Like a lot of gay men of my generation, I did not even begin to explore what it meant to be gay, much less come out, until my mid-thirties. Unlike most of them, I arrived on the scene directly from a monastery rather than a relationship with a woman. But, like them, I was the proverbial kid in the candy store. A quarter of a century later, (twenty of those with my spouse), I am sometimes tempted to look back on those years with shame. A committed monogamous relationship wasn’t on my agenda.
I was looking. In the words of a song I often heard on my first forays into the bars, I was looking for an angel. I needed angels right then who would tell me that I was desirable. I needed angels to be patient with my inexperience. I needed angels who would help me find a new sense of belonging.
I prayed in sync with the hypnotic beat of “Send Me an Angel”. And, I believe, my prayers were answered with flesh and blood angels, genuine messengers of God. Mostly sweet, patient, generous, loving men, each of them angels unaware, who are all a part of who I am today, including and maybe even especially, the pastor part. When I am tempted to be ashamed of me in those early days or, worse, to see those men as themselves tempters, I remember my song from those days and the men who were an answer to my prayer. Perhaps you have your own angels whom you wish to remember. In this particularly devastating and yet hopeful Pride season, we stand in the midst of a great company of angels, praising God and joining in their song: “Holy, Holy, Holy!”
Austin Newberry (he, him, his) is serving in his first call as a pastor with the community gathered as First Lutheran Church in Louisville, KY and lives with his spouse in Columbus, IN.
So much is going on, but you can always come around. Why don’t you just sit with me for just a little while? Come and tell me, what’s wrong? Gimme all your love, gimme all you got. When I hear these lyrics, I clearly hear God’s cry for God’s people. I hear instructions for care and concern for each other. But when I take the time to listen deeply, I hear the many nuances and risks behind the words embedded in the music. I hear a divine embrace of the queer experience.
So many highs, so many lows both in register and volume. Different tempos, layers of instruments at different times, all sorts of textures, all contained within four minutes. Most popular music would not dare touch all of these elements in one song, but the Alabama Shakes do it with minimal lyrics and maximized emotion.
See, in Gimme All Your Love, there is no mistaking the contrasts and adventures in sound which relay a pronounced intensity open to the listener’s interpretations. Is Brittany Howard’s androgynous, raspy voice lamenting? Celebrating? Seducing? What are the Alabama Shakes trying to say with those four big notes followed by sparseness? What do we do with the open instrumental section in the second half? To me, these refreshing deviations from predictable pop music scream the queer experience. The rich textures of our voices carry the complex wisdom of life experiences. Taking risks for expansive, life-giving experience is something queer people know well. One second we are high on our own freedom and liberation, and the next we know the pain of phobias and -isms meant to trap us. So I am left wondering, are we hearing the music of our communities? And, what is the music of our own words?
In a world starving for liberation, God calls us to deeply listen to all of the LGBTQIA+ community, especially those living with layers of oppressed identities. We have the capacity to turn up the volume of these voices and listen for the many textures shaping them. We can make sure our words are more than words, that they are backed up by the act of making sound and the perpetual motion of tempo. We can take a back-up role when necessary, while also understanding when it is our time to be featured. We can also remember that we are part of one absolutely fabulous band, bound together by the music we make.
Let us pray…God of all sound and music, widen our capacity to listen. Sustain our voices when they proclaim the liberation found in Christ. Give us the breath of your Spirit to sing for justice. Bless the queer voices we bring to witness. Amen.
Kayla Sadowy (she/her) is a bi-vocational seminarian based in Philadelphia. Her work as a music therapist has proven the power of music to be a force for transformation and new life, especially to oppressed people. Kayla’s public witness seeks equity over equality, justice over fairness, and aesthetics over beauty. She loves cooking anything from scratch, hiking with her partner, and experimenting in ever-elusive urban gardening.
CW: mention of White Supremacy Culture, Police Violence, Transphobia
Who makes you feel real?
I invite you to actually think about that.
Are there two, maybe three people in your life who help you feel acknowledged, loved, understood, and safe? Oh, and also affirmed in who you REALLY are?
We all deserve to be acknowledged and loved for who we really are, but for many, that is not the reality. Though we are known and loved by our Creator, human systems do not always follow this example.
