Your writer has expended all her spiritual currency at the UUA General Assembly in Providence, RI. We had a service in the morning at the former ‘Civic Center’ which has now privatized its name (this being Rhode Island likely not its responsibilities) to ‘The Dunk’. Okay, people would probably vote for doughnuts over civics most days, I get it.
Maybe the venue shapes the performance. Anyway, Sunday service at The Dunk was open to the public, so me and Mr. Green attended together. I thought that Mr. Green’s brother who is a minister in Louisville, KY (site of last year’s GA) might be at that very moment in a similar space with a similar vibe. He rocks a megachurch.
The theme of the service was making connections. The Rev. Mark Stringer spoke about ‘a religion which, like sunshine, goes everywhere’, and then he explained why this is not a ‘saccharine’ version of commitment when the sunshine hits the ground. He talked about showing up early for a hearing about marriage equality in order to get a seat. About hearing other ministers pray for the defeat of equal rights for same-sex couples. And finally offering a Unitarian public prayer for justice and fairness.
I could relate to that. Over the course of several years in Rhode Island your writer first went to the State House and left without speaking and with a heavy heart after listening to testimony from churches that marked us as hell fodder. But Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI) did not give up, and the issue continued to be brought every year to the Rhode Island General Assembly.
I continued to attend and grew some armor. I saw some familiar faces from the Smith Hill Catholic Charismatic community I joined as a teen in the 70’s. I knew their beliefs and their language but was shocked at the bigotry revealed in the State House. Especially since some of the men who had sought a spiritual home in the Charismatic movement were gay and trying to make sense of a Church that sent them so many mixed messages. Did Colleen who testified on the vileness of the homosexual lifestyle not remember that Paul the seminarian was a part of our group– our friend, our brother in Christ? Did she ever make that human connection?
Well, it ain’t easy and never was. After 14 years we won marriage equality in Rhode Island. And since the social consequences for the general public in our state will be crickets, except for maybe a slight financial savings from making it clear who is taking legal responsibility for their spouse, we will move on to other issues.
It will be a fine thing if First Unitarian can connect with some of the immigrant churches who organized to fill the State House against gay marriage. Would their pastors respond to a call to increase the minimum wage? Can we find common ground somewhere in issues of justice and fairness?
That is our challenge, it will not be achieved in one session or one bill passed, but as a friend of First UU, Mahaghosananda said, ‘Step by Step’.