Reflections by Pastor Lee Ann Bryce of First Congregational UCC, Fort Worth, TX. Delivered during a Service of Lament, Healing, and Courage at Amistad Chapel UCC in Cleveland Tuesday. Shared with permission.
This is a beautiful church
and we’re grateful to be here,
but I want to talk for a moment about gay bars.
I came out as a lesbian many years ago
and I’ve noticed that at times,
particularly early in our movement for equality
gay bars have been referred to as a sort of necessary evil;
at one time, they were one of the few public places
where LGBTQ people could meet and be in community.
The truth is
long before we were widely welcomed in churches,
we were welcomed in gay bars.
And so to me, gay bars and nightclubs,
many of them at least,
are like churches.
Or at least like churches should be –
places where you are welcomed just as you are.
Places where you can gather with loving, supportive community and sort of get bolstered up
to go back outside to our homophobic world.
I know that I have always felt a kind of safety
at the gay bars I’ve been to;
like I could let my hair down.
Some very important things have happened
on the holy ground of gay bars
through the years.
It was when drag queens at a bar called the Stonewall Inn, put their foot down,
put their magnificent 6-inch heels down
and said, we will not be targets any longer,
that’s when our movement was born.
They were victimized by violence and brutality,
just as patrons of gay bars have been ever since.
The Rainbow Lounge comes to mind.
I can imagine the men and women at Pulse Orlando feeling safe, having fun, dancing, laughing.
They did not sign up to become martyrs,
but that is exactly what they have become;
innocent victims of the unforgivable crime
of simply being themselves.
The changes and chances of life are indeed unpredictable
and outside of our control.
And so [today],
we remember those who lost their lives
in this crystallized act of hatred.
We grieve their loss.
We pray for their families and friends who grieve.
And we pray for those who lie in hospitals,
clinging to life at this moment;
people who will forever bear the wounds of this terrible attack.
We open our hearts,
and we gather all of them in.
And we strengthen our resolve
to end the violence and abuse
perpetrated against LGBTQ people
whether it happen in gay bars
or hastily deleted tweets
or school board meetings.
May the tragic deaths of the patrons at Pulse
not be in vain
but may they lead to lasting change against all acts of violence.