by Joe Scarry.
I grew up going to St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Summit, NJ. During many of my years there, the pastor was the Rev. Franklin D. Fry. Pastor Fry was a big man, and when he proclaimed something, he did it with gusto. I can still remember his booming voice as he said things like, “I’m for YOU, Scarry!” and “Scarry, you’re AL-RIGHT!” I experienced it as a genuine statement of personal approval, but also as a reminder of a point of theology that Pastor Fry emphasized again and again: ours is a God who says, “I’m for YOU!”
Last year I joined with the St. Luke’s Logan Square group that marched together with the Chicago Coalition of Welcoming Churches contingent in the Chicago Pride Parade. That was important for me for three reasons, and as I prepare to participate again this year, I keep thinking back to those reasons.
One reason has to do with some things that happened long before the parade. Years ago, before I had ever even heard of St. Luke’s, I was in a conversation with a friend. The conversation got around to the fact that we were both brought up Lutherans, and that my friend was very troubled by the position of the Lutheran Church (at that time) on ordaining LGBT clergy and recognizing their relationships. At the time, I wasn’t active in any congregation, and I was unaware of these issues, but I was very troubled by this news and couldn’t seem to just let it roll off my back. I felt sure that the Church meant to accept everybody. And I thought I had better go look into this situation for myself. The path that followed was somewhat circuitous, and in the ensuing years, the Lutheran Church made some progress. My friend ultimately found his way to St. Luke’s, and I came to St. Luke’s because he told me about it.
Part of what I realized in coming to St. Luke’s is that “the Church” doesn’t monolithically get on the right track; it takes leadership from individuals and communities to show the way. That’s why I’m glad that there is an opportunity like the Pride Parade for St. Luke’s and a whole bevy of other “welcoming” churches to march and make noise and carry signs so that EVERYONE sees: the Church is inclusive and affirming … if and when we GET OUT AND MAKE IT inclusive and affirming!
Another reason participating is important to me has to do something that happened after the parade. I was deeply impressed by the message that the Chicago Coalition of Welcoming Churches contingent sent: marching and making noise and carrying signs that made it clear: Christ is ALIVE in the world and is not going away! Christ is here with YOU! As a consequence, I embarked on efforts to get similarly robust levels of church participation in other areas that I feel passionate about, particularly the antiwar movement. It was the experience of marching with the Welcoming Churches contingent that started me on the constant refrain of “Where’s the Church?” in the effort to resist war.
The third — and perhaps most important — reason has to do with something that happened during the parade itself. I was curious to know what the reaction of the crowd at the Pride Parade would be to us and to the rest of the welcoming churches. There is a lot of noise and activity and color and movement during the Pride Parade, and I wondered, “Will people even notice us?”
The answer is: yes, to a large extent people did seem to notice us! They waved and cheered. And I suppose they drew whatever conclusions they could from our presence about what the Church is up to in the world.
But in particular they noticed one member of our congregation — who not only marched, and smiled, and waved, but also walked alongside the barrier and exchanged high-fives with every single person over the several miles of the march! (Perhaps not incidentally, he was the youngest member in our group that day!)
And I remember thinking, “What better way to say ‘I’m for YOU’?”
And then I thought, “Perhaps THIS is what’s meant by ‘evangelism’ …?”
So that’s why I’ll be back to march in the Pride Parade with friends from St. Luke’s and other churches next week: to assure myself that we’re continuing to get out and make the Church inclusive and affirming … to be reminded “where’s the Church?” … and to say “I’m for YOU!”, and to hear it, too!
“The Boulevard is one of the best festivals of the summer, with great bands and great food and drink,” said Noel Spain, a member of St. Luke’s, leader of the festival effort, and a leader in Chicago’s Bi/Queer Community. “This year, we’re adding segments to lift up the work that we and our partners in the Logan Square community are doing in the area of LGBTQ advocacy, youth empowerment, and issues of food insecurity, among others,” he added.
Judith Kotzé from Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM) is an important “connector” for St. Luke’s and the wider Chicago community, both to events happening in South Africa and throughout southern Africa, as well globally. We are exploring ways to strengthen and expand the relationship, as IAM continues the work of building a global network of support for LGBTI justice in southern Africa and St. Luke’s connects to the wider world.