This Sunday at Virginia-Highland Church, we are celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender pride. We haven’t done that in June since I’ve been the pastor. The city of Atlanta celebrates gay pride in October, but most of the country observes it near the anniversary of the riots at the Stonewall Inn, which occurred on June 28, 1969.
We decided to observe pride this Sunday in honor of our sisters and brothers who were murdered in Orlando and because of the homophobic legislation that has been passed in recent months in neighboring states. Georgia also passed a discriminatory law, but, after seeing what happened in North Carolina, our Republican governor surprisingly vetoed the bill. Still, our right-wing, rural legislators are threatening to bring it back.
So, it feels like a church that is seeking to be as diverse as possible ought to celebrate the part of our community of faith that is LGBT. During our planning time for this service, one member of the worship team raised the issue, quite rightly, of whether or not this service will make heterosexual members of the congregation uncomfortable. It is the exact kind of question I hope our team will think about and be sensitive to. We talked about it for a few minutes and concluded, as a team, that we couldn’t imagine it would, any more than celebrating African-American heritage during Black History Month or on the anniversary of Dr. King’s martyrdom made our white members uncomfortable. Rather, it made them proud to be part of a diverse congregation.
We went on to talk about the banner on the front of the church that reads, “God is still speaking” set against a rainbow background. The ONLY people who have ever questioned having a rainbow banner on the front of the church are LGBT members. The comments from heterosexual folks, who make up the majority of our congregation, all have been positive. Many of them have said the banner is the reason they visited our church in the first place.
That is what I love about our church. We are sensitive about offending people who are too busy celebrating diversity to ever be offended. That may be a glimpse of the beloved community Jesus came to bring on earth as it is in heaven.
Rev. Michael Piazza