Archive for May, 2009

Long Beach Pride

Not bad for an old church lady Pride was fun and I think outreach was successful.  While there were some people who scoffed at the offer of blessings (we had lollipops with Bible verses stapled to them for Love, Friendship, Finances, Family, Hope, and Health) most people received them well.  Some people were quite excited at the invitation and some were interested by the concept of apologizing for the wrongs of the Christian church and offering an open door.

One woman in particular touched me.  My friend was carrying the box with lollipops and was approached by a group and when he started stuttering I stepped up (only to later discover I was possibly cock blocking too, ooooops!).  One woman said she was agnostic.  I said cool, no problem.  Frankly I don’t think my ministry is to ‘convert’ people, I think my ministry is more to bring people BACK to church who have that seed of desire or faith already in them.  I’m here to do some watering.  I have no desire to push religion on anyone.  Someone tells me they aren’t interested, I bless them and carry on.  Another woman though took the blessing enthusiastically.  I explained who it was from and what we’re about.  I talked about how we want to acknowledge that many people have been hurt by the church and tell them it’s okay to come back.  I spoke more eloquently then of course in one of those moments where I am given words when my own are insufficient.  She told me I was about to make her cry.  I invited her warmly and offered her a hug which she accepted wholeheartedly with her shades quickly pulled down to cover her misty eyes.  That woman blessed me by showing me her heart.  She blessed me by allowing me to share with her the importance of this church and this ministry to me.  I am keeping all the lives that touched me this weekend in prayer, in hopes that they will find their way to one of the many churches in our community, but her I especially have close to my heart because she had the courage to show me her pain, and the obvious hunger.  I hope she too finds her home!

It was fun singing on the float on Sunday, when I wasn’t trying to keep from falling midsong, especially seeing people singing along with us in the crowd.  And waving enthusiastically, giving us love.  I am glad I was able to represent and be a presence in my community. I was definitely blessed by the experience as much as I was tested, tried and stretched at moments.

I know a lot of my friends don’t understand and it’s perplexing to some people to see me as a church lady but most people have been very affirming and genuinely happy that I have found a church to call home and that I am more at peace with myself these days.

So yeah, pride was different but still awesome.  Still got my flirt on, still hung out, still danced for a bit, but coming from a different place and invested in different ways.

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Doing Pride Differently

Pride marches, parades, festivals… they’ve meant different things to me at different times.

Activism.  Partying. Hooking up.  Marching topless down the streets of NYC is always a gratifying experience, even the pasties in Brooklyn were fun.  Pride as a young newly out dyke with my young newly out girlfriend was about validation.  Pride on my island with my mother and my at the time partner was about representin’, integrating my identity and defying homophobia.   Pride with a huge Latino contingent in NYC with our respective flags was empowering.  Pride in Idaho was about my pastor at the MCC who was losing his battle to cancer and we were pretty sure it would be his last pride.  I’ve skipped various prides, just not feelin’ it.  I’ve gone alone.  I’ve gone with partners.  I’ve been on the prowl.

This year I’m getting ready for Long Beach Pride and it’s a different experience.  Yes, I still went shopping for the right outfit.  This time though even my shopping experience was different.  See, I am with a group wearing denim and colored shirts (they are doing horizontal striped polo shirts but those of us who just won’t do stripes are going solid).  So I was looking for a denim skirt.  Not quite my thing.  I asked the salesperson who offered help and she gathered some for me.  Cute skirts really.  So I try a few on and discover they won’t do.  One of them has a front slit that is a bit too much… so then I explain to the salesperson that I’m shopping for pride.  That gets some recognition and a friendly reaction (no, I was not kicking game and neither was she I am sure).  Then I have to explain that I need something a bit less revealing.  And, well, then I have to deal with her perplexed expression as I explain that I’m singing with a church group so I can’t quite have the high slits or micro minis.  So yeah, I was shopping for a church skirt for pride.  You see how it’s different?

