The church is the old Grace Church on Canal Street in New Orleans. Grace had weathered changing demographics and times over the years since its founding in the late 1800’s, but was ultimately one of the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It was closed a number of years ago and the property returned to secular use, i.e. deconsecrated. (As somewhat of an aside, when churches are no longer going to be used as churches, they are deconsecrated. So if you ever danced at the Limelight Nightclub in New York City, you were not dancing in a church! You were dancing in a building that had been a church during its lifetime.)
The link to a story about old Grace Church is: https://realestate.nola.com/realestate-news/2018/08/grace_church_sale_canal_street.html
While the real estate story is interesting the picture gallery that you will see if you click on the “14” in the center of the page is fascinating. This was a parish very involved in social justice issues over its lifetime. You will see pictures of and read about well known names such as Joe Doss, Leo Frade, and Gene Robinson, all bishops in our church. As I recall, our Founder, Dr. Louie Crew Clay also visited this parish. The parish even bought a salvage boat from the military to help get refugees into this country! Their ministries were quite remarkable. Clergy got arrested for their work. Read the story to find out who they were.
How many of the churches we attend maintain any form of archives? Have any of us looked to see if our history as LGBTQ+ folks, our history as Integrity, are included? If we are included, I would think it to be very interesting reading and quite an education for the younger queerfolk among us (and a reminder for the older). If our story is not there, perhaps we can contribute stories, memorabilia and items from our personal collections, writings and recollections to fill in the blanks in some places and to create the awareness in others.
The Archives of The Episcopal Church contains a wealth of information about both the church and our story in it. We almost got “wiped out” during my first tenure as your President in the early 1990’s. The archivist at the time had, shall we say an “issue” with who we are, and was about to destroy the materials that had been sent for safekeeping. Luckily we were able to have someone intervene and preserve our legacy.
If any of us have items about Integrity, especially from the early years I think the Archives might like to have them. Our story needs to be maintained and told over and over again, no matter how fully included we find ourselves. As generations come and go, the story must be shared for others to appreciate the struggles and to help prevent us from losing what we have gained.
As we move forward both as the church and as LGBTQ+ people of faith we must always keep glancing backwards as well. What we have accomplished, the gains for inclusion we have made, have not been ours alone. They have been the work of many people over the years who often suffered for their beliefs and the actions they took.
We do not stand on our own. We do stand on the shoulders of every person, every child of God, who has come before us in the quest for full inclusion and participation in The Episcopal Church. If we ever forget that, we are doomed. Someone has paid a price for where we are. Let us always be grateful for the people and the places that have been our mainstay.
Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow