Text: 1 Corinthians 12:4-14 (one body, one spirit)
One of the highlights of my first year at Mill Woods United was the Pride Parade on June 7, 2014. When I lived in Toronto, I had gone to the Pride Parade a few times over the years as it evolved to become the city’s biggest and most colourful annual celebration. But I had only ever watched from the sidelines.
In Edmonton in 2014, I marched in a Pride Parade for the first time, as part of the Mill Woods United Church contingent; and I found participating even more inspiring than simply watching the parade. So, I pledged to never miss another one.
The next year, Edmonton’s Pride Parade was memorable not just for the summery weather, the presence of Justin Trudeau, and the switch of route from 102nd Ave to 82nd, but because it marked the third time that spring I had run into Kim Boyes. On that beautiful June day in 2015, Kim was marching with Southminster-Steinhauer United, and my heart skipped a beat when I saw her. I was hoping to deepen a connection that had sparked when we had first met in May. This seemed to work since by the end of the month we had gone on our first date; and the rest, as they say, is history!
I don’t remember much about the next Parade in 2016, but the one in June 2017 stands out as the time I met Adebayo Katiti. Adebayo is a transgender athlete and refugee from Uganda; and that year, he marched and danced with the St. Paul’s United contingent.
The next Pride Parade in 2018 was marked by a protest that stopped the march for 20 minutes. A group of queer people of colour, including Adebayo, was protesting the presence of police in the parade because of how frequently queer people of colour are the victims of police harassment and violence.
Later that month, Kim and I went to a meeting at McDougall United Church at which those in favour of continued police participation in Pride and those against gathered to talk. I loved what Adebayo said that evening, especially when he shared the terror he had experienced in Uganda at the hands of the police.
Unfortunately, no consensus emerged then or later about how to deal with racism in Edmonton’s queer community; and so, to everyone’s dismay, there was no Pride Parade in Edmonton last year.
2020 was supposed to be another year without a Pride Parade in Edmonton not the least because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But this past Friday evening, it felt to me as though Pride had magically returned. On Friday, Kim and I were on the lawn behind the Legislature as part of a 10,000 person-strong Black Lives Matter rally against police brutality and anti-black racism.
Friday’s huge gathering allowed Edmontonians to join a massive world-wide chorus of rage against the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. It also stood against police violence towards Black, Brown, and Indigenous Canadians. And because this is Pride month, and because the talented and youthful organizers of the rally understand the connections between different kinds of oppression, there was a large queer presence in the crowd.
We wore masks and stayed near the back of the demonstration in order to maintain social distance. But despite my concerns about the coronavirus, and despite the presence of some white-supremacist provocateurs, I loved being at the rally. It was loud but peaceful; and it strengthened my hope.
Today’s uprising against racism is massive in scope and deep in its implications. In Canada, it challenges every institution and each person’s attitudes. In the United States it also asks the question, “can this become a movement that will prevent President Trump’s transformation of the United States into an explicitly racist, anti-democratic, and authoritarian state?”
The U.S. President has recruited the church in his crusade against the rule of law. On Monday, he used military force to clear peaceful protestors in front of the White House so that he could stage a photo op in front of a church while brandishing a Bible. Evangelical leaders who support this action stand exposed as partisans of nation, power, and white supremacy instead of love, peace, and justice.
For decades, the United Church of Canada has worked to shift away from its roots in patriarchy and empire and towards the poor and oppressed. This evolution has not been easy although many of us have found great joy in this work.
And now, today’s uprising against racism demands that we take a stand.
So, let us stand. In the face of racism, let us shout “Black Lives Matter.” In the face of police brutality, let us support transferring money from police budgets to tackle homelessness and addiction. In the face of church leaders who support white supremacy, let us uphold a commonwealth of all peoples. In the face of church leaders who support male supremacy and traditional sexual norms, let us deepen our calls for equal rights and freedom for all sexual and gender minorities.
In the face of the blasphemy of “white Christian nationalism,” let us spread the Good News that love is love, that imperialism is a dead-end, and that together we can work for the triumph of justice/love, both in our hearts and throughout this amazing world of woe and wonder.
May it be so. Amen.