[OPINION] Why Hold An Interfaith Celebration During Pride Week?

This year's Interfaith Celebration is more important than ever.

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Even in our lifetimes, so many people of all ages and cultures, have been and continue to be pushed away or demonized by the Church and organized and traditional religion simply because of who they are and who they love. It comes as no surprise then, that for many, reconciling the faith traditions of childhood and formative years with coming out and living as LGBTQSI people is seemingly incompatible. Some in the LGBTQSI community either want no part of anything connected to the church or think they are not welcome there.

Yet, that is exactly what a group of faith leaders in Hampton Roads attempt to do every June.

In 2013, a small group of LGBT faith leaders shared with each other their hopes of once again holding a faith celebration during Pride Week. It had been at least a decade or more since anything similar had been held in Hampton Roads.

How vital it is for everyone to know that they don’t have to give up or feel alone in their faith.

We had a vision of coming together as an LGBTQSI Interfaith community to celebrate the goodness of who we all are spiritually. We all felt strongly that faith is an important part of life. And YES, even for folks in the LGBTQSI community. How vital it is for everyone to know that they don’t have to give up or feel alone in their faith. We wanted all members of the community to know that there are safe, welcoming, affirming and fully accepting faith communities in Hampton Roads that offer a loving and supportive environment. That’s why it was—and still is—important for us to do this.

That year, the Hampton Roads LGBTQSI Interfaith Group organized, sponsored, and hosted the “first in a long time” Interfaith Celebration.

Asking only to be recognized as an allied community event during Pride week, this 5th Annual LGBTQSI Interfaith Celebration continues to be open to ALL in our greater community. Participating groups are either fully part of and/or supportive/welcoming/accepting/affirming/friends/allies of the LGBTQSI community.

While the number of faith groups helping to organize and plan the event varies from year to year, the group has grown from the initial group of four to as many as 16 faith-based organizations–especially during the thick of the marriage equality fight and immediately following the Pulse tragedy last year.

This year has been another extremely challenging year for the LGBTQSI community (and the world). And our planning team has put forth extraordinary effort and careful intentional thought on how to structure this year’s celebration.

It is in some ways more important than ever for our faith communities to come together and be with the greater LGBTQSI community. So, borrowing from the LGBT Center’s community conversation held after the 2016 election, our theme is “Where Do We Go From Here?” For all of us in the LGBTQSI community, we hope you will join us to reconnect and recommit to the work that still lies ahead.

WANT TO GO?
What:The 5th Annual Hampton Roads LGBTQSI Interfaith Celebration

When:Tuesday June 13, 7:00 p.m.

Where:
The Unitarian Church of Norfolk
739 Yarmouth Street, Norfolk

Admission: Free and open to the public

Participating organizations:
All God’s Children, Norfolk
HR Center for Spiritual Living, Norfolk
New Life Metropolitan Community Church, Norfolk
Open Arms Ministries, Norfolk
Pagans of Hampton Roads,
People of Faith for Equality in Virginia
Saint Andrews Episcopal Church, Norfolk
The Great Awakening UCC, Portsmouth
Unitarian Church of Norfolk
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula, Newport News
Warwick UCC, Newport News

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Reverend Mark Byrd is the senior pastor at New Life Metropolitan Community Church in Norfolk.

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