The way of the cross is an ancient tradition that retraces the steps of Jesus, remembering his suffering but also remembering the love, hope, and promise into which we are invited to enter. During Pride Month, the United Methodist Church of the Village is following this tradition by reflecting on the ways Christ has suffered in the form of religious and government persecution of the LGBT community. Each Sunday morning in June, we begin our “Village Time” with a prayer and a testimony of one of our members.
We then visit places in our community that are representative of the struggle for LGBT equality.
It has been a powerful experience to lift up those who are living out the different stations and to pray for God’s healing and strength. For example, to pray Station Two “Jesus Accepts the Cross,” we walked to the Stonewall Inn. After a police raid and riots on June 28, 1969, gay rights groups began to mobilize and stand up for LGBT civil liberties. We prayed:
God of liberation, the cross we carry to LGBT equality is heavy, but we are reminded that we are not on the journey alone. We thank you for giving us strength in moments of oppression to break the chains and move forward on a path of justice. Thank you for communities that continue to speak truth to power. Thank you for those events that spark revolutions.
Perhaps it seems out of sync with the church calendar to begin a 5-week Bible study of the Way of the Cross on Ascension Sunday. We are just finishing the season of resurrection—why would we go back to the season of repentance?
But in the hour before worship on Sunday, as we discuss the various stations in relation to LGBT Pride Month, it is clear that even in a “radically inclusive” church, it is important to have the space to share individual stories of the crosses we carry and to confess how we hurt others so that we might find a path to God’s loving grace that is waiting to embrace each of us.
Here are some examples of what has been shared during our “Village Time.”
A man is excited to tell a Christian friend that he has found a church community. His friend replies that he may have found a church he loves but he “doesn’t really love God” or he wouldn’t still be gay.
A little girl feels called to be a Catholic priest, and is hurt when she learns that women are not ordained as priests. As a young adult, she is excited to find a reconciling United Methodist Church and is heartbroken to learn that the denomination finds her sexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
A woman laments the damage her son has suffered after years of verbal abuse for being gay and shares that there was a time that she didn’t accept his sexual orientation. She asks for prayers that he will find healing and love.
“Words have power,” she reminds us.
Reading about Peter denying that he knew Jesus, a man recognizes how he denied who his friends were growing up because people might think that he was gay. He realizes that when he denied his friends, he was really denying his own sexual orientation. “And Peter wept bitterly.”
All too often, the Church has been complicit in the crucifixion of our LGBT brothers and sisters. Our hope is that this prayerful pilgrimage can be a step in our own journey of repentance and resurrection.
We confess that we are part of a denomination that practices the sin of discrimination—just as the religious zealots and Pilot did not recognize Jesus as God’s son, our church leaders do not see how they hurt the body of Christ when they use God’s Word as a weapon against God’s beloved children.
At The Church of the Village, the LGBT Stations of the Cross provide an invitation to those who are seeking God’s love and peace.
The stations help us remember that Jesus Christ understands suffering and that in Jesus there is also the promise of resurrection.
We pray that The United Methodist Church of the Village will be a source of restoration, reconciliation, healing, and love. May all who enter feel the deep and unending acceptance and love of Christ.
Join The Church of the Village and Believe Out Loud Director James Rowe on Sunday, June 22nd for “Village Time,” or stop by on June 26th for a gallery reception featuring Mary Button’s LGBT Stations of the Cross. Click here for more information.
Image via Mary Button’s LGBT Stations of the Cross