Queerly Walking Here: A Reflection on Winston-Salem Pride and Kaleidoscope
There I stood in front of Foothills Brewery on 4th Street as my hopes for the sake of humanity meshed with a multitude of others. I surveyed a diverse, yet unified body of individuals joined to celebrate the LGBTQ community. As a group, Kaleidoscope walked amongst fellow Wake Forest students and faculty that, too, strive for a more open learning environment. It is no secret that Wake Forest University struggles to be inclusive of LGBTQ folks. The sidewalk was littered with radiant faces and affirming shouts. I welled up with pride as I heard people bellow, “Go Deacs!” on Homecoming Weekend. What a God-moment! I sensed a greater community of WFU that desperately seeks equality for LGBTQ persons.
Overwhelmed, I felt my face sting from the contagious joy that overtook my smile. I could not stop beaming. I I have dreamed of the opportunity to be present in a space where all people are accepted, valued, and celebrated. Oh, how I wish that were the description of the church!
As we continued walking past supporters and protestors, I considered the magnitude of this moment. This was a life-changer. I realized that the body of Christ desperately needs to hear and include all voices. This moment greatly shifted my ministerial lens. My experience drove me to intentionally accept this radical hospitality as a key emphasis in my ministry-to-come. I felt the deep desire to reconcile the church to those who have been violently exiled and ruthlessly repudiated. Downtown resonated with a holy glow on an overcast October morning.
Our march led us to the remainder of our Saturday morning. As a group, Kaleidoscope gathered on Trade Street to offer Pride attendees and participants a confession booth. In a grand role reversal, we, as ministers of today and tomorrow, provided confessions to all who would listen. Trade St. became and will remain a sacred place where I could explain myself, voice my shortcomings as an ally, proclaim the ever-abounding love of God, and confess my deep hope and commitment to being a part of a church that loves all.
Initially, individuals were hesitant to approach the booth. I saw this as evidence that commodified religion has harmed an immeasurable amount of people. Once individuals, couples, and families stepped into the booth, they received a surprise. Vividly, I recall individuals placing their hands upon their faces and chests. Hearing members of the church apologize for its failure became emotional for all parties. Separated by a partition, Kaleidoscope participants were able to rawly express their dreams and visions for the church of tomorrow. We gave vocal chords to God’s love which constantly seeks reconciliation for the whole of creation.
I will forever remember Saturday October 19, 2013. Standing alongside my classmates as we admitted the church’s imperfections, bore its responsibilities, and dared to dream of a new day for the relationship between the LGBTQ community and the church.