George Floyd was lynched by Minneapolis police just over a month ago, on May 25. Two days later, Tony McDade, a trans man, was killed by police in Florida. Initial reports of his murder misgendered him.
White Supremacy relies on dehumanizing black and brown people, distancing from Blackness. Transphobia relies on willfully ignoring the trueness of affirmed selfhood. Both rely on denying the real personhood- the real Good-ness of another. That can look like questioning if a Black person suffocated under the knee of the state somehow “had it coming” or “should have listened.” That can look like valuing buildings and possessions over people. Or in Tony McDade’s case, it can look like malicious reporting and simply less coverage overall: erasure.
White Supremacy (which we know is intertwined with the social sins of Imperialism, Capitalism, Heteropatriarchy) reproduces itself by valuing buildings, property, and merchandise over Black lives. I defer to Sonya Renee Taylor, divine black Woman scholar-prophet, to help us understand: “As long as capital is more important than black bodies, black bodies will need to disrupt capital.”
But God, who knit us in Their womb, knows we are real. Knows each one and knows each one in their divine Blackness, Transness, Queerness, Made-Good-ness.
From my Christian perspective, I choose to- have to- believe in Good News. The Good News from the Gospel of Sylvester: “You make me feel mighty real” can be a prayer to the One who dwells within us, the Constant One- our God. And this Source, this Creator knows, through Jesus, what it is to be fully human- to be “real” in the way that we understand it in our corporeality. In fact, Jesus (a brown man) also knows what it is like to suffocate on the cross at the hands of the state.
Sylvester was an out, Black, Gay man who excelled in drag, raised Pentecostal, and remained a Christian throughout his life. His gender presentation was expansive and glam. Sylvester contracted AIDS in the late 1980s, and the 1988 Castro Street Fair in San Francisco was titled “A Tribute to Sylvester.” He is quoted as insisting: “I don’t believe that AIDS is the wrath of God.” At his funeral a few months later, he had full makeup, dress, and sermon, and choirs at his church, Love Center. He bequeathed his future music royalties to local AIDS support organizations.
Social sins of White Supremacy and Transphobia attempt to make us believe that others are less than, less real. Hold tight to those who “Make you feel mighty real,” tell them you thought of them when reading this blog, and know that to our mighty God, through the gift of grace, you are always already beloved- and mighty, mighty real.
PS: I invite you to learn more about Sylvester through:
Anna Czarnik-Neimeyer (she/her/hers) is a white anti-racist queer woman seminarian in the ELCA by way of Seattle University (yay Jesuits!) and Luther Seminary (yay Lutherans!). She lives on the unceded land of the Duwamish people of past and present (Seattle). In non-COVID times, she liked thrifting, potlucks, and dress-up dance parties. In COVID-times, she likes cultivating plants, Zoom Church, a home-made mask with her partner’s dog printed on it, and being a cabin counselor for “QueeranTeen Camp” for queer interfaith youth.
The grace of Jesus the Christ, the love of God the Creator, and the communion of the Queer-making Spirit be with you all.
I am The Reverend Nicole Garcia, pastor of Westview Church in Boulder, CO. I welcome you all to this worship service to commemorate Pride. The mission statement of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is, “Freed and compelled by the Gospel of Jesus Christ to proclaim God’s love and seek justice for all, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries envisions a church where all can serve God according to their callings.”
These powerful words were lived out through the decades when individuals were “Extraordinarily Ordained.” ELM enabled so many of my friends and colleagues to answer their call to ministry. These powerful words are lived out today as we witness the church lifting up more people from the LGBTQ+ community into positions of leadership.
Today we give thanks for those who endured the pain of rejection, but refused to leave the church they loved. Today we give thanks for those who have taken leadership roles in the church. Today we give thanks for those who will continue to tear down the walls that separate us, so the message of love and inclusion of Jesus Christ can become a reality.
Today, our worship service will include Holy Communion. You are invited to set a place for a patten and chalice near the place where you will participate in the service. If you would like to receive Holy Communion, have bread and wine or grape juice ready. Any kind of bread or gluten-free option is fine. Any cup will serve as your chalice for wine or juice. You may also choose to only use bread and it will still be a full experience of the sacrament. If you don’t feel comfortable with this way of receiving communion, that is fine. When the Words of Institution are uttered, you are invited to raise the bread or cup, respectively, at the same time, I am raising the bread or cup. In this way, we are church together.
