For a few years, I’ve been pondering and dreaming about some way to demonstrate the love and care I feel for gay people in connection to Pride events. I’ve winced, as I know many Christians have, at the images of religious people holding placards in protest along the side of parade routes. The most ridiculous photo I saw was of the back of a man’s t-shirt that read, “Real Christians Don’t Sin”….. What????? Every real Christian I know sins – all the time. That’s why we need a Saviour. And what about I John 1:8, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”? Anyway….needless to say, I have long desired in some small way to try to undo what some, who name the name of Jesus, have done in the past.
This year, things finally seemed to come together in a small, under the radar, anonymous sort of service initiative. In partnership with the Meeting House, one of the churches we connect with, we gathered a small group of people willing to serve as volunteers – and offered ourselves to the Pride Toronto committee. The initial idea was that we would go down and pick up garbage after the parade. Simply show up, be the presence of Jesus, and serve our city. But God seemed to have a different idea. When I initially spoke months ago to the fabulously organized Lisa Duke, Volunteer Coordinator, she thought it would be great if we could help them ‘de-register’ the vendors. Basically, last year a lot of vendors all took off at the same time and left a lot of garbage behind – which cost Pride a lot of money because they had to pay the city more to clean it up. So Lisa thought it would be great if we could go around to the vendors on the last day of events, introduce ourselves, offer our service in helping them de-register and make sure their site was squeaky clean. It seemed, we were being given the opportunity to make connections and be in conversation, as well as helping to clean up. Cool.
So the big day finally arrived. The parade was finishing up and we got our volunteer t-shirts, our photo i.d., our meal and snack tickets, got pointed to the tent where there was a constant supply of pizza and water, and told to have fun. Robert, the food vendor coordinator, was so great and so glad to have us. Allan,one of TMH’s pastors and key coordinator for our involvement, kept saying how as pacifist BIC pastors they would have to “radically love” the vendors into cleaning up their sites – the big love-enforcers :).
We had a fair bit of time to wander around before we had to really get down to the business we were there for ….. and though I’d seen many photos of Pride and watched it on T.V in the past, I had never been ‘in the flesh’ at Pride before. To be honest, I’m a suburb soccer mom and don’t get downtown too much. So I did feel like a fish out of water. Not because I was shocked or offended …