Prayers Celebrating Pride is worship prepared by our LGBTQ+ Team. It is a congregational-wide effort which marks the police raids on the Stonewall Inn, June 28, 1969. The raid was the beginning of six days of rioting and unrest which initiated the Pride movement – a riot which sought equal rights and protections for LGTBQ+ folks. A year later, the first Pride Parade marched through the streets of New York to build momentum, to help us remember, and to affect change.
The work continues and is now more necessary than ever. We see rights being taken away. Voices being threatened. And those in power using dehumanizing rhetoric, hoping to ensure that all people stay in their place. Luckily, as Christians, we follow Jesus. Jesus lived and died so that we would heal, have hope and live into the people God created.
Since we were unable to host the Village Pride Picnic this year, it is within this spirit that we created “Prayers Celebrating Pride.” This morning prayer service includes scripture, music, history, reflection and prayer.
The work that the people of St. Elisabeth’s has achieved over the years is worth certainly worth marking and celebrating. I am sorry we cannot gather on the lawn and make our support visible. Maybe next year. Remember, there is still more work to do. Now more than ever, we need to remember our history and to continue fighting for equality. It is not over.
Activist and political commentator extraordinaire Michelangelo Signorile, in his book It’s Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality, warns, “In seductive ways, it feels as if we had almost finally ‘made it,’ that we were just about equal in the eyes of most of the American people. The media reported on dizzying poll results that seemed to point to acceptance. We heard cheering and huge sighs of relief as many soaked up the success that now seemed so evident. Like many people, I even noticed my Facebook feed regularly erupting with posts expressing congratulations or disbelief about seeing these great strides in our lifetime.
“Yet it is a dangerous moment. It’s a moment in which all of us, LGBT and straight, who support equality risk falling prey to what I’ve come to call victory blindness. We’re overcome by the heady whirl of a narrative of victory, a kind of bedtime story that tells us we’ve reached the promised land, that can make everything else seem like a blur. Even with the enormously positive developments – and, sometimes perhaps as a reaction to them – homophobia rages on in America, as sports stars are practically rewarded after spouting hate, as TV sitcoms still make gay and transgender people the insulting punch line, as the media respects and airs bigoted views of the ‘other side,’ as businesses now brazenly flaunt a ‘no gays allowed’ policy, as many workers fear coming out on the job more than ever, as federal civil rights protections seem further away than before, and as we are often not well served by a gay establishment that apologizes for and lauds political leaders rather than demanding action. Maybe it’s time to get rid of the bedtime story and wake up from the dream. I say it’s a ‘dangerous’ moment because at the same time that all the great strides have occurred, discrimination, violence, and tragic horror stories – in addition to the daily slights that all of us who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender have experienced for years – have not only continued, they’ve sometimes become more blatant.” (pg.3)
I am personally grateful for the work of St. Elisabeth’s LGBTQ+ team. We need advocates continuously working within our much-needed institutions fighting for those who are often silenced within them. Institutions are about organizing. Organizing is about relationships. Relationships are about accountability. Most of us do not like to be held accountable. I believe in the United States we have an unhealthy perception of individuality. I believe, this boot-strapped individualism is the primary reason why the institutional Church is declining. Live free or die!
Institutional life can be painful. But the relationships they encourage are necessary. I started walking to church when I was five. I would walk south on the levee to All Saints’ River Ridge. The church was my home away from home. I served as the Senior Warden twice, was responsible for Christian Formation for adults and teens, served on all things altar and was co-chair of the search committee when our beloved rector of 27 years retired. We were the first church to call a woman rector in the Diocese of Louisiana. I remember being awakened by a phone call in the middle of the night by a parishioner asking how I could sleep at night. Women cannot be priests. I was going to hell. The church was going to hell. Things like this used to bother me. Now I know they point to something deeper. Our humanity yearning to be redeemed.
Institutional life can be unjust. I was the first openly gay candidate with a partner sponsored by the Diocese of Louisiana. When my congregation supported my call to the priesthood, I met with the bishop. He said he believed in “don’t ask, don’t tell.” I responded by reminding him that I was gay and had a partner. I don’t think he ever approved of me being honest about who I am. He knew. Why did we need to pretend? That conversation led to years of therapy!
We weren’t allowed to marry back then. According to the bishop, I was in a sinful relationship because I wasn’t married. That was on the institution. That wasn’t a burden I could carry. The Church calls this the theology of the cross. My cross was to offer to the institution an honest way forward. God would not have it any other way. I wasn’t alone. I found out there were many others. Each path is different and unique. Each choice is ultimately sacred. I am grateful that along the way I met others. Institutional reformation is aligned with the individual gifts we bring to them.
Without integrity, we are hypocrites. My journey to ordination, and the grisly details that colored my life for the eight years of that formation process, almost caused me to give up trust in the institutional church. But I love God. I love God’s people. And I love the Church that I grew up in. I prayed to God to help me remember as I picked up that cross. Submission takes many unique forms and works itself out in unusual but transformative circumstances.
We need institutions. We need community organizers. We need the Church to give voice to those whose voices are silenced. More are being silenced daily.
We are here to give voice to the voiceless, to empower those who have no power, and to walk through death, to new life – resurrection life. This is our work. This is our call.
All of this is why I am so grateful for the work and commitment of St. Elisabeth’s LGBTQ+ Team. Your work is still needed. I believe it will be needed for years to come. Justice work demands commitment to the long haul. Walk boldly with confidence with Jesus towards health and healing and happiness for all whom God created.