Sunday, November 3, 2013

Belonging

an open gate

I think that probably my worst childhood memory is of a time when I was ten years old and we had just   moved into a new neighborhood. The kids in the neighborhood had all grown up there and knew each other very well. In fact, they even had a club along with a makeshift clubhouse for "members only." It was such a bad time for me back then because, as a new kid, I was excluded and kept out of the club - locked out of the clubhouse. 

At a tender age I learned an important lesson about human suffering. The pain of feeling left out is excruciating.  No one wants to be told, "You don't belong."

Yesterday I had the great honor of presiding at my first same-sex wedding. I officiated at  the marriage of our two long-time dear friends in Los Angeles.  These men had been in a loving committed partnership for 28 years, and now that same-sex marriage is legal in the State of California and sanctioned by the church (the Episcopal Church), we all gathered together to legally acknowledge their abiding love and bless it in the eyes of the official church.

There were times when I didn't think I would be able make it through the service yesterday - it was so tender and touching, so poignantly beautiful. I kept thinking, for all their lives, in some form or another, these two men had endured the pain of exclusion - told by everyone that they didn't belong.

In the past, the church had told them they were committing a sin which was an "abomination" because of their homosexual love (some churches still believe that). They were public sinners, excluded from full acceptance as members of the community of faith. 

In the past, the State also told them "you don't belong." These guys had lived in a committed relationship for 28 years. They were more married than almost anyone I had ever known, and yet their obvious marriage could not be recognized.They were outside the law, looking in- on the wrong side of the locked gate to the clubhouse.

The thing I love so much about my two, now "newly married" friends, is that they never hid who they were. Even when they were pushed aside, they were never ashamed of their deep, committed, abiding love for one another.  They never hid in a guarded closet, instead their love has always been bold and courageously shared with each other and with the many, many people who have been part of their lives over the years.

Yesterday I had the great honor to stand up and in the name of the State and in the name of the Church,  finally say to them,  "you do belong!"

Yesterday, with untamed joy, I was able to pronounce that the locked gates were finally opened and there was now a place for everyone at the table. It was a breathtakingly beautiful experience. There wasn't a dry eye in the place.

Religions often carry a rightly-deserved "bad" reputation for keeping people out and telling people that they don't  belong. I must admit that in the past there have been times when I have been ashamed to admit that I was a priest - an official of an institution that was so divisive and judgmental. 

For me, yesterday made up for it all.  I can't remember a time when I was prouder to be a priest of the church than I was yesterday when I stood up in that church before that teary-eyed assembly, looked at my two newly-married dear friends and announced:

You may now kiss your husband!


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