Saturday I found myself in the midst of the mix at Pridefest: Capitol Hill #TogetherWeRise. I had the daunting task of speaking for Christianity as part of the Pride Interfaith Service and Celebration at All Pilgrims Church on Broadway.
The highlight of that event for me was twofold. First the choir was a treat. They caught the energy of the day and expressed it powerfully in song.
The second highlight was the man who spoke from the Sufi tradition. Thanks to him I have this new image of prayer as part of the work of “polishing the heart.” It resonated with me as a way to see what we do in the Episcopal tradition in our prayer life — the private prayer, the daily offices, the prayer of the Eucharist. I’m looking forward to incorporating this into my way of talking about prayer to our children, youth and young families.
There was however a downside to the event. The downside was that I was not able to be at two funerals, both of which were scheduled for Saturday afternoon. That weighed on me all day. I carried my kente cloth stole with me to remind myself of those funerals even as I was at Pridefest.
There was, sadly, a low-light for me in the day. It was the response I evoked in the street as I walk to and from the Service. I wore my clerical collar for the event because I was there as Rev. Robinson. However walking through Pridefest in a clerical collar was not a pleasant experience. One of my peers says, the collar is the smallest projection screen in the world because people project on the wearer some of there most intense feelings about church and religion. I saw that on Saturday.
I was aware of some of the stares. I saw the frowns. I saw people’s body language speak loudly. My niece who walked with me at one point saw people turn and point unflatteringly. She also felt a general sense of unease and unwelcome aimed at me all because of what I was wearing around my neck.
I understand that many in the community have been deeply hurt by the church. I acknowledge that pain. I try to remember that many are responding out of their woundedness and that wearing the collar means I will be a target, like it or not. I look at it this way: if a person has been bitten by a dog, every other dog may become suspect. Not only that but anything that looks like a dog might cause a reaction. So I try not to take the reactions personally but it still hurts to be seen as “other” or even as “enemy” inside my own community.
As for what I had to say at the Interfaith Pride Service itself, I was fairly pleased. I began by acknowledging the hurt that the church has done to the other traditions that were present. Then I turned to the service’s theme of Holy Resistance.
As a result of having been asked to speak on this topic several times over the last year and change, I have come to some clarity about this topic. I have a theology of resistance. It’s not new or radical but it comes directly from my understanding of the life and teachings, the death and resurrection of Jesus.
I didn’t know I had a theology of resistance until I had to talk about it. In order to talk about it I had to think about it. I had to explore and dig and wrestle and meditate and pray and speak it out loud (even though no one was present to hear). Bit by bit it came together until I could speak on the topic with a sense of theological depth and personal passion. What came out of my mouth on Saturday felt solid. For that I thank God.