Pride Evensong 2019, 16 June 2019
John 13: 31-35
Trinity Church on the Green
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The hymn we just sang, “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,” is one of my absolute favorites, and I made a special request for it tonight. The text was in the 1850s. There are several musical settings of the text, but the one we sang tonight is my favorite. The hymn tune, which is called St. Helena, was composed much more recently – in 1978, by organist and sacred music composer Calvin Hampton. I love his music so very much – go home and look up his setting of the Nicene Creed on Youtube – there is a depth of feeling in his music that always moves my soul. Calvin Hampton was the organist and choirmaster at Calvary Episcopal Church in Manhattan for 20 years. His settings of the Episcopal liturgy are also used in Catholic churches, and his choral works are both innovative and challenging. He was incredibly gifted. He was also a gay man who died far too young of AIDS at age 45 in 1984. Before his death he was named by one church music expert as “the greatest living composer of hymn tunes.”
So much of our music and liturgy, so much of our tradition, so much of our Episcopal identity has been created and brought forth by our LGBTQ siblings. Tonight, we gather to remember and to give thanks; to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots later this month, from which sprung forth the start of the gay liberation movement and the fight for LGBTQ civil rights in the United States. We remember and pray for the many lives who have been lost: to AIDS, to suicide, to lack of medical care and support, and those lost to sheer hatred and violence.
We also gather tonight to celebrate! We have come far as a society, and we have come far as a church. Trinity, I am so proud of you. I am so proud of you for hosting the events of this week: our art show, the showing of the film Stonewall Uprising on Thursday night. Yesterday, 6 of us from Trinity marched in the LGBTQ Pride March in Middletown, Connecticut. We were small, but we were mighty, and we proudly carried the Trinity Church banner. Someone came up to me and asked if our church, if any church could really welcome and accept them. And I was able to tell them that they are welcome here.
We have stretched beyond our comfort zone this week – our radical welcome committee and others have prepared the way, and we were ready. May we keep stretching – may we keep trying new things on. May we keep ourselves open to the Holy Spirit to show us the way.
And why? Why do we have to make ourselves potentially uncomfortable? Why do we have to keep stretching and developing? Because we are trying to follow Jesus’ commandment: to love one another, just as Jesus loves us. Jesus says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” We follow Jesus, who welcomed all – especially those who had likely given up hope on ever being welcomed and included. Jesus, who touched those that were considered untouchable. Jesus, who sat and ate with sinners of all sorts. Jesus, who taught us that it will not be in the brutality of violence that our world will be saved, but rather in showing kindness to our neighbor, in standing up against injustice, in returning hate with love. (2)
I’d like to share with you a portion of our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s statement for Pride month, honoring LGBTQ Episcopalians. He puts it so well. He writes:
“In my years of ministry, I have personally seen and been blessed by countless LGBTQ sisters, brothers and siblings. Dear friends, the church has in like manner been blessed by you. Together with many others you are faithful followers of Jesus of Nazareth and his way of love. You have helped the church to be truly catholic, universal, a house of prayer for all people. You have helped the church to truly be a reflection of the beloved community of God. You have helped the church to authentically be a branch of the Jesus movement in our time.
“Your ministries to and with this church are innumerable. I could speak of how you often lead our vestries, and other leadership bodies in the church. I could speak of how many of you organize our liturgies of worship, lift our voices in song, manage church funds, teach and form our children as followers of Jesus, lead congregations, ministries and dioceses. But through it all and above it all, you faithfully follow Jesus and his way of love. And in so doing you help the church, not to build a bigger church for church’s sake, but to build a better world for God’s sake.”
Friends, “there’s a wideness in God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea. There’s a kindness in God’s justice, which is more than liberty. There is welcome for the sinner, and more graces for the good. There is mercy with the savior, there is healing in his blood.”
Thanks be to God for that mercy, kindness and justice. We promise to show the same to others.
Now, let us go forth to love and be loved. Happy Pride.
1 Credit to the Rev. LeeAnn Watkins – from her Eucharistic Prayer – https://saintmarysepiscopal.org/lgbtq-pride-liturgy/