Monday, June 20

Reflections on Pride

This weekend was Denver Pridefest, one of the largest gay pride festivals in the US.  As is For the second year, our church communion marched in the parade and this year I had the opportunity to join them.  Of course, we weren't the only church organization marching (the Unitarians and a few ELCA churches were there as well), but a cadre of around twenty catholics and four collared priests (two of them female) caused a stir, especially from the strong latino community who was in attendance.

There are two things which struck me as we walked the 2.5 mile route.  The first is the immense number of people.  The parade wended through a quiet, quasi-residential area for about 3/4 of a mile, with small clusters of people gathered along the route and giving us some encouragement - about what one would see at a small town parade.  Then we took a sharp left turn onto the broad avenue that is Colfax and got a panoramic view of the rest of the route. Literally tens of thousands of people lined the street in a sea of rainbow-hued humanity.  That's when it hit me how many people came out, (literally) to support all of us who have come out (metaphorically). 

The entire way, there were people who cheered us on.  Not just "woo-hoo, happy pride" sort of cheering but, "holy crap...catholics!  awesome!!!" sort of cheering.  At several points during the route, each group was  announced over a loud speaker and it was made clear to the crowds that we were not a part of the arch-diocese and all were welcome at the some rather inspiring responses from the gallery.

The only time when we did not feel universally accepted was when we marched past the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (steeple seen in background above) where the half-dozen to dozen protesters of the whole parade stood at the doors (behind about a dozen cops) and tried to say nasty things about us.  I say tried because we couldn't hear them over the thundering roar of the pride supporters cheering us on.  To say it was heady is an understatement.

The key takeaway, in my opinion, is something I've never experienced at Pride before.  Sure...out and proud is a common theme and we tout 'all are welcome' (and we mean all in nearly the broadest of senses), but being out and proud can feel damned lonely and it's hard to know if our message even means something in an area of the country where most churches can lay that claim.  It's easy to start questioning if the RC diatribe may, in fact, have some truth to it and question the relevancy of our inclusiveness.  Walking in that parade really changed my mind on those things. 

The sense of camaraderie and support from perfect strangers was so incredibly liberating and felt as if society (even if a small segment thereof) was publicly and vocally validating the concept that non-standard is acceptable.  The fact that so many were openly supportive of our group, specifically and explicitly as a non-roman catholic institution,says to me that there very well may be a place for a catholic-not-roman church to do good and help others.

Thanks goes out to Frank for organizing this and personally inviting me to attend.  Thanks also goes to God, whose mercy and kindness is without end.  Praise be.

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