Today marks the beginning of Pride Month, when we honor the history and the sacred worth of the LGBTQ community. June is commemorated each year in honor of the Stonewall rebellion, the act of defiance in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in New York City that is often marked as the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. Last June, we at Friends Church celebrated Pride in style as we commemorated the 25th anniversary of our vote to become an Open & Affirming congregation. That legacy continues each day in our mission and ministry.
In addition to the start of Pride Month, this Sunday also marks Pentecost, the day when we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit on the gathered disciples after the resurrection of Jesus, which marks the beginning of the Christian church.
Pride and Pentecost may seem like strange bedfellows, but I think they have more in common than meets the eye. Both events are disruptive—they upset the status quo and the expectations that people had come to have about the way the world worked. The Spirit, when She fell on the followers of Jesus, caused an outpouring of praise in numerous languages and broke down the barriers that separated people—barriers of race, national origin, language, and faith. Pride, too, is disruptive; it breaks down the walls that some people seek to erect to mark who is in and who is out. Pride says that everyone, without exception, is made in the image of God and belongs in the circle of love and grace.
I got a glimpse of that Spirit-filled moment this past weekend at the Annual Meeting for our South Central Conference. As we gathered for worship, business, and fellowship, our Conference Minister invited us from Friends Church to share part of our story about how we came to be. Anne Wehrly, previous pastors Charles Stark and Jo Hudson, Pastor Dan, Brooke Dooley, and me told stories about the impact this place has had on us and why it’s so important in our lives and journeys.
I told the story of the first time I came to Friends; I was invited by a friend in the summer of 2006, at time when I was hurting and uncertain about the future. I was a seminary student at Brite Divinity School and in the ordination process through my home church in Waco. But the year before, that congregation—the place where I, my mother, and my grandmother had grown up—chose to leave the UCC over its support of marriage equality. I was told that people like me simply didn’t belong. I wasn’t sure there really was a place for me in the church after all.
And then, I walked through the doors of a quirky little church in College Station, and everything changed. I was welcomed in a way that I had not been before—fully, completely, all of me. Pastor Dan and many others that I met that day made it clear that I did belong. And I’m here today because of you. That was a Pentecost moment for me, a Holy Spirit encounter that left me changed.
Pride and Pentecost belong together—because they remind us that we all belong. No matter who you are, no matter where you are on your journey. God is with you, and you are not alone.