Friday, June 27, 2014

Matt Haines: Sometimes You Can Only Smile

Pride season is full swing throughout much of the country and thousands will line up on the
sidewalks of our nation’s cities and cheer at the marchers parading through the streets. The interests of the LGBTQ community will be showcased in powerful—and colorful— ways. More and more those cheering will notice churches marching in support of their community. Many Integrity members and chapters will be marching this season, joining with our interfaith brothers and sisters in this annual outdoor liturgy.

Matt Haines
This year I fought every cynical bone in my body to get up early to head for the parade. I have
marched so many years in a row and wondered if it was even still worth my time. Several friends
had told me that Pride was something a person grows out of and that the real work has been done. Thankfully, I didn’t fully believe that. I was able to fake a caffeine-fed smile and headed down to the parade staging area.

It amazes me that Churches marching in Pride still causes quite a stir. Just last week while
marching behind Integrity’s banner with the slogan "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You!" I heard countless people yell "thank you." I could only smile. For so many in our community, the church represents oppression. Yet, when these people see us stand with them, it changes that perception and hopefully works to undo some of our legacy of oppression.

I spoke to a young pedal-cab driver after the parade who wondered which group I represented. I told him "Integrity" and explained our work with the Episcopal Church, and bragged that our bishop was in the parade. This young person had no clue what a bishop was, what Episcopalian meant, and even what a denomination was. He was the quintessential non-churched Northwesterner and finally asked if we were Christians. I told him yes and smiled. Still pedaling he turned around and said "I am so glad to hear that there are churches that aren’t mean." I stopped smiling and tried to fight back tears.

"Me too," I said. Then he turned back again and said "thank you." I could only smile.

Matt Haines is Integrity's Vice President for Local Affairs.  He is a native Oregonian

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