A Matter of Pride
By T. Scott Allen
On Sunday, August 16, parishioners and clergy from six congregations plus a few retired clergy staffed an information/welcome tent on behalf of the Episcopal Church at Pride-In-The-Park, held annually at Cedar Beach Park in Allentown. The largest Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered (GLBT) gathering in Northeastern Pennsylvania, it drew an estimated 5500 people this year.
Handing out flyers listing many Episcopal church’s and their contact information as well as Sunday service times, the tent volunteers spoke with many GLBT people and their allies who were seeking spiritual communities or wanted to tell us how glad they were we were there. The tent was emblazoned across the front with a banner which proclaimed “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You!”
The hot and humid 90-degree weather did not wilt the spirits or enthusiasm of the 20 or so Episcopalians who worked the large yellow and white striped tent which was donated by Mickey Brown (a parishioner at St. Andrew’s and owner of Michael Thomas Florist in Allentown). Water and dog biscuits were given to the myriad of four legged attendees to draw the owners to the table for conversation and a rest in the shade of the tent.
In addition to tents from several religious organizations, the Festival had many vendors selling everything from food, to BINGO which benefitted FACT (Fighting AIDS Continuously Together), to tattoo artists to T-shirts. An art show featuring GLBT visual artists was one of the popular sites. A doggie drag show and recording artist Crystal Waters entertained at the large entertainment tent.
Michael Pesavento of the Cathedral, creator of the informational flyer, commented that this was the first time he volunteered to do this and thought it was a great experience for two reasons: He got to meet and talk with parishioners from other local Episcopal congregations and he thought that our presence was an important statement to make with the GLBT Community about the Episcopal Church’s welcome. “I’ll definitely do it next year,” he said.
Jean Evan’s of St. Andrew’s – her second year as a volunteer – said that she thought that the “protestors” who stand at the entrances bearing signs which say “Homosexuality is an Abomination” and other biblical quotes and anti-gay slogans is always a powerful part of her commitment to be there. She goes to show support for people in her life who are gay – her friend’s daughter, her grandchild’s godmother, her priest, and other friends. Her presence is a way for her to be supportive in the face of prejudice and discrimination against GLBT persons. “People are people”, she said, “…and God’s love doesn’t discriminate.”
[The Rev. T. Scott Allen, a member of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Bethlehem, is priest-in-charge at St. Andrew’s, Allentown/Bethlehem.]
Rick Daugherty of St. Andrew's Allentown and Rick Theiner of Mediator Allentown
Lori Sysak of Grace Allentwn with Scott Allen's dog, Martini
Anne Kogler Slivko of Trinity Easton and Cindy Bowlby of St. Andrew's Allentown