ELM Blog- Love in Action: John M. Brett

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A ministry of intersections

We begin at the intersection of 18th & Castro. We gather on that most sacred corner, an epicenter of memory, of protest, of witness, of love. Sometimes called Hibernia Beach, sometimes called the community shrine, generations of queer community members have been memorialized there; there we recognize individual deaths & community losses, whether during the height of the AIDS epidemic or more recently with actions honoring those fallen at Pulse & other massacres. We begin each Drag Eucharist with these ancestors, & we return each Ash Wednesday too. Across the street, we gathered to close Harvey’s, the site of the raid of the Elephant Walk bar, along with elders present for the White Night Riots & the retaliatory aftermath. At 20th & South Van Ness, the Fiesta Laundromat’s lights beckon 24 hours a day. On the last Wednesday of each month, I help feed quarters into the machines for Free Laundry Day, a day of mutual aid coordinated by Rad Mission Neighbors. Organized with a special emphasis on solidarity with sex workers, we wash clothes for all who show up each month. From our unhoused & marginally housed neighbors to those simply needing to stretch their dollars before their next check, together we wait out the cycles of wash & dry with snacks. The machines purr & whirl, their clicks & buzzers a mechanical meditation on socio-economic inequality. I say hello to returning & new faces as I continue becoming part of the community fabric.

At 16th & Mission, at Manny’s, an event space it seems every Democratic hopeful in the country has visited, I tip the drag queens at the Indigiqueer Two Spirit Drag Show. The collared minister in the front row is conspicuous, jokes are made, & a black lacy thong is flung my way by a drag queen I know but haven’t yet seen perform. My dollar bills & Starbucks cards serve insufficiently as reparations from church members who know the spiritual & religious trauma the church has caused. Earlier in the week I met a black trans elder here to share & vision together.

Intersections farther flung across the city remain unnamed. A different mix of people gather & pass through each of them. Some I have visited, & the textures & realities of others remain unknown to me. The City landscape distills, often visibly, ways in which political & social forces, environmental & economic realities, create resonance & dissonance within & between individuals & collectives. Those forces inescapably impact our bodies & the bodies of those we love, our lived realities, the spiritual lives we lead. Redlining. Redevelopment. Relocation. Gentrification. Environmental pollution. These phenomena & others inform how the queer community & intersecting communities may receive accompaniment.

At night, during the day, I leave the confines of the church & I walk. I explore. I remain curious. Sometimes, I stop. I show up in both expected & unexpected places.
John M. Brett (he/hym/hys), ELCA seminarian & street chaplain, serves the SF Night Ministry as Minister of Faithful&Fabulous! & Director of Community Programs, where he offers queer-centric ministry & multifaith programming & accompaniment. Christened IrReverend & High Priest of Fabulous by parishioners, his first on-the-job pastoral care lesson was to remember to tip the drag queens. He leads Drag Street Eucharists around the country & serve on the organizing committee for the now annual Spiritual DragCon.

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