Communion on the Streets for Pride

Capital Pride takes shape outside Pilgrims.  That's our intern, Kristin, in the front of this pix. Check out the bubbles in front of her...coming out of our bubble machine.
Capital Pride takes shape outside Pilgrims. That's our intern, Kristin, in the front of this pix. Check out the bubbles in front of her...coming out of our bubble machine.

Capital Pride was last weekend in Washington, D.C. and the Saturday afternoon parade starts at the footsteps of Pilgrims. And by starting out in front of Pilgrims I mean this the chaos you see the picture above.

Pilgrims opens its doors for Pride for bathrooms, water (with our water station handled by the Fairfax Hotel) and this year we added communion in the sanctuary. Our sanctuary had the AC going full blast and one of our Parish Associates, Charles Van Gorder, was present to share communion, talk, and be present. Our sanctuary became a meditative space for those seeking some quiet and stillness from the chaotic, sensory, rainbow scene out front.

This year we also decided to take communion to the More Light Presbyterian marchers while we waited for the parade to start. This meant taking communion to 22nd and N Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20037.

Our fabulous interns, Emily, Andrew, and Kristin took old communion trays and made them fabulous.

Emily cut up baguettes left over from lunch from Pride officials lunch and staging area at Pilgrims.

Jess Fisher, former intern, and I took the bread and the trays to the More Light Presbyterian waiting area. We shared in communion using the human microphone method--a method used by the Occupy movement to run meetings and liturgies. We used improv for the Prayer of Great Thanksgiving. The whole thing went something like this:

Me: We gather

Crowd: We gather

Me: To share a sacred meal on the streets

Crowd: To share a sacred meal on the streets....

Me: What acts of creation do we give thanks for? People called those out. What acts of the prophets do we need to remember? People called those out. What acts of Jesus do we need to remember? What acts of the Spirit? People called those out.

Then we used the human microphone for the Words of Institution.

We shared.

As Jess and I walked back to Pilgrims with what was left of the juice and bread, some folks stopped us to have their own communion moment. Before taking the bread and juice, one person said to Jess, "I have done some very bad things in my life. Very bad things." Jess shared with love and acceptance.

Reflections from sharing communion on the streets:

1) You know all those rules and constructs that the Church  has around ordination and sacraments and whatever? Guess what?  The streets don't care. Thank you, Jesus! When Jess (non-ordained) shared communion, the person didn't ask if she was ordained. Jess didn't ask if the person had been baptized. Who has time for those questions on the streets? Jess carried the symbols of love, life, community, and new beginnings and the streets called her to share freely. For me, the streets expose the absurd nature of the Church. Can you imagine if Jess had said, "Oh, wait. I can only share this with you if you are baptized." Or I had said, "Jess, get out of the way, this is for me the ordained to serve." Seriously? #assholeclergy

2) God is there. We didn't take the Church to 22nd and N. Nor did we take God there. God and the Church and the Spirit are already on the streets. We were greeted by God on the streets. "Well hello there Pilgrim people and MLP's. Thanks for being here on the streets. I've been here all along. Says God every friggin' day."

3) Boundaries get blown up on the streets. See #1. But there wasn't a table to center us. Or walls of a church to show us we are Church. I had to call out "The Lord Be with You" in a loud, directive way and get folks to bunch up together. We had to create our own space within the space of 22nd and N. We also started on our own initiative. No time and space boundaries of liturgy that prompted me to start like "now it's communion because that comes after the hymn which comes after the sermon."

