Sunday, May 22, 2011
Greet Our New Rector
It is a new day for St. John's, and a happy one.
I met with Fr. Dave a few weeks after he arrived as our Priest-in-charge along with another member of the congregation who identifies as a gay man. Our intent was to welcome this new guy, and to let him know that there are many LGBT people that sit in the pews, sing in the choir, serve at the altar both as altar guild and in Eucharistic Ministry. Much to my surprise and delight, Dave was not only OK with gay people, he had noted with interest that our church serves as a home to the local PFLAG chapter. He knew what PFLAG was, had attended some PFLAG meetings while working at St. Bart's in New York City, and was completely at ease talking to us. This was a huge shift. There was no defensiveness or a need to explain why outreach to the gay community was unnecessary in our "welcoming" congregation. Dave has been willing to be present at interfaith AIDS gatherings, and to have our church listed as an active participant in the LGBT Pride service. He understands that in order for the gay community to know they are welcome inside the doors of St. John's, St. John's needs to practice that welcome outside in the community.
As we met with him, Dave inquired about the past sins committed under the roof of St. John's against the LGBT community. I was not present for that period because I had walked away from the church. I read about it in the form of newspaper reports and that was enough to convince me to stay away. Stephen, my compatriot on this mission, was a member and described the pain suffered by LGBT people who kept their heads down so as to not get them chopped off as the then-rector preached poison from the pulpit. Dave listened intently to this discussion and acknowledged what that must have been like. He didn't try to patch things up. There's no way he could. But what he could and did offer was an openness to all people, and a desire to see folks who identify as LGBT become active members of St. John's along side their straight brothers and sisters.
Today's celebration is the beginning of the ministry that emerges with his leadership and our gifts coming to fruition. It's the ministry that we display and put into practice in every day living in Tallahassee. My hope is that it will be a dynamic outreach to a world that deserves to hear about the liberation offered through Christ.