Let us begin…
Call to Worship by Rev. Brenda Bos- Spoken by Rev. Nicole Garcia
You were in a very good mood the day You created us.
Fabulous and faithful, free and fierce
Made in Your own image.
We are the people You have called us to be,
Liberated, Longing, Loving.
Filled with the hope of the rainbow, Set free by Your gifts of grace.
We marvel at your love
We bow to your mercy.
We live because of your forgiveness.
Join us in these moments
And in our lives
We offer once again
All of ourselves given to You,
Who first gave all of Yourself for us.
Alleluia, Alleluia, all praise and honor are Yours,
Now and forever,
Thanksgiving for Baptism, adapted by Rev. Brenda Bos- Spoken by Nicole Garcia
We give you thanks, O God,
for, in the beginning, you called forth life from the waters of chaos.
At Stonewall our siblings met chaos with courage, shouting “No” so we now can receive “Yes”.
Through the waters of the flood, you delivered Noah and their family.
The Berkeley Four faced their own rising waters of fear and rejection,
But they held firm in their faith that you would save them from the maelstrom.
At the river, Jacob wrestles with your messenger and receives a blessing,
and you give him a new name.
In 2009 you gave us a new name: “Ordained” in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Through the sea, you led your people Israel into a new identity as a free people.
The extraordinarily ordained, those who came out later in life, those who never thought they would
Live to see same-gender marriage; we are now a free people.
At the Jordan, your Beloved was baptized by John and anointed with the Holy Spirit.
By water and your Word, you name us all as your beloved children,
All genders, all sexualities, all people, now claim themselves as
heirs of your promise and servants of all.
We praise you for the gift of water that sustains life,
Poured out for all people,
washed clean of the shame and fear the world
Wishes to put upon us.
Raised up to new life in Jesus Christ,
God’s most glorious gift,
Embodied in each of us through the Holy Spirit,
All praise to you, Living God, now and forever.
Gathering Hymn Canticle of Turning- performed by Deacon John Weit and Rev. Matt James
An excerpt from Joel Workin’s Essay “The Prodigal Church”- Luke 15: 11-32 read by Greg Egertson
Usually, when we hear St. Luke’s story of God’s grace in the parable of the “Prodigal Child,” we the listeners are cast in the title role. Not a bad part, actually, since as the stars of the show we get to satisfy all of our carnal desire and still have things work out back home in the end. A sort of have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too role. And that great swine scene: “I will arise and go to my father!”
The other alternative, of course, is to be cast in the villain’s role and play the big bad Elder Sibling who will not cut anyone a break. Not a bad part either. Anyway, as I say, this is how it usually works out. Usually.
In the story of the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgendered/Queer people and the church, however, the customary roles are reversed. The Church, God’s understudy, which usually retains for itself the role of warm and waiting Parent, is now the one that has taken the “journey to the far country.”
In this drama, with the Church off living its carnal and sinful life, LGBTQ Christians are suddenly thrust into the role of Forgiving Parent and are left standing, if I may use this rural image, by the mailbox at the end of the driveway waiting for the Prodigal to come home. What does it mean for the church’s LGBTQ people to play the part of this often overlooked, mostly inactive character of Forgiving Parent? If prodigality and hospitality have both been taken away, what is left to do? The parable answers back quite simply: wait.
It is curious to note that in the parable the Prodigal wises up without anybody’s assistance or advice (save the swine’s perhaps). Will the church do the same?
We as the grieved party, have the power of forgiveness. But, whereas one may forgive, it takes two to be reconciled.
Childish as the Church may seem and act, it is not a child. LGBTQ Christians, therefore, await a Church that comes home as an adult. Not happily perhaps, not jumping and skipping, even some fear and concern, but of its own will and confessing with its lips and heart that “I have sinned against you and against God.” A church which is dragged home, seduced or tricked home does not end the wait. No, we do better by waiting, waiting expectantly, lovingly and hopefully by the mailbox for a repentant return, rather than playing juvenile games about recognition, policy, and the like.
