How Cleveland churches stood on the side of love
I wanted to let you know how the UU Churches of Greater Cleveland stood on the side of love during this years Gay Pride Parade. I’ve been attending the Pride parade almost every year since my husband and I were called as co-ministers to the West Shore Unitarian Universalist church. Every year we see the same individuals and church groups, standing on the sidewalks of the parade, shouting into their bullhorns offensive, hurtful and homophobic slurs. They also stand on the side with signs that say “God hates fags” or quote bible verses out of context. It is very distressing to many of us, but no one took action–until this year.
I have also been a member of an interfaith and ecumenical group called “The Spiritual Leaders of Cleveland”. Our purpose is to stand as religious leaders on the side of love, justice and in support of BGLT rights. We are gay and straight, partnered and single clergy and lay leaders who have been meeting monthly for almost ten years now; have collaborated on interfaith pride services, grieved when the Marriage Amendment passed in Ohio, and have celebrated the small victories. This year I brought a proposal to the group. This year, instead of being passive victims, we were going to Stand on the Side of Love as Angels. Taking inspiration from the “angels” that were present at Matthew Shepherds funeral service, we enlisted members of other denominations, as well as our own Queer and Allies Group, to create “angel wings” as a barrier against the hate filled speech makers that would inevitably be lining the parade. In addition to holding an angel-wing making workshop, we also offered non-violent training, so that all of the angels would be able to create a non-violent act of resistance. We especially recruited non-gay persons, believing that as allies, we should absorb some of the hate speech as part of what it means to be an ally.
Unfortunately, I was unable to make the parade this year, as General Assembly and the Gay Pride Parade were held during the same weekend. Regardless, the Angel Wings project went on and it was a smashing success. Below is just one of the many letters our folks received about the angel wings. I am also attaching some photographs for your enjoyment. Notice that our “Standing on the Side of Love” banner was prominent–and that our own Congressman Dennis Kucinich was supportive of our effort!
I am very proud of the congregation I serve and the Spiritual Leaders Group, but never more proud to be part of this faith tradition, who not only stands up for justice, but is willing to don angel wings and be a non-violent witness for the power of love. It was a beautiful thing and I wanted to share it with you.
Blessings on your work
Rev. Kathleen Rolenz
West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church
July 4th, 2010
Dear West Shore Unitarian Universalists,
I wanted to write to thank you for your glorious angels at the Cleveland Pride Parade. My partner and I have marched in the Cleveland Pride Parade many times over the past 8 years. Recently, we were blessed with the birth of our son. He is 10 weeks old now and he is the joy of our lives.
Last year the protesters really bothered me as they directed their yells at my partner and I (she is an Episcopal priest and was wearing her collar). This year, I just couldn’t imagine having people yelling horrible things at my baby so we decided not to march. But we still attended the festival and had a good time with friends.
Just today, I read in the Gay People’s Chronicle how your community organized a barrier of loving people to shield those marching from those spewing hatred. I was so happy, I got misty eyed. I hope that you will continue this loving act in future Pride parades, so my wife, my son and I can feel safe marching next year.
Thank you so much,
Lona Caires D.O.