Guest blog by Proclaim member Rev. Caleb Crainer
I’m not a morning person, but on the morning of the LA Pride parade, I was in our line-up spot with donuts, t-shirts, buttons, and feather boas promptly by 7:30am. Soon after, the rest of our contingent trickled in and our friends from Hollywood United Methodist Church joined us for our annual Street Eucharist before the parade. Have you ever had the Psalm overshadowed by Jennifer Lopez’ new song? Have you ever had the words of institution covered up by revving motorcycles? It was kind of amusing, kind of annoying, and entirely holy.
Each year our Southern California Reconciling In Christ congregations (socallutherans.com) gather to volunteer at the various LGBTQ Pride events in the area. Originally we just marched in the Pride parade in Los Angeles, but now we also have a presence at parades and festivals in Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura County, and San Diego! It’s easily one of the most visible witnesses for the Lutheran Church in the state. This year we decided to do some Reformation education with our theme “500 years of FABULOUS posting!” Raul, a member at Hollywood Lutheran, totally hammed it up as a mohawk wearing Luther as we strolled down Santa Monica Boulevard lined with thousands of folks.
But Sunday’s celebration wasn’t like the others.
Young Latino Queer folks at Orlando’s Pulse Night Club had been viciously massacred just hours before. We didn’t know details or how many had been killed as we stepped off…but we knew that we would march for them. In the wake of the recent shooting at UCLA, our city was already on alert, but this was a level of evil we didn’t expect. The Police Department contacted the festival and parade organizers and asked them if they should cancel the celebration…their response: “You must not know who we are.” We are a movement born from the violent attacks of bigots, forged in the fire of scorn and ridicule, scarred by neglect and prejudice…and we are STRONG.
We waved our rainbow flags for our family who had been killed the night before, our friends who had died of HIV/AIDS, our neighbors who lived in closets and fear, and for ourselves.
Los Angeles’ Pride Parade was started in 1970, on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The parade became known as “Christopher Street West” after the location of the drag-bar where our trans/drag/queer siblings had had enough with police brutality and oppression. Our west-coast parade, started by local clergy and leaders, was intended to display our pride in the midst of crushing hatred. We would remember, we would persevere.
I kept getting text messages from people all morning wanted to express their sorrow and solidarity and some said “I’m glad you’re safe.” Little did I know, that the threats we were under were even more real and near than I even imagined. Later while I was working at the booth one person said, “I’m glad they caught that guy in Santa Monica.” A young man had been caught that morning with a vehicle full of guns and was reportedly headed for the parade. Who knew we had all been in mortal danger the entire time we’d been frolicking so gayly?
The truth is we never know what’s coming. We can be prepared, but our LGBTQ community is strong and defiant and passionate. We know that in order to find safety, we must risk everything. We dare to love and that is the gospel of Pride. We have strength in our vulnerability and promise in our uncertainty. It’s a gospel that resonates with our Christian tradition and it’s a gospel more people deserve to hear.
I’m so proud of members of Proclaim. I feel like every Sunday is like a mini-pride-parade for us, for God, and for love that brings us through. Happy Pride!
Rev. Caleb Crainer serves as pastor of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Los Angeles, California where he enjoys group costumes, passing out buttons, and walking in long lines. Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.