I distinctly remember a day 30 years ago, in King’s Point ‘back in da day’, when I was making fun of ‘the gay guy’ with my friends, as he drove down the road in his car. We thought there had to be something wrong with him. But there was nothing wrong with him.
How did we not see that there was a person in that car? I am now ashamed of how we behaved. But, we all acted like that then. Didn’t we?
Times certainly are changing… for the better.
On the evening of May 17th, Grace United Church in Springdale hosted its 1st Annual Gathering in Solidarity with the LGBTQ+ Community.
It was an event to bring the local LGBTQ+ community and its friends and allies together, and it was an event to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia. It is reported to be the first event of its type ever to be held in Springdale.
(LGBTQ+ stands for a group that includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer/questioning people.)
To kick off the event, a group (pictured above) left Indian River High School and marched to the church carrying a rainbow flag. They went right down the road, colours loud and proud.
At the church there was a warm welcome. There were a lot of friendly greetings and hand-shaking, and then a very relaxed service with song and prayer.
And it was nice.
The evening was led by Ryan Reid and Rev. Graham Cook, and both took time to stand and speak to everyone who had gathered. Ryan got a standing ovation for his from-the-heart sermon/speech telling of the challenges he has faced. He said:
“LGBTQ+ in most church circles is just simply not used, or else people don’t have a clue what those letters actually mean, so they simplify by saying Homosexuality. And the only reason that is often mentioned in a lot of churches is to be followed by “is a Sin”, “is an Abomination”, “is unnatural”, the list goes on.
What a lot of those churches miss though is that LGBT people are just that… we are people. We are your children, your grandchildren, your kid’s teacher, your co-worker, we are not some mysterious creature like a unicorn, we are among you! And yes! Some of us love Jesus too…”
Indian River Assistant Principal Ruth Cameron gave a presentation about the Gay/Straight Alliance of Indian River High School. The choir sang songs with warm messages of friendship. Rev. Cook and the folks at Grace United Church did a fantastic job at making everyone feel welcomed, included, valued and accepted.
The event featured performances by locals Richard Clarke, Christian Howse, Robyn Bixby, Chelsea Regular, and Sharon Dove with Kelly Burt-Hewlett. After the service, Richard Clarke expressed how pleased he was with how the evening unfolded:
“It went wonderfully. I am very happy with the turnout and everyone who came to support, as allies of the LGBTQ community. And Ryan Reid and Rev. Graham Cook did a phenomenal job.”
About 60-70 people attended. After the service, Ryan Reid said he thought it went very well and added:
“I was really surprised, actually, by the turnout and everybody seemed to really get something out of it. I am just glad that people are coming out to this event ’cause this is 2017 and we should be at ‘that place’ right now.”
And WHY does the ‘Day Against Homophobia’ matter here in Green Bay? It is, as Ryan Reid said so well in his sermon, that members of the LGBTQ+ community “are your children, your grandchildren, your kid’s teacher, your co-worker.” They are among us. They shop. They work. They sit quietly among you, next to you in a pew or at the bar or in the school. They are part of our communities.
And they are people.
Our communities are strengthened when we are kind to each other. That is why the warm welcome at Springdale’s Grace United Church on May 17th is important. Older adults were there. Young people were there. Believers were there. Non-believers were there. Straight people were there. And so were people of the LGBTQ+ group. It was a cross-section, and everyone just smiled in fellowship.
That is why ‘Day Against Homophobia’ matters here. And matters everywhere. We should view ourselves still on a road that started ‘back in da day’. We on are a road to making a better society, a society with more acceptance and kindness. That is something worth marching for.
Ryan Reid’s words, from May 17th at Grace United:
“We will all stand strong together, we will stand as Grace United, as this community, as a church, as a world, because I don’t know about you, but I am praying and hoping for a revolutionary new world, and I am working to make that the real deal, this day and everyday!”
To learn more about May 17th, the International Day Against Homophobia, go to: http://dayagainsthomophobia.org/
[Top photo is of the Grace United Church Choir on May 17th, 2017]