Normal People of Blessing
My first year serving in the new congregation I was asked to be a speaker at the People of Blessing service, the annual interfaith worship service affirming the place of LGBTQ+ people in our faith communities. That year we gathered in a Lutheran congregation. Methodists, United Church of Christ, Presbyterian, Jewish, and Unitarian Universalist congregations have taken turns hosting over the years.
I learned that several members of my new congregation had been instrumental in starting the annual event several years before I showed up. (It was part of what drew my interest early on.) Our congregation had served as the first host. There had even been protesters out on the sidewalk – many people in our congregation were rather proud of that.
As one of the speakers my first year, I shared a story from my childhood. I grew up in a Unitarian Universalist. My mother worked on staff at the church. One of the perks for me was I got to take piano lessons from the church organist. Frank was a phenomenal musician and a very good teacher. Each week my mom would drive me over to my piano lesson. I would settle on the piano bench next to Frank while my mom sat in the kitchen talking with Frank’s partner, Glenn.
That was my introduction to homosexuality. It was normal. It was two people in a committed relationship. This was the 1980’s. AIDS and HIV were a painful reality I didn’t know much about at that point. I have since learned quite a bit about it. Religious discrimination against gay people was rampant, but that was also something I didn’t personally see. Instead, my experiences were of seeing lesbian and gay couples around me, around my family, around my church. As a kid, I was both told and shown that being gay was simply another version of normal.
Far too often religion is used as a weapon to exclude and injure and condemn. That is not what religion is for. There are real problems in life, adding undue shame is not needed. Too often, religion does not lift up and affirm gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, and transgender people. LGBTQ+ people are one of the few identity groups still singled out and hated for religious reasons. Religion should stand for love more than judgment.
That’s what I shared at the People of Blessing service my first year. I simply told them what my church had taught me as a child.