Weekly-Reflection - 6/8/2023
St. Mary's Reflection: The Rev. Kira Austin-Young
A Reflection on Pride
My first year at Pride as an Episcopal priest, I wondered whether I should even be there, if my presence has an official religious person mattered. After all, every June my social media feeds were full of my colleagues at Pride festivals, marching in parades, and bedecked in rainbow paraphernalia. Though my church in Nashville was one of the earlier LGBTQ+-affirming churches, nowadays there are many of all different kinds of denominational stripes. Surely people were aware that accepting and affirming churches existed. But walking in the parade and then sitting at our parish’s booth in my clerical collar disabused me of this notion. The number of visibly emotional people who came up to me, even if it was just to say, “I heard there was a priest here, and I didn’t believe it,” or “I don’t know that I’m a Christian anymore, but I’m so glad you are here,” was extremely powerful.
Despite the growing number of LGBTQ+-affirming churches, something that we might take for granted here in the San Francisco-area, many people equate Christianity with homophobia. The more visible Christian witness is unfortunately the folks standing outside with signs condemning LGBTQ+ individuals to hell unless they repent. From my perspective, it is instead the Church who needs to repent for failing to recognize and celebrate the Holy Spirit’s presence in LGBTQ+ lives and communities.
Many members of the LGBTQ+ community at my previous church had not been raised in the Episcopal Church but found the church in leaving more conservative churches. Occasionally, someone would share with me the pain of coming out in their home tradition, of broken relationships with family members, of being told explicitly and implicitly that something was wrong with them. And yet, these people were some of the most faithful leaders. Their belief and desire to follow Jesus, their faith in a God of Love, kept them in Christian community. Their faith was a gift and a witness to me in my own times of doubt.
This past Sunday, I attended the Pride Mass at Grace Cathedral along with a handful of St. Mary’s parishioners. Coming from a diocese that was not broadly LGBTQ+-affirming, it warmed my heart to see the inside of the Cathedral illuminated with rainbow lighting, but what struck me most was the overwhelming joy present as the GLIDE ensemble led us in singing both praise songs and Queer anthems like “I’m Coming Out.” There was a freedom and creativity that I don’t often experience in church. This Pride month, I pray that we as the Church can witness to and learn from the way the Holy Spirit is present in the LGBTQ+ community, and I hope that you’ll join us this Sunday at St. Mary’s as we celebrate Pride Sunday.
The Rev. Kira Austin-Young