Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

The Spirit of the Living God Fell Fresh on Us Today at the Service–Gay Pride Meets Pentecost

That is the way that someone might describe the experience of our service today, if that someone were in a church that uses more traditional and evocative metaphors. I actually love the phrasing, and sometimes it perfectly fits my experience.

The phrasing would be timely as a description, as today is Pentecost in the liturgical calendar of the Christian tradition.  Pentecost recalls that event in Chapter 2 of Acts of the Apostles when a great wind blows across an international gathering.  Tongues of fire touch the heads of many of the people, and they begin speaking in tongues different from their native ones.  It’s a multi-lingual miracle of the Spirit.  We didn’t observe Pentecost today at UUSS, intentionally.

It was LGBT Pride Sunday for us today.  My senior ministerial colleague and I had very small roles, but we looked good, he in a rainbow lei and I in a more tasteful rainbow-beaded Mardi Gras necklace, which went well with my charcoal gray suit.  Then Doug led a meditation to help us integrate the shocking news that one of our lesbian members had died from a drug overdose this past week, and to help us remember and say goodbye to several other members we recently mourned in memorial services.

We were happy to welcome another colleague, the director and senior minister of the UU Legislative Ministry in California, who was one of the first few openly lesbian ministers when she was appointed to a small church in San Jose in the 1980s when she was 31 and it had barely two dozen members.  (It grew tenfold in her 17 years there.)  For the past 7 years she has directed the Legislative Ministry.  She introduced the Legislative Ministry’s areas of advocacy and its accomplishments to us, and we gave away half of our morning offering to its work.

Eric, our young music director,  sang and accompanied himself on piano to Fred Small’s lovely “Everything Possible,” which is in our hymnal supplement but which works better as a solo.  Very moving.  Mary, a beloved member, played violin, with our accompanist Rachel at the piano, enriching and inspiring us with the music of Fritz Kreisler.

The speakers included four members or friends of the congregation: three women and one man.  Powerful testimony from every single one of them.

An epigram of our ancestor Ralph Waldo Emerson comes to mind:  “Insist on yourself.  Never imitate.”

We heard vignettes from the early years of the AIDS crisis, the early years of the Gay and Lesbian chorus movement around the country and the Gay Games around the world.  We heard a lesbian grandmother recall being counted as one of four parents of her former partner’s son.  We heard a young man who had delayed coming out even as his friends and families asked him and said it would be okay if he were gay.  He also had considered suicide but then resisted it, hearing the call to conscience — and hearing what he calls his God Voice.  Then he came out to himself and others, claiming  life’s gifts and spiritual freedom for himself, and offering his gifts in service to the larger world.

The group members were appreciative, courageous, revealing, celebratory, and quite moving.  Their gratitude for what this congregation has become, and for our church’s intentional and explicit outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, reminds me why it still is important for us to continue to be intentional about our inclusivity.  Because of the enduring effects of the negative messages of so many “religious” institutions and people, and of the ignorance and harm that continues to plague our society, we still need to be an affirming religious voice.  Our voice needs to be heard!

So many people came to me afterward to say how moved they had been by the service, and how inspired.  Yes! I concurred.  It was an hour of testimony, grief, remembrance, confession, comfort, reconciliation, celebration, defiance, gratitude and grace.  It was a day of renewed faith and courage, of connection, unity, and hope.

Heck, I won’t leave it to other churches only to use these words, for they describe what I saw and felt:

The Spirit of the living god fell fresh on us this day.

Blessed be.  Namaste.


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