Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dante Tavolaro: A New Sense of Holy Week

A New Sense of Holy Week
Dante A. Tavolaro

5 April 2010

I have spent a lot of time thinking about the recent election and consent of Mary Glasspool to the episcopate. In fact, it was one point of my focus as I journeyed though Holy Week. As a young gay and transgender person, who is incredibly active in the life of the Church, the recent years on LGBT inclusion of been of supreme importance to me. It seems to me that our movement and struggle in the life of The Episcopal Church has a bit of a Holy Week feel to it.

Palm Sunday is the celebration of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. This process was incredibly counter-cultural. In fact on the opposite side of the city a royal procession, with all the pomp and circumstance, was taking place. Jesus’ triumphal and final entrance into Jerusalem marks the beginning of a new time of something very different about to happen. It is a joyous time, but the events that take place later in the week are looming. In 2003, the General Convention approved the election of Gene Robinson to the New Hampshire episcopate. This historic day marked the genesis of a new era in the church. It had finally happened, what so many of us had been waiting for: there was now an openly gay member in the House of Bishops. For many it was a joyous and triumphal time. It was something that was counter-cultural for the Church. It was something we’ve never done before. Just as there were those who were deeply afraid of Jesus and his growing following, those who would go to great lengths to stop it: There would be those who were greatly threaten by this shift in the House of Bishop and the church, those who would do anything to stop it.

As the journey through Holy Week continues the events of the end of the week continue to become clearer. Just as we journey to the cross on Good Friday, The Episcopal Church began to move closer to a dark and painful time. The years between the 2003 and 2006 General Convention would be marked by churches leaving, Bishops from other jurisdictions coming in, lawsuits and battles of who is in and who is out – who is ok to welcome into the Church and who is not. Those three years seem to me to be very similar to the three days between Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday: growing danger, pain, and fear.

Maundy Thursday is a time of gathering and service. It was here that Christ institutes the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. The Last Supper marks the final time Jesus and the twelve will be together. When Jesus acknowledges that Judas will betray him. When Jesus was his disciples’ feet. During the 2006 General Convention, LGBT people, allies, friends, spouses, clergy, laity, deputies, volunteers, visitors, gathered at a local Episcopal Church to the Integrity Eucharist. We gathered together around the Sacrament, we ministered to one another. We knew that it was going to be difficult, and through the service bound ourselves together in service and ministry. While we may not have known it, it became in a sense our Last Super.

Good Friday marks the remembrance of Christ’s crucifixion. It is a dark and solemn day. For Jesus’ followers, it looked like there was no hope. They had lost their teacher, there was no idea of what was to come: It is safe to say that their hearts were filled with great sadness and fear. The 2006 General Convention would not only mark the Maundy Thursday for the LGBT movement, but it would more powerfully bring about our Good Friday. On the last day of General Convention the infamous resolution – B033 – would be introduced and forcefully passed at the last moments of Convention. This resolution would bring about a moratorium on the election and consecration of any openly LGBT partnered people to the episcopate. It was, at least for me, a time of great fear and sadness. The Church that I love, the Church that I wanted to serve as a lay person – and one day God willing as a priest – has said that I was not good enough: that I was a second class citizen within the life of the Church for simply being the person God created me to be.

Following the General Convention we journeyed home not knowing what would happen next. After sometime things started to continue as normal. The everyday things that take up our personal and professional lives went on. Besides the everyday stuff, preparations were beginning for what would be next. Holy Saturday is a day where things seem to get back to normal. There is an underlying sense of sadness, but life goes on. It is also a time of preparation for what will come next in the liturgical calendar.

Then it happens: The Great Vigil of Easter. We hear the stories of our ancestors we follow the Pascal Candle and finally proclaim the great news, “Alleluia, Christ is Risen!” It is a new day: a new creation. With the Resurrection of Christ a new generation, a new world order is established. The Great Vigil of Easter for the LGBT movement in The Episcopal Church is in fact the election of Mary Glasspool to the episcopate. It is a new day in the life of the Episcopal Church. It is a joyous occasion. Through efforts at the 2009 General Convention and through this election we can say, “Alleluia.” The Church has taken a great stride towards full inclusion. Fear and sadness have been taken away and replaced with joy and hope.

It is a new day in the Church, but we can’t leave it with that. We must continue to work towards complete and total inclusion in The Episcopal Church for all of God’s children. Let us go out following the light of Christ and proclaiming the Good News that the Lord is Risn: the Good News that The Episcopal Church welcomes all people.

Dante Tavolaro is a Junior at Rhode Island College (graduating 2011) with a BA in Political Science and a minor in International Non-Governmental Organization Studies (INGOS). He is an active member of his campus including work with the LGBT organization and the Student Community Government Finance Commission. He is a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Pawtucket, RI. He has served in various capacities in his diocese including Deputy to General Convention 2009. After college he plans on going to Law School to focus on LGBT issues. Dante is currently exploring a vocation to the Priest and is in the Discernment Process in the Diocese of Rhode Island.