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Why We March in the Asbury Park Pride Parade

posted Jun 5, 2019, 3:14 PM by Tricia Sheffield   [ updated Jun 5, 2019, 3:17 PM ]


Greetings of grace and peace to you!


Sunday, June 2, will be a big day in the life of our church! We will take to the streets to show that God’s love is available for all people during the Asbury Park Pride Parade. This parade is one of the biggest outreach moments we do for our church. 2019 marks our fourth year participating in the parade, and each time I am happy to hear from the crowd assembled along the streets how glad they are to see a church there. Glad to see us yes, but also, people often say they are surprised too. People are still surprised that a church would be welcoming, affirming, and celebrating of LGBTQ people. Their surprise is disheartening and sad. Certainly we know that Christ welcomed all, and as recorded in the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit’s movement was an ever widening and growing circle. As Peter said regarding Cornelius, the Roman, Gentile centurion: “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have” (Acts 10.47)? How can we quench the Spirit’s direction of “all come” when She has clearly spoken?


Even though Peter was forbidden as a Jewish person to associate with Gentiles, not to mention eat at table with Gentiles, God had shown him something different. No one, in God’s eyes should be called profane or unclean; God shows no partiality; in every nation, anyone who loves God is acceptable to God. This was a complete reversal of what Peter had been taught since he was a child. The law was the law, and that was it, or so he thought . . . until that day. But really, if Peter had been paying close attention to how God acts he would have noticed that God was always casting the circle wider throughout salvation history: God includes the Egyptian Hagar in the covenant promise; God brings in Rahab, a prostitute and foreigner; God drew to the faith, Ruth, another foreigner, a Moabite woman who would be an ancestor of David, and then Jesus. A wider welcome was nothing out of the ordinary for God; it was just new for Peter. 


Seeing that Gentiles like Cornelius and his family had been given the Holy Spirit just like all the people present at Pentecost, Peter finally realized that God’s love and grace was available for everyone, for there was no way that the Holy Spirit could be held back to go where she would. So, Peter ordered Cornelius and his family to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. And the Scripture tells that the people in Jerusalem praised God. After this, they must have been thinking, where is God’s Spirit of grace going now?


I think that’s the question we have for us still today. Or better phrased, where on earth and to whom is God’s grace going now? But the answer to that question is no different now than it was in the first century: God’s love and grace goes everywhere and to everyone. As one theologian said, “Faith, when it comes down to it, is our often breathless attempt to keep up with the redemptive activity of God, to keep asking ourselves, ‘What is God doing?’” 


The Spirit moved in unimaginable ways for the first century church. And the Spirit is still moving in unimaginable ways in the 21st century, with or without us. I hope and pray, as followers of Christ, we will continue to be witnesses for a wider welcome, and go with the Spirit who is constantly casting the circle wider and wider and wider. 


And that is why we march in the Pride Parade.


Beloved one, our welcoming statement, theology, and worship are not just for our LGBTQ siblings, but for all people. Anyone who walks through our doors will know they are welcomed, affirmed, celebrated, and shown the love of God in Christ Jesus. You may think what we do and who we are is ‘normal,’ but, I assure you, for many people who have experienced church, it is not. My prayer is that one day our fabulous church of love and God’s open-arms-welcome will be the norm for the Church Universal. May it be so!


In gratitude for the joy of being your Pastor and the holy call of loving you,


Pastor Trish


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