Wednesday, June 3, 2009

They (Presbyterian Welcome) Were All Together In One Place

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.” (Acts 2:1 NRSV) The “they” refers to the earliest followers of Jesus.

Last Sunday, May 31, was Pentecost according to the western calendar. Late in the afternoon “They were all together in the chapel of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.” The “They” refers to Presbyterian Welcome, a community of congregations and individuals in the New York area whose mission is to build up and repair the Body of Christ by working for the full inclusion of all disciples, without regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. “They” were gathered for a service of Celebration, Grief, and Hope, and I was there, with camera (photos available at Picasa), as part of the “They”.

I do not recall if what we were celebrating, grieving and hoping for was ever made explicit. If not, it was implicit. We celebrated because so many presbyteries flipped-flopped during this round of voting on amendments and supported 08-B. We grieved because not enough presbyteries voted in the affirmative on 08-B and therefore we are still left with the exclusive and unjust language of G-6.0106b. We were hopeful because we know that the Spirit’s winds of change are blowing our way and that it is only a matter of time before the restrictive language of G-6.0106b is either amended or removed from the Book of Order.

I was sitting in a front pew and was not able to see how many attended the service but I estimate between fifty and a hundred. The chapel was festively adorned with red helium balloons, various red cloth, and dozens of candles. The liturgy was a little wordy (our Presbyterian fault) but creative and punctuated by accompaniment on piano and bass guitar. The outstanding vocals of the Lafayette Avenue Inspirational Ensemble had the congregation clapping and a few even rocking and rolling to their rhythm and blues. In other words, this was not your typical staid, frozen chosen Presbyterian Worship service and offered a vision of what worship in the Presbyterian and Reformed tradition can be like.

Liturgical leadership for the Service of Celebration, Grief and Hope was shared by many, including the Lafayette Avenue Inspirational Ensemble, The Reverend David Dyson, the Reverend David Cockcroft, Elder David Richardson, the Reverend Anna Taylor-Sweringen, Deacon Takako Terino, The Reverend Mary Spears, Elder john Bradley, The Reverend Chris Shelton,The Reverend Mieke Vandersall, and others. From my perspective, the most memorable parts of the service were the musical offerings of the Lafayette Avenue Inspirational Ensemble (they rock!) and the Sermon by the Reverend Chris Shelton (an interesting interpretation of the choosing of Matthias over Joseph Barsabbas to replace Judas.)

I attended this service of Celebration, Grief and Hope for several reasons. Since I lead worship most Sunday mornings I do not usually have the opportunity to worship with others free of any liturgical responsibility and I need that on occasion. I have learned from experience that any worship planned and led by LGBT Presbyterians and their allies tends to be creative, uplifting, inspiring, and offers really good music. I think it is important to show solidarity with my brothers and sisters in Christ who have had their gifts for ministry ignored or dismissed simply because they choose to responsibly live out their God given sexuality within committed, covenantal and responsible same sex relationships.

I know clergy are often busy on Sunday and even my half-time schedule does not always give me the time to attend Presbyterian Welcome events. Nevertheless, I wonder why many more straight allies of Presbyterian Welcome were not all together in the chapel of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church last Pentecost.

Oh yea, after the Service we recessed to a lower room for refreshments organized and in part provided by the Reverend Mary Spears, which just goes to prove that all Presbyterians, gay, lesbian, or straight, love to eat.

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