Emmanuel is a welcoming, diverse Episcopal church located in the Maryland. Founded in 1854 to serve the growing city population, Emmanuel has continued to respond and adapt to the needs of the surrounding community through worship, service and arts. Emmanuel is a community that expects and celebrates guests: people of all faiths, races, nationalities, and walks of life.
I suppose that I should be writing a more formal farewell right now; however, I'm honestly not ready for that kind of finality quite yet. So, I thought I'd tackle another topic that's near and dear to my heart: Pride. June 28-29, 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, an event that has come to be recognized as something of the advent of the modern LGBTQ+ movement—making the topic all the more apropos for my final meditation with Emmanuel. (The first pride parade, known as the Christopher Street Liberation Day March, was held in New York City on the 1-year anniversary of Stonewall.)
So, what is Pride? A casual perusal of the Book of Common Prayer might suggest that any good Episcopalian should be opposed to the very notion. As part of the Great Litany, we beg God to deliver us "from pride, vainglory and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice; and from all want of charity" (149). Every Ash Wednesday, we enter into Lent by confessing to the Lord "all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives" (268). In the assortment of prayers near the back of the BCP, we find one for our country that, among various other things, petitions Almighty God to save us "from pride and arrogance" (820), as well as one for families that likewise asks our heavenly Father to put far from them "the pride of life" (829). Last, though certainly not least, an optional section of the Exsultet sung out during the Easter Vigil declares that holy night "casts out pride and hatred, and brings peace and concord" (287). In each of these instances, Pride is portrayed as a particularly pernicious manifestation of sin, distorting our relationships with God and Creation. It is grouped with such evils as "hypocrisy," "arrogance," and "hatred," all of which suggests an understanding of Pride that is one of egotistical idolatry, a kind self-aggrandizement that allows no room for the "peace" and "concord" that are essential elements of the Christian life and worship. Such Pride is rightfully declared one of the Seven Deadly Sins of the Early Church, robbing our connections with God and our neighbor of any chance at life in order to glorify ourselves. Such Pride is rightly named as antithetical to Christian love, to charity. Such Pride knows nothing of the existence of the Other. See, for example, the calls for a "Straight Pride" parade in Boston this summer.
However, these examples are not the only times that Pride is mentioned in the BCP. In the Collects for Various Occasions, there is one for commerce and industry that asks that, in echo of the Incarnation, Almighty God "give to us all a pride in what we do, and a just return for our labor" (208, 259). In the Psalter, we find celebrations of the "pride and "majesty" of the "mighty warrior," the "annointed" (Psalm 45, 647) and God as "the pride of Jacob whom he loves" (Psalm 47, 650). This kind of Pride would seem entirely different from the sinful one named so often in our life together. This kind of Pride is fundamental to a right relationship not only with God, but human labor and salvation history. This kind of Pride is holy, sharing in the Triune life through its foundation in relationship--rather than casting them out. When we are proud of "what we do," it should be in a way that reflects upon God and our neighbor. When we are proud of what we do, it should be rooted in charity, in love beyond measure, and justice. It's the Pride of LGBTQ+ Pride Month.
How do I figure? The difference in the two kind of Prides is, in the end, a very simple one: Pride in oneself vs. Pride in who we might be. The former is static and stultifying, unable to perceive anything beyond the way things are. The latter is fundamentally life-giving, always reaching towards the possible and, thus, towards the Other. It is Pride in the Kingdom of God. God’s LGBTQ+ children are proud not because of the world, we are proud despite the world. We are proud of all of the different ways we have survived a world that has been distorted, a world that has been twisted to deny us and so many Others of our God-given share in it. We are proud because we believe that, through truly loving ourselves and our communities, we can begin to reclaim the glory intended for us—all of us. We are proud because we know what is possible. Happy Pride: may you have joyous, defiant faith in something better.
During the Gospel reading for this Sunday, Jesus urges his disciples to "not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." (John 14:27) It's part of a larger teaching that he's trying to offer them, with which he's trying to help prepare them by articulating the complicated nature of leave-taking and homecoming in the life of faith. It's only by "going away" from his students and friends that Christ can come to them. (John 14:28) It's only in loving that we become lovable in the divine sense. Peace finds its fulfillment in leaving and giving. Identities resist any neat delineation, even in the midst of the telling--let alone the experience.
No wonder the disciples struggle to understand! No wonder Jesus has to repeat the perennial greeting of God's messengers throughout the Bible ("Fear not!") to even begin to reveal the fellowship that he's offering his community. I don't know about you, but I often find my heart troubled, even afraid, no matter what I hope to let it do or not do. Keeping his word can feel like an impossible task. We may love his words, but we also forget again and again and again that there is any way to give other than that of the world. We forget what Jesus has said almost as quickly as he tells us. As much as we hope to welcome the Father home, we struggle to even recognize the Son.
But the Triune life is one of grace. Our God knows us down to even what W.H. Auden--a good Anglican--calls our "crooked heart."* Even as we forget, even as we fail to recognize, God enters in. An Advocate is sent to us, and we are reminded again and again and again what we might be. We are taught what it means to live a life that the Divine might call home. The task might still sometimes feel impossible, we might still sometimes find our hearts troubled, but the Holy Spirit moves among us. The Holy Spirit is our spirit. As often as we go away, we are given the opportunity to return--and sometimes where we return to appears nothing like what we thought we had left.
So, even as we welcome the Rev. Anne Marie Richards and her family home this Sunday, listen for Christ's words. Listen for invitations to leave-takings and homecomings known and unknown, done and undone. Try to hold both the fear and the joy lightly, because greater things are coming. And peace runs on.