The first of June marked the beginning of Pride month. Pride in what you may say? Pride month is celebrated by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community every year as a chance to gather together and celebrate publicly. This time of year was chosen in remembrance of the riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York City on June 28, 1969.
This event is often referred to as the tipping point of the gay liberation movement. The riots at Stonewall were a public protest against police raids that had been happening for many years. At this point in history it was illegal to be gay, illegal to dress in drag and other such homosexual “offenses.” Police would knowingly go into gay safe spaces, such as the Stonewall Inn, to arrest people for homosexual behavior.
For many gays and lesbians, church has been a place of shame and hurt, a place where to be oneself meant not to be welcome. I believe this is not the purpose of church nor is it the heart of religion. A church should be a place of welcoming and healing. So what does it mean to be welcoming? It means to open our houses of worship with kindness and care. We must greet and accept each person as they are and with the same warmth and hospitality. It is not our place to judge or change anyone. It is our place to serve everyone.
The words of Jesus call us to love thy neighbor as thyself. Jesus called for the church to be a place of welcome and sanctuary. Even in the Old Testament we hear the call for pride and acceptance. Genesis 1:31 states, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” I will not tell my neighbor that he or she is imperfect in their creation because he or she is gay. Our world is beautiful and the people who dwell here are complicated.
As minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Sheridan, I extend a heartfelt welcome to all. No matter your gender identity, sexual orientation, age, marital status or the color of your skin, I welcome you. Pride month is a time to celebrate that we are not alone on this journey. Wherever you go, may you find a community that welcomes you.
Rev. Kali Hayslett is a board certified chaplain and minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Sheridan.