've highlighted some of the key parts of our conversation here but do yourself the favor of listening to the full interview. 

Belonging in the Wilderness

For Darren, queer spirituality is deeply personal and rooted in his own journey of self-discovery. He describes it as living in the wilderness, a place where he feels a sense of belonging and freedom to be his authentic self. This sense of belonging is a powerful antidote to the experience of being exiled or excluded from traditional religious communities. Darren explains, "What makes queer spirituality special is that anyone who is told they don't belong can find their belonging again."

The Intersection of Religion and Spirituality

Darren's spiritual journey began in a small Presbyterian church, where he found a sense of safety and belonging as a child. However, as he grew older and realized that his queerness was not accepted within the church, he turned away from organized religion. This led him to explore various spiritual paths and eventually become a pastor himself.

Darren emphasizes the importance of recognizing the difference between religion and spirituality. While religion often focuses on fitting in and conforming to a set of beliefs and practices, spirituality is about embracing the divine in everyday actions and finding one's own unique path to the sacred. He explains, "Queer spirituality is a liberated spirituality that allows us to fully be ourselves and find belonging even in places where we may not fit in."

Practical Spirituality and the Call to Action

One of the key aspects of queer spirituality is its emphasis on practicality and action. Darren describes it as a spirituality that is focused on making a difference in the world and healing the world that touches us. He draws inspiration from the concept of Tikun Olam, a Jewish idea that calls for repairing the world through acts of kindness and justice.

Darren also highlights the importance of bringing spirituality back into the world and sharing what we have learned with others. He encourages us to move beyond the realm of theory and engage in practical action that can create positive change. He says, "Our work is to open ourselves up to whatever healing looks like in the moment and to do it in collaboration with others."

The Challenges of Belonging and Liberation

While queer spirituality offers a powerful framework for embracing belonging and liberation, it also comes with its own set of challenges. Darren acknowledges that the queer community itself can be divided and judgmental, with different groups and individuals making judgments based on appearance, thoughts, and expectations. He encourages us to recognize these divisions and strive for empathy and understanding within our own community.

Darren also addresses the challenges of bringing queer spirituality into the wider world, particularly in the face of resistance and prejudice. He acknowledges that the liberation and freedom that queer people seek can be threatening to those who have not yet found their own liberation. He urges us to approach these situations with compassion and a willingness to bridge the gap between ourselves and those who may see us as a threat.

Design Thinking and Spiritual Leadership

In his own journey as a spiritual leader, Darren has found inspiration in the principles of design thinking. He has been reading books on design and applying their concepts to his work as a pastor. He emphasizes the importance of self-reflection and recognizing the ways in which we may be sabotaging our own growth and impact. He encourages us to prototype our ideas and be willing to iterate and adapt as we learn and grow.

Darren's exploration of design thinking highlights the need for spiritual leaders to bring their insights and experiences back to their communities. He emphasizes the importance of effective communication and collaboration in sharing our spiritual wisdom and creating positive change in the world.

Episode Show Notes

About The Guest(s):

Darren Chittick is the pastor of the Church Within, a progressive and inclusive spiritual community. He is also a massage therapist, retreat facilitator, and creator. Darren has a diverse spiritual background and is passionate about exploring different paths to the divine.


Darren Chittick, the pastor of the Church Within, shares his perspective on queer spirituality. He believes that queer spirituality is about finding belonging in the world and embracing one's true self. Darren discusses his personal spiritual journey, from growing up in a rural area to exploring different spiritual paths. He also talks about the Church Within and its mission to provide a safe and inclusive space for LGBTQ+ individuals. Darren emphasizes the importance of practical spirituality and the need to bring spiritual experiences back into everyday life. He also discusses the challenges and opportunities of being a queer person in the spiritual community.

Key Takeaways:

  • Queer spirituality is about finding belonging in the world and embracing one's true self.
  • Spiritual experiences can be found outside of traditional religious institutions.
  • Practical spirituality is about bringing spiritual experiences into everyday life and making a positive impact on the world.
  • LGBTQ+ individuals often have a unique perspective on spirituality due to their experiences of exclusion and discrimination.
  • It is important to create safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ individuals in the spiritual community.


  • "Queer spirituality is kind of a liberated spirituality at its maturity." - Darren Chittick
  • "Our work is to open ourselves up to whatever healing looks like in that moment with the people we happen to be with." - Darren Chittick
  • "Our liberation seems threatening to those who have not found that liberation." - Darren Chittick
  • "We are here to be revolutionary, to be transformational." - Darren Chittick

Darren's Website
Darren's Instagram

Listen to the Full Episode

About the Author, Julian Crosson-Hill

Julian Crosson-Hill, ACC is an ICF certified spiritual life coach and human design specialist. He coaches gay and bisexual men in living a life of purpose, meaning, and connection.

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