Open, Affirming, and Proud
by Mandy Mizelle Norris
September is finally here, y’all! Our 90+ degree exile is almost over. Get behind us, Satanic forecasts!
Bring on fall and football! Bring on sweaters and Sunday school! Bring on NC PRIDE!
For those of us newer to Pilgrim, NC Pride is our state’s annual gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender festival and celebration. For the past several years, it has been conveniently (for us) held on Duke’s East Campus. This year it will be kicked off by Governor McCrory. (That last sentence isn’t true.)
For some, the celebration of “Pride” is confusing. Christian tradition has taught most of us to be wary of pride. We’ve come to understand pride as a sin, as against or apart from God’s intentions for us. And it is certainly true that putting ourselves above others is not a good way to love God and neighbor, or bring nearer the kindom of heaven.
Yet year after year, something called Pride remains a magnificent act of loving God and neighbor, a sacred and Spirit-filled event for many of us, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, that does indeed make nearer and known the kindom of heaven.
It is because capital “P” Pride isn’t about any single community, including the queer community, putting itself above others. It is about affirming and celebrating those who have been deemed less than our “straight” sisters and brothers and our cisgender siblings. Like the Black Lives Matter movement, it is about embracing the equally sacred worth of the LGBTQ community — having faith that we, too, are wonderfully, uniquely, and fully made in the image of God; that who we love and how we identify and express ourselves are gifts from the God we all brightly and beautifully reflect.
Since the faces and voices of Christianity have too often been a source of exclusion and shame for those with “different” sexualities and gender identities, it is a necessary act of justice, a holy act of lovingkindness for Christians to be joyful participants in Pride, standing, walking, singing, and sharing Communion as the whole body of Christ.
Just yesterday, before migrating south for the winter season of life, to a retirement community where she worked decades ago, Alice Myers reflected on how special Pilgrim has been over the years to her and her late husband, Dewitt: “We’re open — and affirming! Such wonderful words; they’re not throwaway words!”
Pilgrim has been Open and Affirming since 1999, meaning we welcome all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, into the full life of our church. We say the phrase so often — Open and Affirming, sometimes abbreviated to only three letters: ONA — it’s easy to take for granted the magnitude of their meaning and forget their significance. But Alice was right: they are wonder-full words not to be missed.
NC Pride is a bold reminder of who we all are as God’s beloved, and who Pilgrim is as an ONA congregation. Won’t you join us in sharing the good news?
If you would like to participate in Pride by volunteering at our festival table or decorating our truck for the parade, please see the sign up sheet on the table outside of the Fellowship Hall. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to come to our communion service at 11 in the gazebo and walk or ride in the parade at 1! Questions? Contact Lissa Tate: firstname.lastname@example.org.