Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Celebrating Pride in Faith; The Call to Action

I know what you're thinking: Pride Week? In April?   These are the accomodations the community makes in Tallahassee where there are three college campuses, and June is so hot and humid that to own a sauna is really kind of redundant.

One of the highlights of the week for me has been the interfaith service.  The one in Tallahassee is truly INTERfaith: Jewish, Evangelical Christian, B'hai, Pagan, Quaker, Lutheran, Episcopalian, MCC, United Church of Christ, and Unitarian Universalists all gathered under the roof of Temple Israel as one call to recognizing the LGBT spirituality in all of those (and many more) traditions.

Again, I participated to make sure that the Episcopal Church was present and accounted for in this assembly.  As you may recall from my post "Wanting Memories," I basically went to the mat with my clergy to be allowed to represent our parish in the service.  It was a really ugly fight, from my standpoint, and one which so deeply hurt me that I couldn't bear going through that hell again. So, rather than asking any of the local Episcopal clergy to participate, I offered that I would stand in, along with with Mtr. Phoebe of the Church of the Ascension in Carrabelle, and do a portion of the service.   I shared all of this with my spiritual director who, after many questions, finally took out the two-by-four and asked if she was allowed to "come play."

"Oh, you want to take part in the service?" the directee asked, stupidly.  And after getting whalloped by the two-by-four, offered that I would check with the group, and that I was sure they wouldn't mind.

The service had three sections.  The first was presenting and celebrating our past and standing on the shoulders of giants.  The second was our present time, and seeing where there were still pockets of resistance to the recognition and respect of all people.  And the third was lifting up the giants of our future. 

The "Episcoposse," as I like to call us, were to start the section on the present.  My charge was to lay the foundation of the section as a "call to action" or "what can people of faith do to lift up those being laid low by laws and prejudice."   Many people had enjoyed what Mtr. Phoebe and I presented last year but I didn't want us to do a repeat of the same thing.  I knew we needed something to engage the congregation; it is not the Episcopal liturgical way to let people sit and be passive.  And so, after some thought, I proposed that we steal a page out of Morning Prayer and offer suffrages with a concluding collect.  And, after some prayer and stillness, I took a first crack at what would be our offering which then my spiritual director, Mtr. Galen Mirate, spruced up and nuanced. 

Finally, and again after prayerful meditation and listening to the guidance of the Divine, I wrote out my opening "homily" which preceded the suffrages and collect.  Here's what we presented:


The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;

These words from the prophet Isaiah were the same ones that Jesus read from the scroll in the presence of many at the Temple.  They are the call to action for all people of faith as we encounter our world of haves versus’ have-nots.  Equal rights for some but not others.  And the real dangers of LGBT people living in countries where governments, with the backing of religious authorities, enact laws that threaten our lives with imprisonment and even death.

Giants, such as David Kato in Kampala, Uganda, who led the group Sexual Minorities of Uganda, have been killed in the cause to bring freedom to the oppressed in his country.  He dared to be outspoken, and to stand up for what was his right… and the rights of all people to be treated with respect and dignity.  His death must not be in vain.

The countless numbers of transgender people who are sometimes brutally killed that we remember each November are a reminder that gender identity and living outside the binary understanding of male and female poses a threat to some.  Their deaths must not be in vain.

Immigration laws that threaten to divide binational LGBT couples are another casualty of our growing hodgepodge of laws on the issue of who can be married in this country.  Inequality under the law must not continue.

We have come a long way, but we have so much further to go.   And it will take all people of faith to put on the mantle of light and the prophet and speak truth to power… both in the houses of our government and our houses of worship.  It is our calling to allow our mouths and our bodies to become the vehicle through which Love can cast out the fear that keeps us down.

May this calling to courageous acts of Love be fulfilled in your hearing.
Mtr. Phoebe: We pray in peace and call upon the Spirit to whom all hearts are open, all desires known: silence
Mtr. Phoebe: Comfort and succor those who have suffered rejection from their family, friends and faith communities
All: May they forge new bonds of affection here on earth and be nourished by the unconditional love of the Almighty from heaven.
Mtr. Galen: Protect those who suffer violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, both here and abroad
All: Shield and defend them from the forces that seek to do them harm, and turn the hearts of those who would oppress them.
Mtr. Phoebe: Grant courage and strength to those who live in fear of revealing their true selves
All: Give them hope in their struggles and assurance of your great love.
Mtr. Galen: Empower those allies who stand with their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters
All: That they are uplifted and inspired by the Spirit Who drives them to cry out for justice.
Mtr. Phoebe: Preserve all people who have entered into loving and committed relationships
All: And direct the nations of the world to recognize marriage equality for all.
Mtr. Galen: Lead all of us from prejudice to truth, from blindness to clarity, from apathy to compassion
All: And melt our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, as we strive to become instruments of Divine transformation.
A Collect for Action
Almighty God of our many understandings, you have called us to follow your example of love and bind the wounds of those who have suffered rejection in your name; place in our hearts the power to love; place in our mouths the power to enlighten; place in our minds the power to understand. Let our knowledge of your truth give us the wisdom and strength to turn bitter injustice into loving acceptance, and guide the people of the world towards the path of greater inclusivity, where all may live in peace. In the Name of your great love for us, we ask it all. Amen.
The service concluded with the Pagans leading those who wanted to do it in a chant and spiral dance to raise the energy and send it out into the world.  May that carry us forward to keep doing the courageous acts of Love that will change the hearts and minds of many more people.







1 comment:

Phoebe McFarlin said...

Glad to see our part in the Interfaith Pride service in print! It was a privilege to be a part of the planning as well as participating.