Pride Sunday: How Daring of You!

UCM—Rev. Rita Capezzi in collaboration with Tammy Christiansen, Bonny Hughes, Devin Kreuger, Tom Lebour, Paula McNaughton, Brenda Poole, Catilyn Seal (Family Life Coordinator), and Abigail Freeman (Music Director). Technical support  rom Heather Epp.

Song #170 “We are a Gentle, Angry People,”

Call to Celebration—Rev. Rita & Devin

“Singing A New Song” written by the Rev. Kendyl Gibbons for National Coming Out Day
There comes a time—to break the silence.
There comes a time—to move beyond fear.
There comes a time—to speak one’s truth, even if it will not be welcome.
There comes a time—to call into question what has gone before,
to resist the weight of the past.
There comes a time—for singing a new song,
for a different way of being,
for the claiming of power.
There comes a time—when the truth shall at last make us free.

One day, blessedly, the practiced lie dies on our lips,
and the truth becomes more precious than the same,
and the pretending ends.
There comes a time—when somehow courage finds us,
or we find courage,
and we dare to know who we are, and what we love.
There comes a time—when friends are there,
holding us so gently in their love,
that all at once the impossible is possible,
and we cross over to the other side of whatever bondage held us.

There comes a time—when the truth at last makes us free,
and in that moment is the salvation of the world.
Come, let us celebrate together.

Reflecting: Rev. Rita

Mark deWolfe and Open Queerness at UCM

When this congregation was the Unitarian Congregation in South Peale, you called the Rev. Mark Moshe DeWolfe as your minister, and he lived and served with you until he died in 1988 of AIDS. Reverend DeWolfe was the first openly gay minister in Canada.  He was much loved by this congregation and was known for his devotion to social justice issues. The following are Mark’s words. And you can read them on the UCM website.

“Now, have I told you who I am? Probably not. You’ve read what I’ve done, how I’ve changed.
But who am I now, mind, heart, body, spirit?
Mind: I have a love of history, especially our Unitarian Universalist history … I enjoy theology
too—both the philosophical and the more personal varieties.
Heart: I am a lover of life.
Body: All my life I have loved to dance.
Spirit: Spirituality is a hard word for Unitarian Universalist, yet many people joining our churches
now are doing it to explore the spiritual dimensions of their lives. I do believe it is possible for a
humanist to be spiritual.”

These words capture his self-definition—multi-faceted, complex. They capture what he brought to you, capture what he hoped for you, capture his legacy. These words don’t necessarily capture his sense of himself as a gay man. He saved this for later in his ministry. Here is one thing that he said, in his sermon entitled “Worth the Risk” from February of 1987. It bears mentioning that he uses the language most common for the 1980s and not necessarily the language we would use in our days. These are Mark’s words:

“Our churches could be places where a loving relationship could develop between lesbians, gay men and non-gay people. They could be places where we learn to tell each other truths as they emerge in our lives. There could be places where we hear each other’s tentative, groping words. [Feminist and lesbian writer] Adrienne Rich wrote, “In order to have an honourable relationship with you, it isn’t that I have to understand everything, or that I must tell you everything at once, or that I can know, beforehand, everything that I want to tell you. It means that most of the time I am eager, longing for the possibility of telling you. That these possibilities seem frightening, but not destructive to me. That we both know we are struggling, all the time, to extend the possibilities of truth between us. The possibilities of life between us.” Religion is about taking the real risk of life between us. It is about the risk of love—of growing in truthfulness, in honour, and in the depth of our religious lives. Love always has its risks, but no matter how deadly they may seem, real love depends on risks. And love is always worth the risks.”

And in his sermon “One Year Later” from November 1987, Mark said this: “This sermon has focused on death, but I want you to know how much in fact this sermon is about life. I am alive, and I will continue to live as long at nature, fate and my own will allow it. I am lucky that I became ill with AIDS at a time when treatment was possible, and has improved. And I am lucky that my emotional strength is such that I have been better able than some to struggle through the traumas of this year. And most of all, I am lucky that my community of love, my family and friends, have hung in there with me through this difficult time. Thank you for being part of my good luck this year, one of the blessings that has made this year possible for me. Thank you for all you have done to help me remain alive as long as this and longer. The gifts of love are in fact the gifts of life. And remember that we honour life most by how we live it, and love is best by living it most strongly.”

May Mark DeWolfe and his words continue to be a blessing and an inspiration to our congregation.

Memories—Tom Lebour

Pride Month is celebrated annually in June to honor the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.

In 1982, The Unitarian Congregation in South Peel (now UCM) made a bold decision to hire an openly gay minister, Rev Mark de Wolfe. Some of you here were part of this historic move and I thank you. I joined shortly after had the privilege of getting to know Mark better. So much so, that I took liberty in introducing Mark to my personal physician and friend, Dr. Jim Moore. Success! it’s a match and they became life partners. For a long time, I was able to proudly say that I have 2 friends who look after my BODY and SOUL. I contacted Jim Moore this week, to see if he can join us this morning but he is vacationing on Vancouver Island at the moment and sends his love.

