[By Patrick Malloy, rector, Grace Allentown]
Yesterday, about 40 members of the Diocese from six parishes (Grace, Allentown; Mediator, Allentown; St Andrew’s, Allentown; St. Anne’s, Trexlertown; Trinity, Bethlehem; and Trinity, Easton) hosted our booth at the Lehigh Valley Gay Pride event. It was a remarkable show of solidarity. Of the 40, only four or five were themselves gay. That sent a clear message that the Episcopal Church, not the gay members of the Episcopal Church, welcomes everyone into our community. Other parishes that contributed to the two-page ad in the Pride in the Park booklet and to the cost of the tent and materials were the Cathedral, Bethlehem; Christ Church, Stroudsburg; St. Margaret’s, Emmaus; and Trinity, Mt. Pocono; as well as the Safe Spaces Committee of the Diocese.
Next to us was the booth of the Interfaith Alliance. The staffers came from Harrisburg and represented Christianity, Judaism, and Wicca. They said that never in years of attending events like this had they ever known an entire judicatory to sponsor a booth. They were very impressed, and they praised the Diocese of Bethlehem for its solidarity.
The Episcopalians at our booth did not try to convince our visitors of any theological position about any issue, including the issues related to sexuality that trouble our Church and the Anglican Communion. (The staffers may not even have held the same position. They did not discuss it.) What our Sisters and Brothers did was extend a welcome to everyone who would receive it. They handed out brochures for all the congregations that sent them, as well as literature from Integrity concerning the conversation in our Church about GLBT people and their place in our common life.
At the entrance to the park, fundamentalist street preachers with large placards stationed themselves. They spewed hate and berated those who passed by. Our Diocese, along with a few other individual congregations of other denominations, painted a far more flattering picture of Christianity and offered a real Gospel witness. Whatever your view on issues of human sexuality, I think you would have been proud of our Brothers and Sisters. They represented us exceedingly well.
Father Scott Allen is planning an article for Diocesan Life, featuring photos of the event and our booth, as well as a list of the volunteers.
Thanks to all who helped, before and during the fair.