national-coming-out-daySince wrapping up last years’ service celebrating National Coming Out Day a question kept entering my mind: do we need to continue offering a special service like this when much of what GLBT people asked for has come to pass?

My initial answer was both yes and no – not a solid footing entering discernment. If the focus for some is about the equal rights, then yes…this type of service is no longer needed. With the help of humanity, and the wider Episcopal Church, GLBT people have gained support to be afforded the opportunity to flourish and thrive.

This was not the case when the GLBT ministry at St. Wilfrid of York, Huntington Beach first offered the service in 2004. The election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire caused a fire storm of imbalance. As a lay person, I had to find a way to help change hearts, and one of the ways was to turn the tide of dehumanization into a liturgy which engaged the church through personal stories interspersed with prayer, and music. Little did I know that this service would become an annual event spanning 11 years?

Here are of my favorite stats:

  • A high level of choral music, mostly notably sung by the choir from St. Wilfrid of York with participation by other choral sings throughout the diocese under the direction of Christopher Gravis.
  • Those sharing their coming out stories came from many churches and various Christian denominations ranging in ages 16 – 80. We have included stories from many races and backgrounds as well as individuals identifying as transgender.
  • Siblings of GLBTQ people have participated offering stories of support and acceptance. Also, Jeffery Prang, West Hollywood city council member joined the service to read a portion of Harvey Milk’s “Gotta Have Hope” speech.
  • Many Episcopal Church clergy have helped lead the services including two Bishops Suffragan.
  • Yearly attendance ranged from 150 – 200 people.
  • The reception became an informal extension of the service with participation from many volunteers including people to prepare sumptuous food, conversation facilitators, and trained counselors on hand to help people as needed.

 

I am very proud of the work we have done. I say “we” because presenting the celebration of National Coming Out Day has always been about a committed group of people Gay and Straight who have had no ulterior motive but to let people know they are loved by God just as they are.

To all who have been involved over the years, please accept my humble thanks.

So after a few months of discernment I decided it was time to step away from presenting the service. I don’t do this because I feel the celebration of National Coming Out Day is no longer needed, but after eleven years of parenting it is time to release my involvement in hopes that the service has a life of its own.

The formula of evening prayer in the form of Stories, Music and Prayer works on many different levels. We presented the service with Coming Out as our focus, but this format can be used for other themes as well. For example this concept can be used to honor and celebrate immigration or recovery from some sort of disaster.

Christians are a people of stories, our story as well as God’s. Stories are powerful and speak to us in life changing ways. I hope this format to help people grow in life, and faith. What comes next? I’ll leave that to the spirit.