Today we hear from guest blogger, Brenda Bos a member of the Proclaim community currently living in southwest California.
Los Angeles Pride Parade & Festival
Reconciling in Christ Lutherans marched in the Christopher Street West Los Angeles Pride parade June 10, 2012. This was my third parade as a member of RIC, my first wearing a clerical collar. For many people, Pride is a place to come out as an LGBT person. For me, I was coming out as a pastor.
My internship supervisor and fellow Proclaim member Pr. James Boline and I marveled at how fortunate we are to be serving in the Southwest California Synod. We humbly acknowledge we stand on the shoulders of those who have come before. In fact, this year’s Street Eucharist, held before the Parade, honored The Berkeley Four (Joel Workin, Greg Egertson, Pr. Jeff Johnson and Jim Lancaster) who were the first “out” seminarians at PLTS in the 80’s as well as our current bishop, The Very Rev. Dean Nelson and former bishop The Very Rev. Paul Egertson and his wife Shirley, all of whom have been advocates and pastors to us all. Because of these brave people, we can be out and proud today.
There are three major points of ministry at the L.A. Pride parade and festival, and I wanted to celebrate them all with you.
First: our bishop and other Lutherans march in the parade. We hand out club cards with a list of welcoming churches in the area. Bishop Nelson blesses the crowd, smiles, shouts “Happy Pride!” and “God bless you!”. You can imagine people are both amazed and touched. A few years ago we overheard one woman ask another in the crowd, “What’s he wearing around his neck, a chalice?” and the other said, “I don’t know I’m an atheist,” and then started applauding and called out, “Thank you, Bishop, thank you for being here.” You never know who will be touched by our presence.
Second: the Street Eucharist. We share this service with local Episcopalians. One of their bishops also attends. It’s incredible to see bishops in full vestments, on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, preaching and presiding, usually right next to a float of dancers who are preparing to hit the route. Talk about Proclaiming! Every year people stop and listen, needing a few minutes to take in the sacred space at Pride. Then they look around and see the rainbow boas, the drag queens, the LGBT couples holding hands while they pray…their minds are officially blown.
Third is our booth at the festival. We apply over 2500 RIC heart temporary tattoos to anyone and everyone every year for three years. You have to experience it to understand the power of those thirty seconds spent with a stranger as the tattoo is applied. Sometimes there is only silliness, when a group rushes the booth and says, “We want that great tattoo!” Sometimes it is a chance for a young gay person to whisper, “Really? Your church is OK with me?” Nothing compares to that moment when you can look a person in the eye and say “Yes. God loves you.”
This year I started to understand how members of Proclaim are role-models to LGBT Lutherans. A lesbian couple from my home congregation kept introducing me to people they met at Pride. “She’s doing it!” they would say. “She’s going to be a pastor and she has a partner!” We offer a powerful message of hope about the future of our church and the work of Jesus Christ in the world.
You may not have a Pride festival or parade in your area. If you do, wear a collar. Open a booth with a rainbow flag and offer free blessings and tattoos. If you don’t, consider a street Eucharist at a public event. Start wearing a RIC temporary tattoo and share with friends. Or just try to find a way to tell someone, “It’s true, God loves you!” Happy Pride, Proclaim!
Brenda Bos is a member of the Proclaim Communications Duo and a 2012 Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries seminarian internship grant recipient. She lives in Pasadena, California with her partner Janis Reid. She will serve as Vicar of St. Paul Santa Monica beginning August 1, 2012.