Wednesday, June 2, 2010

[sermon] dance with the One who brought you

[Delivered 2010-06-02 at the Kansas City Interfaith Pride Service, hosted by Spirit of Hope MCC, speaking on the given theme of Then - 1978]

Dance with the One who brought you.

In 2008, I moved to Kansas from Massachusetts for the only reason that a sane queer person would move from Massachusetts, the state that pioneered equality marriage, a state where there's been a Pride parade in the capitol city every year since Stonewall, home of my big fat queer family where I'm not the first but the fourth person in my family tree to identify as queer. I came because I was in luuuuuuuv.

In 1978, I wasn't born.

In 1978, my mother was 16 years old and going to Baptist Bible Camp and being told that even though she was a fine public speaker, she wasn't being called to the ministry because God didn't call women.

In 1978, my mother had no idea that she liked girls. The idea wouldn't occur to her for another two decades.

In 1976, Carter Heyward, a pioneering lesbian theologian, was making history because she was ordained. It wasn't historical because she was queer; it was historic because she was a woman, among the first batch to be extraordinarily ordained, contrary to the policy of the Episcopal Church in the USA.

So in 1978, this twentysomething queer girl [cock head -- woman? no, this was 1978, she was definitely a girl] from Boston flies to Kansas City to live with her girlfriend.

We met at a women's college, before "women's college" was synonymous with "dyke haven." We didn't come to college expecting to find a girlfriend; people were telling us, quite seriously and worriedly, that we'd have a hard time getting our M.R.S. degree at a girls' school. We were planning to pursue careers, not unheard of but not usual. I knew I liked girls, but I also knew that it was just a stage and that I'd grow out of it soon. That's what all the books told me as I secretly marked the pages that mentioned this little problem about liking girls. It was just a stage and I'd stop when I grew up.

It wasn't something we talked about at church. I knew other churches did, in a pretty horrific way, but I grew up in mainline churches that preferred to think that this wasn't happening, that this movement was outside religion and apart from it and that the church didn't need to have a response to the gay rights movement because the gay rights movement wasn't asking for one.

So then I met this girl, right, and suddenly it was important for me to tell the people I cared most about, the people who were part of my church, my family.

I came to Kansas City in 1978 and I wanted a place where I could worship -- and now I had to make a choice.

And even though, secret, not all of us are from 1978, it's a choice all of us have to make.

Dance with the One who brought you.

But what brought me here, to Kansas City in 1978, a femmey Christian dyke with a backpack full of books?

What brought you here, tonight?

What brought this church into being, and what brings the other churches and communities in the Coalition into being and together?

How do I choose? Can I forgive the denomination that kicked me out, the church that scorned my spiritual mothers and fathers, a religion that executed people like me?

Will the old forms still hold me? As I fall in love with Christ all over again, will any hymns bear that love, or must I write new lovesongs for Her?

Will new communities sustain me? Is there enough depth in them for me to put down roots, twisted and ancient?

Where will I find the stories that will speak my history?


Story has currency in the queer community. Story is the thing that we take with us, the thing that holds us together, the thing that embraces us as a community.

"When did you know?"

"How did you know?"

"When did you come out?"

Queer is a thing we are, but it's also a story about where we were. I'm a lesbian because I've fell in love with a woman when I was twelve. You're transgender because you were labeled female at birth and now call yourself male. You are genderqueer because yesterday you bound and packed and today you're wearing a lacy dress. You're bisexual because, although you're married to a woman now, you dated mostly men in your twenties.

And story is the way we find our way into community. Even in those years that don't stand as decade landmarks, the Pride festival is an anniversary of the Stonewall riots, and in joining the festivities, we join a story that's punctuated by that rebellion, claim kinship with the queer folks who fought back forty-one years ago.

The queer community has a fascination with our own history. Part of that history has been hidden from us, erased with words like "friendship" and "spinster." It's a history that must be uncovered obliquely. We look at our own family trees and see the maiden aunt and bachelor uncle and we wonder, but will never know. We reread old stories and claim them as our own. We look at the Bible and see Naomi and Ruth and David and Jonathan and say yep, those are ours. But it's a history that has to be claimed, a history that had to be written, within the last century. And it's one that as queer children or adolescents or young adults or older adults we had to rediscover for ourselves because it's not taught in schools like our country's history or around the dinner table like our family history, our cultural history.

So there are two reasons we're attached to queer history -- because we have to go out and claim it. And because we are in the middle of making it.

What has brought us safe thus far?

Who has brought our history to this point?

Who brought you here?

What brought you here?

WE have done the bringing.

If you've been out there making a noise, some lonely gay man heard it.

If you've been in here, building a place, a nice gay couple found it.

If you've been way, way out there in your denomination, witnessing to a Love that's greater than any law, you've been singing in justice with a cloud of saints.

If you've been joining your heart to the universe, if you've been praying for a day of justice, if you've been davening or dancing or breathing your intention, you have been changing the universe. You have been bringing people to this place.

If you've held your lover's hand in church, if you'e told your grandma you're bringing home a personfriend whose preferred pronoun is "ze" --

you've been making history.

Martin Luther King Jr. said that the moral arc of the universe is long, but bends toward justice.

The universe is bending toward justice. The universe, the Spirit, All-That-Is, God, all Goddesses and Gods, bend toward justice. We are dancing toward justice, and we are not dancing alone.

I don't know most of you, so I don't know what's brought you to this place today.

For some of you, Spirit of Hope is home, and the call to come here was as familiar as the call to come on Sunday mornings. Some of us come from other Coalition churches. Some of us come because we are proud of our queerness and long to honor that. Some of can do that at our home churches, and some of us can't. Some of us have come to a church today with a sense of suspicion, even though we've been promised welcome.

Some of us are old enough to remember when this was the only choice for queer people in search of a spiritual home, and some of us are old enough to remember when there was no choice, and some of us are young enough that we can't believe there was ever such a time.

Take a moment and think about what brought you here this evening. Was it an invitation from a friend? The movement of a spirit? A question? A doubt? A hope? This is an Interfaith Pride service, so I'm going to guess that everyone here has a little bit of faith, and a little bit of pride. Hold tight to those. What do you have faith in? What do you base your hope on? What matters so much that you will give your life to it, to him, to her, to hir?

What are you proud of? What's offbeat, eccentric or queer about you, what's so true about you that you must share it if you will live authentically?

What faith, what pride, what spirit, brought you here?

Dwell with that for a little while. Who brought you here tonight?


As a people, we've been brought here by the powerful moral arc of history. We've been brought here by the courage and strength and deep faith of our ancestors. Tonight we're going to join hands with those forces, join our strength with theirs, and look into the future together.

As you look, I'd like you to dance.

Dance with the One who brought you.