UCM is a trailblazer in welcoming the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, in fact, we have embraced Diversity, Equity and Inclusion long before DEI became a buzz word. I'm glad to be part of this community and looking forward to the work ahead. Happy Pride everyone!

Poem—Rev. Rita

“How To Discuss the Truth” by the Rev. Mark Belletini, an openly gay minister, now retired from Unitarian Universalist ministry.
How to discuss the truth that some men love men,
and some women, women, and some, both,
with the children in the church school and church home?
Without drum-rolls.
Without tip-toe preparations.
Without calculating and predicting to the nth degree.
With candor.
With open ears.
With unfailing tenderness.
With one foot in the Realm of God
and the other foot on that solid earth
made of the ashes of Radclyffe-Hall, Auden, DaVinci,
Emma Goldman, Susan B. Anthony and Mark De Wolfe.
With real hope in our purpose
and thanksgiving in our pulse.
With the full iris of our living tradition in the eye.
Without using the inherited Augustinian scalpel
that splits flesh from spirit and pleasure from good.
Without homilies on toleration.
With the words “some of us” and not the words “them” and “they.”
With as much heart as intellect.
Without embarrassment.
With stories and examples as wonderful as a tale by Seuss.
With rhapsodies on the glories of friendship.
With gladness for uncertainties.
With joy.

Prayer & Reflection—Rev. Rita & Brenda

Rita: I invite you now into a time of prayer and reflection.
Settle into your mind and your body as it is in this moment. . .
Close your eyes or simply soften your gaze. . .
Bring gentle awareness to those parts of you that hurt. . .
Follow your breath, knowing you are not alone in your pain,
no matter its nature. . .
We breathe together into this time of witness and compassion. . .
Open your heart to the spirit of connection. . .

Brenda: These words from Jess Reynolds, a writer from the San Francisco Bay who identifies
as non-binary, “Everywhere, Everywhere”:
Ask me where my fear grows. Everywhere, everywhere.
Out of broken light bulbs, through the cracked dirt
of gasping riverbeds. In the rough green of every forest
and climbing from the screen of every television
like some sickly antenna. Poison berries on a vine.
Every staircase as moss-thick as the stairs where I sat
at six and watched a fire b urn through my backyard.

Ask me where my hope grows. Everywhere, everywhere.
Deep in basement corners, from the ragged concrete edges
of sidewalks in the city. Quick and rough like fingernails
on the hands of someone who doesn’t bite them
like I do. Green spilling from the mouths of children,
running wild from the hands of librarians
who taught me to see what I could be worth.

I don’t know how anything grows when I can’t remember
how to fill a watering can, or how to check the soil
to see if it’s too dry. I don’t know what green thumbs are,
or chlorophyll, or gardeners. I don’t know how the sun
remembers to rise or trains remember to run on time
or how people remember to be good and generous
and kind when their hearts are always breaking.

This is all I know:
The flowers will grow.
The flowers will grow.

Empowering—Rev. Rita, Paula, & Bonny

Creating Brave Space at UCM

Rita: What do you still need to do at UCM to create to the brave space that 2SLGBTQIA+ folk need? Is it more gender-neutral washrooms? Is it more inclusive signage? Is it making clear to our renters what kind of a space this Congregation and all of its buildings is—affirming without apology our values, our inclusion, our welcome? Our 8 th Principle calls us to free ourselves of the biases and oppressions that inhabit us—our ways of thinking and talking, here and to each other. Right here! We must examine ourselves bravely, gently remind each other when we fall short, move together for the justice and the liberation about which we dream. We must do it all the time, because you never know who is listening, you never know who might here. May we practice together.

Paula: These words from Quinn Gormley (she/her), a spiritual caregiver, equity advocate, and student at Chicago Theological Seminary.
“Asking for Help”
“It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us
we should not exist.”—Laverne Cox
I locked myself out of my car recently. I called a garage and they sent a technician. Apparently,
he tried to call me on the way over and I missed it. He left a voicemail, which meant he heard
my message: "Hello, you've reached Quinn at the Maine Transgender Network.” My trans status
isn’t a secret. Being public about it is part of my job. But being public and being out to random
men on the side of a quiet, rural road are very different things.

He arrived and we wrestled back into my Subaru. After handing over my insurance card, he got quiet for a minute. Nervously he asked, “You do the rainbow thing?”
It took me a second to put the pieces together. I froze for a moment. This question doesn’t usually end well.
Tentatively I answered, “Yeah, I do the rainbow thing… Is that a problem?”
He shook his head and took a deep breath. And then he started to talk.

His kid came out a few nights ago and wants to transition. He’s very worried. He watches the news. He knows how trans kids get treated. I do too. I was a trans kid. I released the breath I’d been holding. This was a conversation I know how to have.

We talked for a while about how cruel the world is, about how his kid might very well get hurt. Lots do. He’s afraid to let them transition. But then we talked about how we can’t control the world. His kid is different and might get hurt either way. “So why not let them control what happiness they can? You can teach them how to handle the rest.” We talked about how happy kids are safer kids, because happy kids have adults they can ask for help.

