Last week, the day before a spiritual program was to begin, I was asked to take care of all the meals. Though it was last minute, I rearranged my week to accommodate the request—happily, because I enjoy serving in this way, especially those tending to their souls and the souls of others.
On one of the several daily drives to and from the site, tears came to my eyes when the radio played Ed Sheeran’s pop song, “Photograph.” I have come to associate the song with our dog, Hobbes, who died last July, specifically the line about a loved one’s photograph:
So you can keep me
Inside the pocket
Of your ripped jeans
Holdin’ me closer
‘Til our eyes meet
You won’t ever be alone
Wait for me to come home.
You see, I keep the above photo of Hobbes on my cell phone inside the pocket of my blue jeans. Every time I check my phone, she looks at me with those eyes, eyes that wanted me always.
The song that immediately followed on the radio brought up a different kind of grief, The Human League’s song with the plaintive refrain, “Don't…you…want…me?” I remember dancing to it during afternoon tea dances on the deck of the Boat Slip, a popular gay bar in Provincetown, in the summer of 1982. I spent a few days there with friends after yet another defeat at a Presbyterian General Assembly, that year, in Hartford, Connecticut.
What was particularly disheartening at that G.A. was that Bill Silver (the candidate who occasioned the denominational debate on the ordination of “avowed, practicing homosexuals”) and I had consulted the Stated Clerk on a strategy that he subsequently arranged to torpedo, now that he knew our plans. Bill felt so betrayed, he ripped off his visitor badge and tossed it over the balcony, yelling at the gathering that he would have nothing more to do with the church. He never attended another G.A.
At the time, we could not know we were at the precipice of a soon to rapidly-descend rollercoaster called AIDS. The devastation we felt at that national church convention was nothing compared to a disease that could strip us of whatever dignity we were trying to embrace, a disease that would accentuate our loss of spiritual support from the church. Many, many years later, Bill too succumbed to it, but without ever losing his feisty spirit and sardonic wit. Bill died with more integrity than many of us will see.
Like “Photograph,” the song “Don't You Want Me?” is about a yearning love, a love translatable to an institution like the church.
“Don't…you…want…me?” The song’s repeated, wistful questioning became the question of a generation of LGBT people.
And now, in our senior years, it still seems relevant. Earlier that morning I had looked through a couple of church publications, recognizing names of peers who have done well in the church, attaining positions openly LGBT Christians of an earlier time could never aspire to.
“Don't…you…want…me?” I realize old age plays tricks on our perspectives, that many seniors have the same question, as younger people, and yes, the church and culture, move on, unaware of the cost older generations have paid to make things better.
I thought of how excited my mom was when Tom Brokaw heralded “The Greatest Generation” that saw the world through the Great Depression and WW II. “Somebody’s finally giving us the credit we deserve,” she told me, and Brokaw’s book was the last book she was reading when she died at age 84.
A similar generational gap is explored in a touching article, “What My Mother Sees in Hillary.”
Prompting these reflections last week was the awareness that openly LGBT United Methodists were once again experiencing rejection during their 2016 General Conference, meeting in Portland.
In my view, that denomination’s attempt at globalization has meant throwing its LGBT members under the proverbial church bus. Not all cultures are as welcoming as Western cultures in regard to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
Thank God that the denomination that ordained me in 2005, Metropolitan Community Churches, takes its “good news” of LGBT welcome to every country it serves, even at great risk. That’s an example to follow! And I am grateful that, in 1982, the Hartford MCC pastor then, the Rev. Steve Pieters, offered visiting activists the welcome denied us by Presbyterian polity.
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Quoted lyrics copyright © by Ed Sheeran.
Copyright © 2016 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.