Does your heart break when you hear that yet another young person has killed themselves because they were bullied for being gay? Does your heart break when you hear about the vicious and cruel beating of two teens and a thirty year old man in New York by a gang because they thought them gay? Does your heart break? My heart hurts for anyone who is purposely discriminated against and targeted for abuse because of who they are or who they are perceived to be. I have never understood bullying, what brief transitory power does it give you to make someone else’s life hard, at times even, impossible.
When I became a United Church of Christ pastor at my first Open and Affirming Congregation I had a huge learning curve. While I was proud of my tradition and was glad to be part of a community that said everyone was welcomed and then worked to make that welcome real, I had truly not had a lot of experience practicing being open and affirming. So there was a lot I needed to learn and for the first time make my words align with my actions. During my first month at this congregation the church decided to be came a safe place within their community by providing PFlag (Parents, Family and Friends of Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered, Bisexual people) with a place to gather once of month. As I attended these meetings and becoming friends with all who attended, my life and understanding began to change. My heart began to open to a group of people that before had been an objective yes of course they are welcome, can be pastors, will be married by me. Now I saw children of God wherever I turned, real people, with real, needs and issues. I learned about the heartbreak and heartache of growing up gay in America. My heart grew and expanded. I met and encountered so many amazing people there at my first congregation who taught me so much.
In my position as the United Church of Christ pastor, I was given into my charge people who had questions about their sexuality but where scared they were going to hell because of the religion they had grown up with. I got to walk with them as they found their way. I remember an encounter with a young person who knew they would be kicked out of their house if they came out, a young person with a strong faith that was against these feelings inside toward the same gender. I got to walk with the gay person who brought his friend to church for pray when she was in crisis for an illness because he knew we were safe. I heard the stories of leaving home and being without family. I worked with gay and straight teens pasionate about educating people about aids and suicide. I saw the hope of a new family, a community of people that took care of each other and were the church in ways that the church never was.
So when these latest news stories occur, my heart breaks. Because in a different place someone could have been there providing hope, but there was no hope. Life had become too unbearable, without hope. How many more young people do we have to let die before we say enough, before we stand up and say to every LGBT person you are a child of God and you are welcome, wanted, and loved here. I will stand beside you and with you through whatever you are going through. I will be there for you always.