It is not easy to hope and to believe in future reconciliation when a loved one says “No, period,” and blithely walks away. It is not easy to stand ready to forgive and to welcome home with open arms. Personally, I would rather be the star and squander the family fortune. That sounds like a lot more fun. The parable, however, says, “Hope, believe, wait.” There is more to be said. This show is not over yet.
Just you wait.
Genesis 9:12-17- Bishop Susan Johnson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
God said, “Here is the sign of the covenant between me and you and every living creature for ageless generations: I set my bow in the clouds, and it will be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, my bow will appear in the clouds. Then I will remember the covenant that is between me and you and every kind of living creature, and never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all flesh. Whenever my bow appears in the clouds I will see it, and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all living things on the earth.”
Psalm 13- Margaret Moorland
1 How long, YHWH? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I wrestle with my anguish,
and wallow in despair all day long?
How long will my enemy win over me? 3 Look at me! Answer me, YHWH, my God!
Give light to my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, 4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed,”
lest my foes rejoice when I fall. 5 I trust in your love;
my heart rejoices
in the deliverance you bring. 6 I’ll sing to you, YHWH,
for being so good to me.
Gospel Matthew 10:40-42 “Those who welcome you also welcome me, and those who welcome me welcome the One who sent me. “Those who welcome prophets just because they are prophets will receive the reward reserved for the prophets themselves; those who welcome holy people just because they are holy will receive the reward of the holy ones. “The truth is, whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these lowly ones just for being a disciple will not lack a reward.”
Sermon – Rev. Jen Rude
Hymn of the Day – San Francisco’s Gay Men’s Chorus- “Truly Brave”
Queer Christian Creed, Created by Rev. Emily E. Ewing, Rev. Brenda Bos, and Katy Miles-Wallace- Spoken by Rev. Asher O’Callaghan.
I believe in God the Creator,
who designed all good things,
including people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.
I believe in Jesus Christ, Sophia, the Word,
who came to earth to live among us,
who was born into a non-conventional family
that adored Jesus even when they didn’t totally get it,
who confounded authorities and comforted the oppressed.
Jesus was so hated by the Empire that they took the earthly body of God,
crucified it, mocked it, killed it,
and threw it in a grave as one of so many marginalized people..
Jesus knew personal Hell.
On the third day, God celebrated the wonder of the human body
and the power of resurrection over death and oppression.
Women were the first to declare Christ risen.
Jesus ascended into the realm of beauty,
and They continue to move among us,
blessing and sustaining us.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, all music, wonder, and strength.
I am a member of the Body of Christ.
I cherish the communion of the saints,
live because of the forgiveness of sin,
emulate the resurrection of the Body
and already experience life everlasting. Amen
Prayers of the People, adapted by Margarette Ouji from enfleshed.com
In the midst of chaos and calm, and all that keeps our spirits wild, overwhelmed, or troubled, we pause.
We pause to remember each other as those whose precious and precarious lives are inherently bound together. We pause to remember the gifts of water, of trees, of beauty, of the land each of us inhabits.
We pause to remember our neighbors – distant and near.
And so to the One who is Love, we bring the prayers of our communities. Where we share in joy or concern, let us respond together, “Beloved, as the world turns, hear our prayers.”
Let us pray…
We pray for our elders whose labor of love we show reverence to. We pray for St. Francis and First United, the first congregations that called our LGBQTIA+ siblings as their pastors thirty years ago. For the congregations that followed courageously and faithfully in their footsteps.
Beloved, as the world turns, hear our prayers.
For the ones who never tasted the freedom they fought for. For the ones who were forced to the fringes of their own movements. For the allies who suffered beside us, casting their lot with us in true solidarity. For the ones forgotten and betrayed.
Beloved, as the world turns, hear our prayers.
For the ones who are struggling with feelings of isolation and shame. For those who have no safe place or people to retreat to. For those who are unsafe in their homes and communities during this pandemic we find ourselves in.
Beloved, as the world turns, hear our prayers.
For the black and brown bodies who have been murdered by the state. For our black, brown and indigenous trans siblings. For the ones who speak truth to power. For the protestors who will not cease until justice is served. For the ones who took risks, who dreamed.
Beloved, as the world turns, hear our prayers.
