It's the second week of April; must be time for LGBTQ Pride!
Yes, I know. Pride is supposed to happen in June, perhaps in October to coincide with National Coming Out Day. But Tallahassee's organizers decided a while ago that they wanted to grab the "early bird" designation in deference to the students at FSU, FAMU and TCC, as well as holding our celebration when it isn't the sweltering sauna of Tallahassee summer. And so, we are all geared up for Pride, and it's theme of "Feel the Love."
One of the hallmarks for our local pride celebration is the annual interfaith service, dubbed "Colors of Faith." Representatives from various traditions come together to craft a liturgy, and lead a celebration of the Spirit for the community. This year, our combined efforts came from the Unitarian Universalist Church (who hosted), Gentle Shepherd MCC, United Church of Christ, Red Hills Pagan Council, Temple Israel, Unity Eastside and the Episcopal Church. The program was mostly music mixed in with readings and stories of our history as LGBTQ people who have faced many obstacles in our path toward acceptance as part of the human family. While we acknowledge that many have suffered from difficulties encountered with families, friends, even our houses of worship, what this service provides is a sacred space where no matter who you are or what your individual story may be, you are invited in to meet the Holy. And for those most deeply wounded by their faith family, this may be the one chance to feel truly embraced in the arms of Love.
For our Episcopal part, we offered up a reading our Bishop Gene Robinson's book, "God Believes in Love: Straight Talk about Gay Marriage." We didn't get into the marriage equality issue. Instead, the excerpt discusses the nature of God in the work of creation and how that fits with the spiritual selves of LGBTQ people:
“In creation, God does an amazing thing. God creates humankind and gives us free will. We are free to love God back—or not. This is an astoundingly vulnerable action on God’s part: to create humankind, to desire a relationship with us, indeed (if Scripture is to be believed) craving a relationship with us, and at the same time giving us the freedom to be in relationship or not. Just think of human parents, and how we desire a good, right, and loving relationship with our own children—and how vulnerable and sad we feel when it doesn’t happen. So too God has made God’s self vulnerable in creating us free. In doing so, God is disclosing who and what is at the center of all that is…..
It seems to me then that vulnerability and self-disclosure are at the heart of what we understand about the nature of God. And the reason I believe gay and lesbian people are spiritual people is that we too have participated in vulnerability and self-disclosure, especially in the process of coming-out. When someone shares with you who they really, really are, it is a special offering. To do so when it risks rejection is a profound, holy gift.
Someone who comes out as gay puts himself in a very vulnerable position, not knowing how that new knowledge will affect relationships. It may destroy a friendship. It may cause a parent to throw her own child out onto the streets. It may cause a child to reject her gay dad. But it is an act of self-disclosure that makes true relationship possible. This kind of vulnerability and self-disclosure I would label “of God” That is, it participates in the very deepest understanding of what we know about God.”—pp107-109
To punctuate this passage, we used these lines from the First Letter of John:
“God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also."
Songs of praise of love, and the earth, Adonai God were also all part of the celebration. The best part: we didn't waste time with introducing ourselves and saying who we were and how wonderfully open and affirming our congregations are, etc. etc. We don't need to say these things. We just need to be with one another. Interfaith work reflects true faith when we can find our common language to work side by side for Love. It felt good to see that come together in our service this year.