14 When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15 He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I tell you, I will not eat it[a] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Luke 22:14
When the hour came, we took our place on the streets of Colorado Springs, one of America's most conservative cities. We stood with all those who have been marginalized and all those who suffer. We will do our best to figure out how to unfold the Kin-dom of God. Cindy Halsey, the BFCC church moderator, as we were in our last block of the parade, says something like this, "thirteen of us showed up...can you believe it? I thought it would be just you and me. It reminds me of the thirteen sitting around the open table (with Jesus') on the last night." And, then I wondered who Jesus might be? The child who lifted the homing pigeons as words of "be free" had been spread. The quiet teen priding for the first time. The older gentlemen in awe about how many families with young children showed up to celebrate the LGBTQI community. Or maybe one of the two older women, grandmas, who sat on the trailer in quiet reverence, surrounded by signs of hope.
Before we made our way down town, our worship service was short and sweet and included two open letters to the church on pride. Both letters from folks that belong to us in one way or another....re-printed with permission.
(from Alivia Stehlik, deployed for 9 months)
Hi everyone! Things are going remarkably well in Afghanistan. The other day, our mail clerk let me know I had mail. I saw a letter, with a name and address I didn't recognize, from Colorado. I couldn't imagine for a minute who had sent it. I was so surprised when I opened it to find out it was from all of you! It is hanging above my desk in my room, tacked to my plywood wall with a thumbtack. It is a constant reminder of the community, the home that is waiting for me when I return to Colorado Springs.
In case any of you wonder, I'm about 7300 miles away from the Black Forest right now. It feels like I'm a long ways from home, but watching all the updates from BFCC on facebook, and through the newsletter, has been really wonderful. My last church, a small baptist church in San Antonio, had chair set up in a half-moon shape, so it warmed my heart to see the pews set into a circle at BFCC - I saw home, there, even as far away as I am.
I've had a long year - at the end of May, last year, I came out to the world as transgender. It led to my divorce, among many other things. Coming to terms with myself has been a long process that has gone on for the las 25 years or so. When I return, I'd be happy to talk to any of you about this, if you would like. Fortunately, my transition has been nothing short of magical, at least to me.
One of the most important parts of my transition has been my recent acceptance in the church as Alivia, as a woman, as a trans woman. It may be hard to imagine, but I've spent the better part of three decades hoping I was enough. That there was enough mercy and grace that somehow me being me would be "ok". Over the past several years, as I came out slowly, to safe people, I have had a couple pastors who showed me new ways to hear the words I've been reading in the Bible since I was a child. Ways that included me in the family of God. Your pastor, Marta, has been one of those lights for me.
As I've read the newsletter, and watched the BFCC websites, my heart has been full of gratitude. I never imagined that there would be a church that hung a rainbow flag during pride month. The love and acceptance that I feel at black forest, as my actual self, trans woman and all, is overwhelming. It means the world to me that there is a community of Christians who believe I belong in their family. It matters so much to know that were I home, I would see some of you at the Colorado Springs Pride celebration and parade this Sunday.
It took almost two years after coming out to my parents for them to use the word "daughter" when they talked about me, and to consistently use my new name. As I think about that, I know that this openness about accepting the LGBT community must be difficult for some people, even in our little community in the black forest. And it's important to me to say thank you for welcoming me in despite any reservations you might have. I am grateful for the safe place you've provided. I know it might not be easy, and I really hope to get to know all of you better when I return home. I've found that relationships tend to bring us all closer, minimizing our differences and emphasizing how much common humanity we share.
I love you all - thank you so much for continuing to be a presence that tells me that god is truly still speaking, each and every day, and that that's not an exclusive voice. Alivia
Norah and my second child Nicholas. Happy to proclaim.
My beloved community bearing witness
(from Leslie Sheley, church member)
My brother is gay; my cousin who I love like a sister is a lesbian; my 2nd cousin is a cross-dresser/gay and my young nephew is what I now know as questioning. I see the young questioners everywhere now and I am so relieved for my nephew that he is not alone. When I think about my home town growing up, I now know that the boy who was one of my best friends and took me to prom was gay; several men in my town were gay; the man in the neighboring town who ran the general store was gay; the Dr who was murdered was gay. It must have been such a lonely time for them. No one talked about it; no one dared to admit it. Now, Praise God, everyone talks about it, you can admit it and even the military has caught up with the times. I am so relieved for my family members that they are not alone anymore. I pray the protection prayer for them everyday nonetheless because I know there are still so many people out there who are afraid/angry/don’t understand and will/would hurt them because of their ignorance. We all love my brother; the party hasn’t started, our family gathering hasn’t really started, until he walks in the room. He’s the sunshine of our family. He and his partner of 18 years, have the biggest hearts, they would do anything for you, they would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it. They pray together and are very spiritual people. So it breaks my heart when my brother tells me times when they are afraid, when they won’t go somewhere or do something because they think it isn’t safe. When my brother who has the biggest heart cries because children are being taken from their parents, immigrants are treated disrespectfully, a bird died right in front of him. And it breaks my heart that anyone would hurt him out of ignorance and fear and misunderstanding. I now speak up openly for my family members; I am gentle but firm about it with those who I at first at least assume are ignorant or afraid of people who aren’t like them. I grew up Methodist and do appreciate my upbringing in that church; it was fine for that time in my life, and I have struggled to find a church as an adult. That’s probably why I haven’t bothered to go to church for years. I just wasn’t willing to belong to churches that for 1. Felt dead, 2. Liked to pat themselves on the back for doing nothing and 3. Made decisions to judge people based on their own beliefs, not what God says. I joined first BFCC because I love being here; I used to dread going to church and now I look forward to it, but I appreciate UCC in that they want to get out of the box so to speak and do what Jesus would want them to do; be the church God wants them to be and not pat themselves on the back for having all sorts of man made rules. What our church in particular is doing, what the UCC church is doing is hard. It makes me think of the song “Oceans Deep” where it says, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, Let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me, Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger, in the presence of my savior”. Being an all-inclusive church, if we accept the challenge, will do just this for us as a church and individually. We will have to trust, to go deeper than our feet could ever wander, but our faith will be made stronger! It’s also like the song, “Do something” where it says “I turned my eyes to heaven and thought “God why don’t you do something?” And He said, “I did, I created you.” So, if not us, then who? If not me and you, Right now, it’s time for us to do something, if not now, then when will we see an end to all this pain, it’s not enough to do nothing, it’s time for us to do something, I’m so tired of talking, we’re never gonna change the world by standing still, no we won’t stand still.”
I thank you all who are willing to speak up and stand up and do something for all people, but particularly on this day, pride day in Colorado, I thank you for standing up for my brother. thank you for listening to your heart, for listening to God asking you to stand up and do something. Thank you for being willing to be the light because every time you turn on your light, it causes a ripple effect in the world, and the more we turn on our light, the more waves we can create. Thank you for being the church I am proud to belong to and to call my friends and family. Thank you for standing up for my brother and my family. Blessings. Leslie
My oldest daughter, Norah, 15. been marching since she was 6
Pride Sunday Benediction (30 minute worship, woot!)
gearing up to march!
Pride 2018 theme
My youngest. Her first march was in a stroller.
During worship we made signs!