For all those who hunger for justice and liberation today. For all who are suffering in the world and in our church at the hands of white supremacy. For those imprisoned by the state. For those whose land has been taken. For the land we occupy that does not belong to us. For the earth that groans beneath us. For those without food or shelter. For those who have yet to repent.
Beloved, as the world turns, hear our prayers.
We pray in gratitude for all that nourishes and sustains us. For the gifts of beauty and friendship, shared meals, and art, and love. For laughter. For pleasure. For the friends, lovers, and comrades who lift our spirits, always by our side when the days are heavy. For the freedom we have in Christ.
Beloved, as the world turns, hear our prayers.
For your presence within and around us, in our highs and lows, and everywhere in between. In our hope and our despair, Creator, we give you thanks. Hear our prayers and deepen our willingness to show up with and for one another, sharing in each other’s burdens and working for one another’s protection and care. Amen.
Offering Music “Gracious Spirit, Heed our Pleading” provided by Tasha Gerken-Nelson & Rev. Amanda Gerken-Nelson
God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to God.
Let us give thanks to God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
It is indeed right our duty and our joy
That we should at all times and in all places
Give thanks and praise to you
We thank you, divine Seamstress
For you never stop creating.
From the dawn of time, in our mother’s womb, and even in the age to come,
Your creativity is as endless as eternity.
Even today you are knitting us your people
Into a garment of many colors.
We thank you, Holy Spirit,
For you do not allow us to grow complacent.
You stir up dreams and visions within us
Making us restless for a new Heaven and a new Earth.
You clothe us with power to bring these dreams to life.
In you, we are beginning to see all things anew.
We thank you, Christ our Savior
For your wondrous transformation
Word made into flesh.
You challenge us with foreign experiences
Teaching us that those we thought were strange and cut off
Are members in your holy body.
Therefore, with Joseph and all of Israel’s children,
With the confused disciples and the Ethiopian eunuch,
With all who have shown us your way,
All who have gone before us,
And all those we gather with this day,
We praise your name:
Holy, holy, holy God of power and might. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God. Hosanna in the highest.
Jesus is made known to us in the breaking of bread
and in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.
We remember how, on the night before he was
crucified, Jesus took bread, gave thanks broke it and said,
this is the bread of life.
Every time you eat it together, remember me.
Again, after supper, Jesus took the cup,
gave thanks, and gave it for all to drink, saying:
this cup is God’s love poured out for you
and for all people for the forgiveness of sin,
whenever you drink it, remember me.
We remember that night Jesus spent with his friends,
and we feel their presence with us now,
brought into our midst by faith and love,
opening our eyes to a new reality.
We ask God, through the Holy Spirit
to bless these gifts we offer and share,
making them Christ’s body and blood,
and we Christ’s holy people.
Together with all the church, we give you thanks:
Creator, Redeemer, Spirit of love.
Bind us together. Open our hearts.
Grant us peace. Amen.
Using the language of your own heart, let us pray together the prayer Jesus taught us: (you may use the following or other similar words in any language)
Our Parent who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy reign come.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the reign, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
INVITATION TO COMMUNION
Come and your souls will be fed. Come at the Holy One’s invitation and eat
the bread of salvation; drink of Jesus’s love poured out for you.
Before we share communion, let us pray together:
God, in this time of physical separation from our church
family, we give you thanks as we partake in your gift of grace,
Holy Communion. As we receive this meal, remind us of your
forgiveness and promise of eternal life. This we pray in Jesus’
holy name. Amen.
This is the body of Christ given for you.
This is the blood of Christ shed for you.
Queer-making Spirit, you made darkness and light and twilight called them good; sea and dry land and everything in between; genders trans, cis and all that is beyond and outside. Yet this world, this life, and this feast are but a foretaste of your celestial realm. Nourish our hearts and bodies so that the loves we have fought for, fuel us to keep fighting until the kin-dom of God is come. We ask this in the name of the one, holy, and undivided Trinity.
Sending Song – “Beloved” – The Eschatones (Caitlin, Emily, Anne, Carolina & Christina)
Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers,
nor things present, nor things to come,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
I grew up in rural Montana. The discovery of my own sexuality amidst the highly conservative political and religious environment of the mid-90s left me exiled from the world that I had spent my whole life inhabiting. If there were other queer people around, they were deeply closeted.