This year I am blessed to be part of outreach ministry for Open Door Ministries. I will be working the booth for a while and I will be singing on a float as part of the worship team.

I am very excited about this opportunity.  I think it’s a great chance to minister and witness.  I feel called to do it.  And I’ve learned in my walk with God that I can be sure I’m called to something when I feel this combination of excitement, rightness, and terror, discomfort, and “really?????” ness.

So I am doing pride differently this year.  I’m not there to party, although I’m going to get my dancing in and hopefully see some friends.  I’m not there to hook up or flirt with random butches.  I’m there to minister to my community.  I’m going there to share a message.

I’m there to tell people and show people that it’s possible to be Queer and Christian.  That God made us and loves us, God longs for us, God watches over us, God wants us.  That no matter how much the church may have hurt people, God’s love is theirs to keep.  That it’s safe to come back to church.  Part of our message is an apology.  We apologize for the damage un-Christlike churches have done.  And we are an example of the JOY you can have in Christ and that it’s okay to be gay.   I personally am not into recruiting just for one church.  It’s bigger than my church.  It’s about healing some wounds and opening doors for people.   And as much as I feel that this ministry blesses me, I am terrified.

I have been a lukewarm Christian, a closet Christian, an uncertain Christian, an afraid-to-get-too-deep Christian.  That has changed in my life and now I can’t be silent anymore, and I can’t be lukewarm, and I can’t just be passive about my faith.  This is a recent change.  I’ve been growing in my walk with God and I”ve been stepping out in faith and learning to be empowered by my faith. That doesn’t change that I am afraid.

I grew up being told that faith was stupid, literally compromising my intellience.  I grew up being ridiculed for believing when I dared to believe.  I struggle with these wounds from my childhood.  I struggle with visibility.  And yet I know that I can’t be silent. I have to be authentic.  I have to be fully me.

When I get up on that float to sing songs of worship, it’s not about vocal dexterity, it’s about making a joyful noise.  And it’s not about me.  It’s about sharing my joy and lifting my voice to God.

When I share blessings with people at the booth, listen to anyone willing to talk, pray with anyone who might want prayer, it’s not about me.  It’s not about whether I’m comfortable with it or not.  It’s bigger than me.

One of the things we are prepared to share in outreach is our personal witness for Christ.  I can’t imagine anything more terrifying.  Intellectually and politically I can break it down for you, why I think this is important. But I have to get real with it. What has God done in my life?  Can I share that?

God has done so much for me.  I stand in awe of God’s love daily, even when I’m cranky, even when earthly love has failed me, even when I’m a mess, I can see God’s love around me, in me, everywhere.  God has given me opportunities for service.  God has given me LIFE.  God has given me joy.  God has cradled me in love and God has given me courage.  God is taking me through it all.  God is too big for words.  What God has done for me is just too big.  What God has done for me is love me, just as I am, complete with fears, with loneliness, with exhaustion, with uncertainty.  God loves me, sassy femme that I am, I am God’s babygrrl and I can count on God’s love to see me through it all.  God hasn’t made my life perfect.  But God gives me grace and strength daily to walk in love and walk in faith.  And I will sing praises as long as I have breath.

So, I will be sharing more about my church (and yes, I’m like someone with a new significant other, I get all giddy talking about MY church and talking with a friend who said OUR church a few times in the conversation made me bouncy).  I’ll be sharing more about my Queerness and Christianity.  I am not fragmented.  And I am changing in some significant ways.  Change is hard and it can be hard to share changes.   God has blessed me with a fierce and courageous spirit and I will continue to strive daily to meet these challenges.

In the meanwhile, pride is in a few days and I ask for your prayers that this may be a great opportunity for ministry.  I hope to be a blessing to others and an example of God’s amazing love.

And I’ll be a Queer Christian even in the dance tents, so hit me up if you are going to pride and you know how to salsa, merengue, or even a cumbia or two! I’ll be in the yellow section tabling.  Come say hi and get a blessing from us!

Happy Pride to LB and OC folks!