A hug, a trading of numbers, and a few tissues later and he was on his way to the store to buy his son a clip-on tie and those Spider-Man shoes he didn’t give him for his birthday.

Sometimes the story does end well.

Bonny: “Then and Now”
My first time had me scared and jaded
My heart was filled with doubt and self-hatred
It is sad when you lose your faith in love
I question daily my sentiments, or lack thereof
I am bewildered as to the source. This numbness and, why
I miss the jovial emotions of times gone by
I look forward to the day I can feel acceptance again
I am not giving up, I’m in this game to finally win!

Uniting—Rev. Rita, Bonny, & Tammy

It takes all of us, queer and straight together.

Rita: May we be that welcoming people, guarding or foolish tongues and loving first, loving first before assuming, loving first before judging. Always loving first those most at risk, those struggling under the weight of being themselves. Loving first. Risking love first and always.

Bonny: These words from the Rev. Chris Rothbauer, who identifies as gender queer, “A Place at the Table”:
The first time I was told that I was too queer to be a congregation’s minister, they asked, “What will the neighbors think?,” as if it were the most natural question in the world.
It was then that I understood how grace works: it’s costly. It requires us to be uncomfortable, to get outside ourselves, to go all in.

I decided that I didn’t want a wishy-washy faith: one that uses me to signal virtue (“We’re so enlightened! We supported same-sex marriage!”), as if it’s a contest to see who can hold the most correct positions—and not my life they’re talking about. Where were they when a transwoman was murdered in Montgomery?, or when a queer couple was denied the right to adopt children?, or when Congress failed yet again to pass an employment non-discrimination act that would keep people like me from being fired just for who we are?, or when a teenager, despondent when their parents told them to get the hell out of their house, took an overdose of their antidepressants?

I don’t want a faith that cares more about what conservative neighbors (who would never join us anyway) think more than caring about affirming my humanity; who understand that throwing your lot in with marginalized people requires more than talking about your friendship with the lesbian couple down the street.

I don’t want a faith that wordsmiths my truth, that asks why it’s necessary to use the words that best describe my experience as a queer person. I don’t need help finding alternative words that might go over better with strangers. I need my siblings in faith to notice their discomfort in hearing about my experiences, and use it as a catalyst to action rather than as a way to cement their own comfort.

I want a faith that doesn’t consider me as a “queer minister,” but rather does its damndest to live up to our professed values. I want a faith that centers my voice—and others like me, when necessary; that doesn't think that decades of marginalization can be erased with a few good deeds.

I don’t want a faith that claims to be universalist, but constantly judges some of us for the sin of not conforming to ideas of who we should be.

Instead, I want to build this faith. I’ll do it with my own two hands if I have to. If I pick up some friends along the way, maybe we just might be able to build something spectacular together.

Tammy: “And on We Go” by Donna Ashworth
There is much power
in the phrase
and on we go.
we break and rebuild
knowing we will break again
we lose but still love though
we know the pain will not end
we struggle along alone
though we stop along the way
to help another stand
to see a brighter day
no matter what we have faced
how hard we have smashed
against the rocks of life
we wash up
we shed tears
we wail to the skies
we let go
we rest
we brush off
we shake off
and on we go.

Rita: It takes all of us, queer and straight together. We have to do more than sing a song together. Our 1 st Principle calls us to recognize the inherent worth and dignity of each person. This is where we need to take the fight! This is where we need to live our faith fully and openly and lovingly. No insipid toleration. No self-congratulation. Because our diversity of beingness is an expression of the beauties of nature, various, astounding, beautiful. And why would we not want to unite to praise such glory and awe? Why would be not want to risk love?

Responsive Reading—All

Rita: Let’s join hands in the building. Let’s celebrate our variety and welcome the visions and truths that emerge when we are loving and curious, when we are open-hearted and authentic, when we know ourselves and each other for the beautiful beings we all are. Let this place be a brave space, a safe space, a space to celebrate sexuality and gender in all its multiplicity. May we rise up together to make the world better.

Tammy: “Our Common Life is Enriched” from the Religious Institute
We are grateful for the gift of our lives and the gift of other people in our lives.

Congregation: Each of us is created with dignity and worth.

Bonny: We are called to love one another and to do nothing to others that we would find hateful to ourselves.

Congregation: We honor the many ways that people live and love.

Devin: Our common life is enriched when queer, transgender, bisexual, [non-binary] , lesbian, and gay people can come out—sharing the gifts of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Congregation: True justice flourishes when all people can live and flourish.

Tom: We suffer when LGBTQ people are oppressed, excluded, or shamed by religious people who overlook the fundamental call to love one another.

Congregation: Love does not exclude. We are all worthy.

Paula: May we work to build a world where all people are celebrated and loved.

Congregation: We celebrate sexual and gender diversity as a blessing that enriches us all.

Song # 1024 “When the Spirit Says Do” (do, shout, march, do)