Eventually, I came out in one of Montana’s small cities and lived openly. Our community of LGBTQ+ people, before the digital and internet age, was tightly knit and fiercely protective of one another. We were living openly, in resistance to almost everything that surrounded us.
The loneliness I felt was transformed by a sense of home that the queer community offered me, when I could claim it. Community became a holiness, a grace made visible for my long years of loneliness. How true has this been for so many of us? I found that I, too, was worthy of love. Because I was loved by all of you.
That’s not to say my community then and our LGBTQIA+ communities now are perfect. It took me years to comprehend the racism, misogyny, classism, and ageism deeply imbedded in the queer culture of the 1990s and now. I noticed how queer men and women didn’t mix — how clubs and bars enforced this gendered separation through the practice of “men only” entrances and charging higher covers for women at dance clubs. I noticed that white gay men didn’t cross some invisible line in a gay bar in Eastern Montana and meet or make friends with Indigenous queer and two-spirited people. It took years to understand how my own privilege allowed me to benefit from and made me complicit in these wrongs. I am still learning.
And, the Holy One is at work among us. Transformation requires the willingness to be broken open. Queer people of God are gifted with the ability to transform ourselves and our lives in special ways. We were broken out of the tomb of our closets, out of the bondage of our old ways of living that kept us separated from others.
George’ Michael’s, “Freedom” remains an imperfect song, but it continues to remind me that I am liberated, set free in Love.
Jory Mickelson (he/they) is a mission developer in the Northwest Washington Synod. They are currently looking for ways to build connections and imbed service to the LGBTQ+ community in the life of the church where they live. A writer and educator, their first book Wilderness//Kingdom was published in 2019.
Brittany Howard, notably the former lead singer of band Alabama Shakes, debuted her first solo project with a message that went straight to my heart. You’ll have to forgive me for how on the nose this is y’all, but she took it there and I couldn’t think of a better message for a Pride Devotional.
Request: Listen to the song before you read this. Collect your own ideas/feelings before you consider mine.
Howard is giving her testimony in this song. She is unraveling her theological thought process here for us. Spliced with the familiar sound of a Black southern preacher, Howard’s roots are reified. It’s as if she is saying to us: Yep, it is possible to be queer, be southern, be Black, be disabled and simultaneously loved by the Divine.
“I don’t need to know why ‘Cause I know what love means”
I was raised a Christian and there have been people that told me (or my parents) that I couldn’t be all the things at the same time. That some of my identities would contradict or invalidate the others. They claimed that choices had to be made in order to be worthy of Divine love and acceptance and, for many years, I believed them.
What I know now is that my Blackness, queerness, nonbinary-ness, and my spirituality all harmoniously exist in the same soup that is my life and purpose. I came to understand that through experience. The evidence I have of an ever-present Divine is an experience more than it is a prescription, idea, or aspiration. I recognize that may not be enough for some people and I have perfect peace with it. I don’t stand in the need to defend my experience, rather I sing along with Brittany and an infinite choir of those who know:
“He loves me when I do what I want
He loves me.
He doesn’t judge me.
Yes, He loves me.”
Love is the message, y’all. I am loved by many (here on this Earth and those who are no longer). I hold all of that love as a gift. I hope that you do too, this Pride month and forever after.
Olivia LaFlamme (they/them) is a Black queer nonbinary person residing in Durham, NC. By day the Program Director for ELM and by *evening* avid knitter, dedicated eater of anything sweet, and amateur TV critic (because I watch everything). Current knitting project is a baby blanket featuring fluffy clouds for friends’ first baby!
The album was Erasure’s “Pop! — The First 20 Hits,” a compilation that came out in the fall of 1992, about a month after I’d come out at the beginning of my sophomore year of college. The song was “Chains of Love,” which had come out in April of 1988, near the end of my freshman year of high school. The lyrics began:
“How can I explain when there are few words I can choose?
How can I explain when words get broken?”
And the second verse asked,
“Do you remember once upon a time,
when there were open doors
an invitation to the world?
We were falling in and out with lovers,
looking out for others,
our sisters and our brothers.*
Come to me, cover me, hold me.
Together we’ll break these chains of love.
Don’t give up, don’t give up now.
Together with me, my babe,
we’ll break the chains of love.”
(*apologies for the lamentable 80s gender binary.)
