Thursday, June 30, 2011

Integrity Province Coordinator Scott Monson Preaches at MN Pride

Sacred Journey—Sacred Stories
 By the Rev. Scott Monson
Province VI Coordinator for Integrity USA

I should have seen it coming. I guess we never really know just when God is going to reach out and touch our heart, but did it have to be at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Minneapolis? In the middle of the Pride Eucharist? While I was preaching? Well, yes. That’s just exactly when God would reach out and touch my heart.

The idea for my sermon was simple enough. Much of the social, cultural and spiritual history of our journeys as LGBTQ folks—our stories—have been lost. Sometimes our stories were lost because the writers of history either ignored us or expunged all record of our existence. But many of our stories are lost because we have never told them. The human journey, the Christian journey, the LGBTQ journey is only remembered when we share our stories with each other. The bible and the Prayer Book are story books—stories of our journey with God and with each other. We LGBTQ folks must share our stories as the foundation upon which to frame our legacy and build our future. How better to set an example for doing this than by telling a bit of my story? But to do that, I had to open my heart.

Like a lot of us, I had put up walls around my heart to protect it from the fear, the danger, the pain and the doubt that had so often attacked it over the years. To tell my story honestly, parts of that wall had to come down. I became vulnerable. And God seized that opportunity to break through the barriers I had erected and touch my heart.

As I told my story, people began to come through the doors of the cathedral. A confused, frightened teenager who wondered if God would still love him if he were gay. A lonely, angry young man who resented a religion that condemned him because of who he loved. A nervous, awkward seminarian about to be ordained who doubted any church would call a priest who was gay. A worldly, jaded middle-aged man who had reservations about whether anything he had to say would make a difference. And all of those people were me.

I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that far from walling out that fear, and danger, and pain, and doubt, I had sealed it all in. It came pouring out in the midst of a holy place, in the midst of a holy time, in the midst of a holy people. God did not just touch my heart, God squeezed and wrung it until the darkness was routed and the light shined into its deepest recesses. Then the wounded, loving arms of Jesus embraced me, and I felt his kiss of peace.

Somehow, through it all, I kept preaching. I don’t really remember what I said, but I remember I cried. And I remember that other people cried. And I remember a profound sense of the transformative power of community. It may not have been a great sermon, but it was a step along our journey to the sacred.

I am blessed to have had this sacred, transformative experience. It happened because I felt safe: it was a holy time in a holy place with a holy people. It was, for me, an experience of reconciliation and peace.

There remains an immense need for reconciliation and peace within the LGBTQ community, within the Episcopal Church, and, unquestionably, within our culture. As we celebrate the milestones we achieve on the journey toward social justice and equality, we are often haunted by lingering fears and smoldering resentments. Perhaps by creating more safe, holy opportunities to share our stories we can begin to open our hearts to the transformative power of God and God’s holy people.

There are many walls yet standing that separate us from God, from the church and from each other. Some of these walls were built by others, but many we built ourselves. Integrity has helped tear down those walls and created many safe, holy places for me on my journey. I pray we may continue to tear down walls, create holy spaces, and seek God’s transformative justice, reconciliation and peace.

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38,39


Scott Monson is a Minnesota native. H is a priest, author and student of leadership, culture and the arts. He served as special assistant to Archbishop Desmond Tutu and currently assists at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on-the-Hill in Saint Paul, MN.

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