4) Sensory + the Sacred + the Profane:  The quiet nature of the sanctuary that people expect? The table manners of church respectability? Pigeons walking around? Garbage at our feet? There is no separation of the sacred and the profane on the streets. It's all sacred. The symbolic nature of the Eucharist gets infused all over the streets. And the sacred nature of the streets gets infused into us and the sacred meal. Again, boundaries are pushed, challenged, and blown-up when you have dueling piano players on a float behind you and Cher being blasted in front of you. The senses, our lives, our hopes, dreams, urban air, urban sky, urban asphalt, human brokenness and joy....it all gets knocked up together on the streets in a way, for me, that doesn't happen in a sanctuary.  The "this is how we are supposed to act with communion, at the table" gets re-configured on the streets. And maybe not re-configured but you are you on the streets and less of what is expected of you, constructed of you by the Church and Empire.

Why are we doing communion ONLY behind closed doors? And who decided that along the way? And why is that the way we follow?

Some of the photos in the gallery were taken by Marti Mefford.

Capital Pride as PROOF People Seek Creativity

Pilgrims tower behind these fabulous human beings.
Pilgrims tower behind these fabulous human beings.

The month of June is "Pride Month" as cities throughout the U.S. pick weekends throughout the four weeks to celebrate their own queer community. The month of June is important because on the early morning hours of June 28th, 1969, "Stonewall" took place. The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent push-back ("Hey, NYC cops. Stop beating the shit out of gay folks") demonstrations by members of the gay community against a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in the West Village of NYC. Stonewall is considered a pivotal moment in the movement for LGBTQ rights.

Washington D.C.'s Pride Week is the first week in June, culminating with the Pride Parade and Festival.

The Pride parade starts at the steps of Church of the Pilgrims. The parade literally surrounds our building as the start-off.

For me, Pride confirms people seek public spaces that are alive with color, sound, joy, hospitality, and creativity.

Here's my "data":

1) Open the Damn Doors! Pilgrims opened it's doors for bathrooms, water, and cooling off with the A.C. for the clothed, barely clothed, and basically no clothed parade goers. Our resident statistician, Gerry Hendershot, estimated 1,800 people came through our doors that Saturday afternoon, with 20 people PER MINUTE coming through the 3:15-4:15 hour (parade started at 4:30pm). Toilet paper, bathrooms, lots and lots of water and cups. Basic stuff, folks. Memorable hospitality.

2) Gender Neutral Bathrooms: We made all 3 of our bathrooms gender neutral with Carol Huls, one of our members, directly urinal and stall traffic. "Two urinals in this bathroom, two stalls in this bathroom...you decide!"

3) More Light Presbyterians stepped it up with simple t-shirts: rainbow colored, easy to read words on the front and back. We looked like a human rainbow as we gathered and marched in the parade together.

4) Drag Queens, Drag Kings---my favorites. I love those who bust up the gender binary and social construction of gender.

Same float but burrito rider had on underwear. Clothes? So boring!
Same float but burrito rider had on underwear. Clothes? So boring!

5) Floats! Here comes the wild creativity. Best float in my view goes to Chipotle. A guy, in his underwear, was riding not a

mechanical bull but a mechanical BURRITO! 3 cheers to that creative staff meeting!

6) Color, color and more color: Dupont Circle turns into a rainbow-palooza with restaurants, hotels, row houses alive with their version of the rainbow in fabric and streamers.  Clearly people take an enormous amount of time in the planning and presentation of their rainbow.

7) The Parade Watchers: I can't really call folks "watchers" because the energy, yelling, screaming with joy coming out of the folks lined-up to watch blurs the boundaries between who is in the parade and who is watching. People are their own human "float" in how they dress for Pride, move their bodies to touch those marching, and the profound expression of joy.

8) Pilgrims Unleashed More Creativity: Who knew if we gave Rob Nelb, Elder for Congregational Care, a bunch of flowers he would flutter his way through the parade route--THE ENTIRE PARADE ROUTE--in a rainbow cape. Our booth at the Festival became more interactive--let's make our booth this year more "like us" was the mantra.

Church with closed doors? Gender specific bathrooms? Church without color, sound, joy, and glee? Neighborhood without color, sound, and joy? Nope. Sorry. Pride shows me that people are seeking Something Else.