It was a song written to be played in queer spaces with a melody that dared you not to dance, and it was a song about life before the HIV/AIDS pandemic had put a generation of lovers into an early grave. To be honest, I didn’t remember that idealized “once upon a time,” because I’d was ten years old when AIDS first hit the public’s consciousness and I’ve never known what it means to be gay apart from the reality of HIV/AIDS. But coming out and becoming part of the community meant learning the stories and the strategies of resistance that those who’d gone before me passed down in poems and novels and movies and dance clubs from friends and lovers and strangers.
In this moment, when we are asked to consider what it means to celebrate Pride in the midst of another global pandemic and a worldwide uprising in response to the ceaseless racist violence of life in a police state, I am feeling a sense of raw urgency that takes me back to the very first weeks and months after I came out. Once again we are being called to find our place in a movement that started long before any of us arrived on the scene. Once again we are indebted to the elders who survived generations of the worst of this world’s violence so that we could stand at the precipice of the future and fight for something better and more beautiful.
I first heard Sweet Honey in the Rock perform this song at the inauguration of my college’s first black President, Dr. Ronald Crutcher. Sweet Honey in the Rock performed during the ceremony as did the college’s choir with which I sang. After we performed, I remember their smiles and encouragement as we returned to our seats which were right behind theirs. Then, it was their turn.
“Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, Is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons.”
I remember feeling a dissonance in my gut as these lyrics rang through the stadium. “Wasn’t this a celebratory day and a celebratory event? Weren’t we celebrating that a black man was president, why did they pick to sing a song that brings up murder.”
This was not the first time, nor the last, when my privilege and whiteness would feel that dissonance as it encountered racism and white supremacy and its daily effect on the lives of my siblings of color.
The election of Dr. Crutcher as our college’s president didn’t wash away the racism and white supremacy that permeated my beloved alma mater. Were Sweet Honey in the Rock trying to let me and my white siblings know that they knew this and were calling us to attention? Perhaps.
“We who believe in freedom cannot rest, We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”
The month of June is celebrated around the world as Pride month because it was in the early hours of June 28th, 1969 that queer folk — specifically queer folk of color like Marsha P Johnson and Stormé DeLarverie — took a stand against the New York Police Department who were raiding one of their sanctuaries — the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar — and arresting its patrons.
What followed was a week of riots, rebellion, confrontation, and destruction of property which gave life to the Gay Liberation Front and a movement for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community in New York City and beyond.
My ability to live openly as a queer woman and to be legally married to my wife without losing my job and livelihood is due, in large part, to those first moments of riot, rebellion, confrontation, and destruction of property.
Pride today is celebrated with parades, rainbows, and often PRIDE worship services led by the very religious communities that once shut their doors to our community. It is a time of joy.
“Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, Is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons.”
The dissonance experienced by these lyrics — is yet again — within me and our community.
This year’s Pride is not a time of joy — it is a time of anger, mourning, and remembering that our community’s journey toward justice was ignited at the hands of our black LGBTQIA+ siblings who are, once again, rioting, rebelling, confronting, and destroying property to declare their lives matter.
Let not the Pride flag — with all its symbolism of “welcome” — be put to shame by being waved this month in ignorance of our siblings’ suffering. Let us acknowledge as Emma Lazarus, the Jewish-American poet, so poignantly wrote that “Until we all are free, we are none of us free.”
During the months of June and July, ELM has asked members of Proclaim to use our blog as a space for Pride Devotionals: songs that have inspired action, spiritual awakening, tied to an unforgettable moment, associated with captivity/freedom, Pride. We are specifically asking all of our writers to acknowledge the intersectionality of identities that remind us that seeking justice in a silo — a queer-only focus — ignores and dishonors the great diversity of bodies, minds, abilities, genders, and orientations with which God has blessed us.
Let us pray…
Oh great Mystery, whose Word sparked all things into being at the start of creation, bless the words and actions of our community. May your Spirit — who toppled towers when humanity thought itself too proud, and parted the seas to liberate your people from the death-dealing ways of empire — convict us to act on behalf of our neighbor for the sake of your Kin-dom. And, may we who believe in freedom not rest until it comes. Amen.
