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Spokane clergy lead Interfaith Pride Worship

For the second year, local clergy led an interfaith service during the week before the Pride Parade in Spokane. 

Communion at end of Pride Interfaith Service.

Last year, six clergy helped plan the service, and this year 12 participated in planning—Buddhist, the Center for Spiritual Living, Disciples of Christ, Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Jewish, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, United Methodist and Unity.

The UCC pastors are Andy CastroLang and Jan Shannon of Westminster Congregational UCC, and Gen Heywood of Veradale UCC. 

Conference Minister Mike Denton was among six speakers at the service.

“The service is a way to demonstrate to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people that there are many affirming clergy from across a wide faith spectrum,” said Jan, who is assistant pastor at Westminster.

Veradale UCC both at Pride Festiva. Photos Courtesy of Gen Heywood

The service, held at 7 p.m., Tuesday, June 7, at McGinty’s, 116 W. Pacific, was held in a non-church venue out of awareness that many in the LGBTQ community do not trust the faith community, and because the 2016 service was planned for 60, but 120 came.  McGinnity’s is a larger facility.  About 70 came, said Jan.

“At the service last year, people were overwhelmed, and joyful tears flowed.  The room was too small,” she said.

Jan said she first went to a Pride Parade five years ago after she began attending Westminster.  She and her wife, Deb Roth, have been together 10 years.

“I was terrified.  I didn’t make eye contact with anyone, afraid I might see someone I knew,” Jan said.  “Most people don’t realize what LGBTQ people go through when they go to the parade.  We fear bombs, hate groups and people yelling nasty things.  That happens every year.  Many overcome that fear by being brash.”

Now, Jan said, she has learned that marching in the streets is a way to be active in the community for the sake of community.

Clergy share Pride apology card.

“The world tries to have us stuff our being gay back in a box,” she said.

That’s why it’s important to have leaders of so many faiths lift up respect for LGBTQ people, to speak the sacred words from their faith traditions, Jan explained.

It’s hard work for clergy to write words that participants will be comfortable hearing.

During the service this year, participants memorialized the Orlando shooting at a gay nightclub.  Following a Jewish tradition of laying rocks on graves, they symbolically set down rocks in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the shooting and fire.

From a solemn opening, the service moved participants to a sense of joy, fun and pride, a sense of “acceptance by our Diety,” Jan said.

The Christian clergy who planned the service feel strongly that gays, who have been denied communion in their former churches, be offered communion at the end of the service. 

Clergy of other faiths respected that need.

“It was hard for some clergy to participate, because their congregations and denominations to not affirm gay rights,” Jan pointed out.

“We are all brought together by our desire to advocate for and support the LGBTQ community,” she said.

Usually more than 50 from Westminster participate in the Pride Parade. 

They also have a booth in the Pride Festival that follows the parade in Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane.

Like Westminster, Veradale UCC members participate in the service, the parade and at a booth in the festival after the march, said Gen

She said that one member, Ginny Foote, has been participating in Pride Parades for 17 years. Previously, she participated when she was a member of the Emmanuel Metropolitan Community Church in Spokane.  When it folded, many members joined Veradale UCC.

For information, call 509-624-1366 or 509-926-7173.


Pacific Northwest Conference UCC News © Summer 2017


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