Pride, photo by Scazza_

I am a Pride Virgin. That is, I have never participated in any Pride celebration before… until tonight. Tonight was the annual Interfaith Celebration, part of the PrideFest in Norfolk. Two years ago, we watched a livestream of the celebration. Last year, my partner participated but I stayed at home (I’m not sure why: there’s a 98% probability that I was either working late or sick… or both!).  And this year we both went together.

The celebration was held at Ohef Sholom Temple, which is filled with light and beauty.

the sanctuary, at Ohef Sholom Temple in Norfolk, VA

I would love to spend a couple of hours simply walking through the building and exploring the amazing art and sacred treasures present.  We arrived about a half hour early, and greeted the two Norfolk police officers who watched the entrance.

For a third Mystery Worship outing in a row, I was dressed in full formal habit. The most presidey of the clergy present greeted me and invited me to join in the procession, which was kind and generous. I declined so that I could sit with Kristin, who probably would have punched me if I had accepted. 🙂  Worship consisted of drumming, singing–pop and show tunes, mostly–readings from sacred texts and poems, and a spiral that we were all encouraged to join by tying or weaving a ribbon through the threads.

Perhaps most moving was the remembrance of all who have died for the cause, as it were, whether from HIV or AIDS, by being murdered, by living on the street, or by being shot last weekend by a sick, sad, sorry soul.  Photos were displayed in a rapidly rotating slide show, while the drum beat for each of the 53 who died in Orlando. While the drum beat, I thought to myself, Okay, I appreciate the symbolism, but this doesn’t move me much.

Until it stopped.

In the silence that replaced the next drum beat, in the silence that stretched and stretched, in that perfect moment of silence, the silenced drum silenced our hearts, and none of us could breathe.

Into that silence, a trumpet sang Taps, and we stood to honor our dead siblings, those now united with the Holy One in that land where there is no sorrow nor sighing, where fear and hatred cannot live, where there are only light and love.

After the worship celebration, there were little nibbles: fruit and veggies and snacks. A few people greeted us and introduced themselves; my impersonating-a-human sense wasn’t working very well, or I would have remembered to thank those who greeted us from the Temple for their hospitality. But again as we left, I thanked the police officer at the door and shook his hand, and his face lit up with a smile.

The Wells Fargo building in Norfolk, dark to honor the victims of the Orlando shooting

Tomorrow at noon will be a memorial service just a few blocks from where we live, and so I have made arrangements to participate with Kristin in that as well. I plan once again to wear my formal habit. (I haven’t worn it this many times in such rapid succession since Holy Week!)

We aren’t sure yet where we will worship Sunday morning. We may worship with a livestream from the Washington National Cathedral or some other community. We may join a congregation close to home or a church we have attended before. It is good to have given ourselves permission to have a little Sabbath after Saturday afternoon’s Pride festivities across the river.

In the meantime, I hope you will pray for those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, genderqueer, asexual, pansexual, androgynous, intersex, polyamorous, or any experience of sexuality, relationship, or gender outside the cis-het mainstream.

I hope you will pray also for their friends and families. Pray for those who don’t understand, but love their out-of-the-mainstream friends and loved ones… and sometimes do a lousy job of it.

Please pray for all religious and spiritual communities. Pray for those who genuinely want to embrace others in love and light and welcome… and sometimes do a lousy job of it.

Please pray for those who have chosen to live in fearfulness, for those who say and do hateful things to people they don’t understand. Pray for enemies, especially those who use religion as a weapon to beat down those they fear.

And finally, I hope you will pray, looking forward to that time when the Messiah will come (or will come again), to that time when God will be all in all, when we will all be one flock, with one Shepherd. Pray for reconciliation and harmony.  Pray for unity, which celebrates our diversity rather than stretching the deceiving veneer of uniformity over it.

Pray for love, my siblings. Pray for love to win, for light to shine in the darkness, for the life that conquers death. Because that is the promise for all of us–every single one of us, made unique and perfect, made marvelously and fearfully, made in the image and likeness of the Holy One. The darkness cannot overcome us, cannot ever overcome us. Not the darkness of fear, nor the darkness of hate, nor the darkness of ignorance or misunderstanding. For you are the light of the world, and in you, the light of God shines.

Hope in the Darkness, by Leonard J. Matthews