Amanda Gerken-Nelson (she/her/hers) believes black lives matter and is educating and training herself to dismantle the white supremacy and racism that has scared and paralyzed her in the past at the expense of her siblings of color who have experienced great harm. She seeks to be an ally and — in the words of long-time ELM supporter, Margaret Moreland — an accomplice in the movement to eradicate racism and white supremacy in ELM, the Church, and society.
Premiering Friday, June 5 the Netflix series QueerEye will feature a “makeover” episode on Proclaim member Rev. Noah Hepler, also featured in the episode are Bishop Guy Erwin and Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer (we also suspect many more Proclaim members will make cameos in the episode)! While this is exciting to highlight a Proclaimer’s story with millions from across the world watching & learning, we know LGBTQIA+ ministry leaders often have a difficult faith journey. Which is why (with the great idea & help from Proclaim member Elle Dowd and in partnership with ReconcilingWorks) we have created a “Discussion Guide” (Link Below). The guide is for you, your family, or your congregation if you wish to engage further with the QueerEye episode.
To learn how to host a Netflix Watch Party (with your congregation) Click Here!
Dear Beloved, I write you a day late and a dollar short turning in this blog post for this community, my community, on a day where white supremacy has been allowed to once again feed black bodies to the machine that is the so-called American Dream. I write this to you in deep and sincere love, but I have to beg the question, where are you? As I am losing my breath. As the corners from my eyes start to fill with darkness. As I take my last gasping breath of life and the imago deifades out of my eyes over and over again on social media your silence is perhaps the loudest.
I’m supposed to be writing about where I see queer leadership rising up in this time of crisis. But other than queer boots on the ground who are now forced to mop up the blood of my people, leaders who are now chaplains to the revolution whether they wanted it or not, what are we doing? Where is our organizing? Why aren’t we raising funds for bail money? Why aren’t we supplying leaders we know on the ground, right now, with everything organizers say they need? How many times have you called Minneapolis mayor or the chief of police and demand murder charges for all four officers? And if you are doing all this and more and find yourself indignant ask yourself as a white person why me asking you this upsets you? What have you done historically or literally to earn my trust?
What is this community willing to sacrifice to end white supremacy? Our calls? Our livelihoods? Our reputations?
Queer theology, frameworks of mutual trust, love, boundaries, joy, compersion, and accountability, waging peace in the face of war and death. These are the things that we can bring to this important struggle.
I’m telling you as a queer black man in America that I don’t think this community is committed to dismantling white supremacy within it or in the world. You don’t believe me? Ask other black queer members of this community if they feel you got their back when the tear gas starts flying. So, where do I see queer leadership rising up in this time where a global pandemic has laid bare what some of us have lived with since day one?
Where am I to find hope?
In you. Still in you beloved. Because I also know this community. This community is full of hope and proof the Kin-dom of God has come near. Because I see some of you also trying. We have a Bishop who responded to a lynching on his territory. He doesn’t know that I was almost killed in that same area at 14 years old by men who dragged me in a car and took me to the woods. He doesn’t know I barely escaped with my young life.
I have seen members of this community from the Twin Cities push through eight weeks of decision fatigue, and the malaise of existential loneliness, and jump right into action. Some of them have been doing this work since the Ferguson uprising and some are taking their first halting steps into direct action work. I see hope because I love your queer bodies so much even on a day where all I can do is look at the news and weep deep and mournful sobs and swallow trauma the way most of you gulp air after a good cry. Yet I still wrote you this evening. Because it is in this love and the frameworks of relationship and community that only queer souls can create, can we find a way to awaken this church and maybe even this country to the great task ahead of us. I love you even though you keep killing me and I’m a fool for that. I hope to see you on the front lines in the weeks and days ahead. A lot of folks are always asking me after I say something like this, what can I do? Start in your own backyard. Do the research to discover the history and current manifestation of systemic racism and white supremacy in your context. A great curriculum to start with is called White Homework. Click the link, do the work, and support the author!
Also, support our siblings on the ground in the Twin Cities who are providing Lutheran witness. Don’t second guess them, you aren’t there. Send them money and supplies for folks on the ground. Pray for them.
In the Name of the Parent, the Rebel, and the Spirit
The Rev. Lenny Duncan
Rev. Lenny Duncan (he/him) is a mission Developer in the #PNW and likes to think he is a writer.