2019 Reflections on Pride

Billy Kluttz at Pride in DC. Photo credit: Catherine Gillette of Fairlington Presbyterian Church (USA)

Our contingent was made up from folks at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Clarendon Presbyterian Church, Fairlington Presbyterian Church, Western Presbyterian Church, and Oaklands Presbyterian Church. We gathered together a few hours before the parade to celebrate communion and put together giveaways. Immanuel Presbyterian’s youth had made rainbow challah for our communion celebration. It was a beautiful celebration in the middle of 23rd Street NW. These are the words of invitation that I wrote for the communion service:

An Invitation to Communion for Pride

No closet door can contain God’s love
No bully’s words, no parent’s anger, no self-doubt can silence the Gospel Truth:
We Are God’s Dearly Beloved
This is the truth that we proclaim today at God’s Table:
That love wins out;
that life overcomes;
that hope is never far away
So, come, all of you
In sequins and heels
Single or committed
In your best butch or femme
In honesty and vulnerability
Come, all of you, for the Queer God beckons us all to Her closet-busting, gender-defying Table of Grace

An hour or so later, as we were nearing the parade starting point, people ahead of us in the parade lineup turned around and started running towards us. They said there was an active shooter. Our church group dropped our banners and started running, as well. Some parishioners hid in nearby hotels and apartments. Others ran to the end of the street and found the police who informed them it had been a false report. I ran down a side street to Georgetown. 

The experience was terrifying, but our church’s response was overwhelming. As I ran toward Georgetown, I called one of Immanuel’s Associate Pastor’s, Rev. Strednak Singer. She was at the church women’s retreat. The women interrupted their retreat and made a list of everyone who had been at Pride from the five churches. They then started calling, texting, and emailing parishioners from all of the churches until they had made sure that everyone was safe. Their care and concern from far away was the reassurance and pastoral presence that we all needed that night.

I’m still processing all of the weekend. In many ways, this was the best pride we’ve had together at Immanuel. We expanded our pride celebrations this year to include a Pride Learning and Service Day, our marching in the parade, and an educational Pride Party on the evening of Pentecost Sunday. That said, I’m still shaken by the very real reminder of anti-LGBTQ violence.

Billy Kluttz, National Capital Presbytery

Wearing this shirt felt like a vulnerable step, almost like another coming out, and at first I was nervous how folks would respond. But almost immediately, I received hugs from strangers, and countless expressions of “thank you” or “you have no idea what this means to me.” I had amazing conversations, and in the midst of the busy-ness of Dallas Pride, i was gifted with intimate moments where people shared their stories with me, and even asked me to pray with them.  It was clear that people needed to see and feel the affirmation of someone who is in their community, and represents church. People felt seen, safe, welcome, and LOVED- that is what Pride, and church, is all about.

– Pepa Paniaqua, Grace Presbytery Dallas Pride

My wife and I tabled for MLP at a rural Pride event in eastern Minnesota, which sees about 300+ people.  Most folks who stopped by our booth wanted to know if we had any More Light Churches in rural eastern Minnesota.  It was disheartening to hear so many stories of people who did not have a safe place to worship. MLP has 9 More Light churches in the Twin Cities area, but when it comes to anywhere outside of the metro area, there are very few churches that are fully open to queer folks, in any mainstream denomination.  The thought of so many people without church homes where they could be accepted for who they are makes our work at MLP that much more challenging.  What does expanded outreach look like for rural Minnesota and other rural communities? What is our commitment to inclusion? Our work isn’t done until everyone has a place where they feel that God welcomes them regardless of who they are.

– Susan Robertson, More Light staff, and her wife, Brenda

Last Saturday Nashville’s Broadway was transformed into a sea of rainbows, hugs, tears, and love! As our More Light group marched through the streets several people broke away from the crowds watching the parade and ran towards our group. My friend and colleague Rev Beth McCaw was holding a sign that read, ‘Free Pastor Hugs’. As she embraced each person who ran towards her the young people wept. In that moment the incarnational love and radical welcome of Jesus was being proclaimed in the heart of our city. Oh, and to top it all off, after the morning storms a beautiful double rainbow appeared over Nashville.

– Ashley McFaul Erwin, Presbytery of Middle Tennessee

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