Saturday, July 4, 2015

Pride Sunday 2015: Do you have enough?


Welcoming our old friend Johanna Bos

It’s Pride Sunday. And in our continuing series, Life in the Spirit: we’re talking aboutCapacity assessment, Do you have enough?

We begin with another HARP song, that became an important one to the LGBTQ acceptance movement, We are a Gentle Angry People:
We are a gentle, angry people
and we are singing, singing for our lives

We are a justice-seeking people
and we are singing, singing for our lives

We are young and old together
and we are singing, singing for our lives

We are a land of many colors
and we are singing, singing for our lives

We are gay and straight together johanna
and we are singing, singing for our lives

We are a gentle, loving people
and we are singing, singing for our lives

After Psalm 130, Andre sings There is a balm in Gilead. And after we read 2nd Corinthians 8: 7-15, I sing Jesus Calls Us.

Then we begin our reflection.
What a week!...while we were worshipping here last Sunday, Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston opened it’s doors for worship. I find that in itself amazing. Then there was President Obama’s eulogy at Pastor Clementa Pinckney’s funeral, perhaps the most passionate speech of his time in office. And how many can identify Bree Newsome? (She’s the woman who brought down the confederate flag in Charleston for the first time since 1961.) The whole debate about symbols like the confederate flag….and with it team names like Redskins or mascots like Cleveland’s Chief Wahoo, it was a week full of action, debate, sea tides rolling….like the storms we spoke of last week. And last but not least, the declaration by the supreme court that marriage is the right of all, which in essence declared that sexual identity can no longer be a bar to any citizen’s , or that lgbtq people are equal in the eyes of the state.

For us at West Park, there is special significance. The city of New York in 2003 honored West-Park for being  the first church in the city to perform gay marriages. We have been doing that for 37 years now. And we began calling them that before it was legal.
And we all should know the history of our forebears.  On the one hand, what began here spread so far, that lgbtq acceptance is common in NYC churches, at least in  Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. During recent years, we helped found Presbyterian Welcome, which is now Parity. And housed one of its two offices, the other being at Rutgers, recognizing the connection between these two churches. (Where so much leadership of West-Park went after the failed merger of 1993)

And this afternoon, cups of cold water will be handed out at the Evelyn Davidson Memorial Water Table named for the wife of our former pastor who believed the church needed to show a more compassionate face to ur lgbtq brothers and sister by offering a cup of cold water in Jesus' name while the long march passed buy. 

That is history. We continue to support and be part of what is now Parity as the church begins to prepare for the next wave of issues about what it means to be human. Last week, our friend Stephanie Johnstone, who has helped lead music in worship here, had her CD release party in the gym. The name of the CD is love songs for the rest of us.In introducing the  album, she said I look forward to the day when the album title doesn’t make sense anymore. And her songs explore the whole range of what they now call queer identity issues.  New fault lines emerging ever, (like with the whole Bruce Jenner transformation raising issues about what to means to be a woman…) And Stephanie feels a special connection here from our support in that project.

In our Bible Study, we note that at the beginning of Genesis, it’s all about separation, dry land and water, night and day, etc. Waters from above, waters from below. Avivah Zornberg has said that the rain is an expression of the waters weeping for their  separation and that the whole Biblical story is about coming back together again. And that as we have night and day, how much beauty is there at sunrise and sunset as one flows into the other? As there is dry and wet, how rain forests teem with diversity and life and our wetlands protect our cities from floods?

There is much for theological reflection in the emerging civil rights struggle. (And note queer young people arm in arm with their peers in the black lives matter struggle…)

OK….so who are we in all of this?  When we struggle so much for our own continued life? What I have to say applies both to us as a community and as individuals. What Paul says this morning

if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have

During my urban ministry training, there was a significant shift. Things used to begin with what they called needs assessments. But they discovered, especially in communities like ours, that the sense of need can be so great as to be overwhelming. And lead to resignation and despair.

It was determined that the better way to proceed is with capacity assessment. To begin with what we have. If there is eagerness,( and what is that?) the the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have.

The same applies to our own lives,
 If you stopped for a moment to name and give thanks for all you have? What would be on the list? At a low point in my life, I remembered Walter Breuggeman saying that resistance begins with doxology. That’s thanksgiving. (That’s part of the message of  Mother Emmanuel..)

So while we find our way forward ,ask who we will be, let us start there.

To lead us into prayer, Andre sings Just as I am. For our offertory, we sing Cuando el Pobre, When a poor one, another from the great Nuyorican translator and composer Jorge (George)Lockwood.

We conclude the service by singing the South African freedom song Siyahamba, which had also become important  to the lgbtq faith community movement because of its reference to light.

Siyahamb' ekukhanyen' kwenkhos', Siyahamb' ekukhanyen' kwenkhos', Siyahamb' ekukhanyen' kwenkhos', Siyahamb' ekukhanyen' kwen-, (Khanyen' kwenkhos',)
 Chorus Siyahamba, (hamba,) Siyahamba, (hamba,) Siyahamb' ekukhanyen' kwenkhos'. Siyahamba,
( hamba), Siyahamba,( hamba), Siyahamb' ekukhanyen' kwenkhos'.
We are marching in the light of God, (4X)
 (The light of God)
We are marching, (Walking)
we are marching(oh )
we are marchingin the light of God.
We are marching, (Walking)
we are marching (oh,)
we are marching in the light of God.
Caminamos en la luz de Dios, (4X)
Caminando... ooh
[Caminando, vamos caminando, vamos]
Caminando en la luz de Dios.
[en la luz de Dios]
Caminando... ooh
[Caminando, vamos caminando, vamos]
Caminando en la luz de Dios.

And then the service is over.
We worshipped in a space being daily transformed by Niche Flamenca for their upcoming performance of Antigona. And were graced by the visit of our old friend Johanna Bos, Hebrew Scripture scholar and author and feminist and activist and…friend. And she would come again Monday night to join in our Bible Study.

Once again Pat made things beautiful!

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