Pride Northwest 2017 Impressions

Bethel showed its gay pride last Sunday with over 20 marchers representing our open and affirming church at the Pride NW parade in Portland.  The only dreary signs were the morning clouds - everything else around us glittered with rainbow colors.  The spirit of the event matched our identity and mission as a welcoming congregation.  Warm smiles, words of encouragement, feelings of shared values, and sheer joy knit us together as an affirming community.  
I was impressed with the rich diversity of our Bethel contingent:  small children, young mothers, gay and lesbian couples, single allies, straight families with adult children, and teenagers.  We were old and young, transgendered and gender fluid, students and seasoned professionals, retired, fully employed and underemployed.  We were God’s people…in the midst of an even larger family of God’s beloved.
I was fed by the opportunity to get better acquainted with those from Bethel, and to demonstrate what it means to be progressive Christians.  I was fed by the connection with other UCC clergy from the Portland Metro area, and the lay people I’ve met through Central Pacific Conference events and shared ministry.  All of us marching appreciated the blessing of our local church.  Knowing that worship can happen in two places at once is a grace filled gift to all of us at Bethel and in the community.
Most compelling, though, was the opportunity to bless with high-fives, hugs, smiles and eye contact, the hundreds of people who gathered along the streets.  With my clergy collar, the symbol of Christian authority, I reveled in freely blessing as many as I could.  The reactions were powerful:  tears, laughter, smiles, thumbs-up, waves, blessings in return, and many, many expressions of thanks for my presence and support of the LBGTQ community.  
We are work-in-progress Christians.  We don’t always get it right - but some days we do.  And last Sunday we did.  I am grateful for the support of Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ and our mission to be an open and affirming congregation. I invite you to join us on Sunday mornings at 10am as we come together to worship and celebrate God's love for ALL.
May we practice our motto:  no matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here!  God is still speaking!