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  • Writer's pictureVirginia Callegary

Visible Signs of Welcome: Invitation to LGBTQIA+ Pride

By Clarence Baney, Virginia Callegary, Benjamin Riniker


In a sermon preached by my childhood pastor, I vividly remember her talking about how much it meant when she saw a rainbow after a storm.  The idea that it was a visible sign from God that all creation would never be destroyed by a flood meant a lot to her.  The rainbow was a visible sign of God’s covenant with creation and reminded her of God’s love.   The LGBTQIA+ community also uses the rainbow on its flag, as a visible sign for diversity and continues to expand on how it is depicted.  Wherever this flag is flown, it is a visible reminder that the LGBTQIA+ community is welcomed, supported, and included in that place.  “Visible signs” or symbols serve as reminders of and a means of communicating to others the values and the truths we hold.


This year marks our seventh year since our church began to celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride.  Seven years is a very Biblical number! So, this seventh year of Pride, the Social Justice committee calls on First Pres. to take time and reflect on where we have been and where we are going.  We began our “Coming Out” journey by struggling with the new LGBTQIA+ language and learning new terms (which are also still evolving).  We then delved into our queer Presbyterian History, and learned about the ways in which our denomination (as well as the Church) was complicit in marginalizing LGBTQIA+ clergy and Christians by defrocking them, denying ordination, or limiting the administration of the sacraments to them.  We have struggled with pronouns and how to ask others for their pronouns.  And lastly, we made a bold step to welcome, for two years in a row, Mama Bella to lead us in Drag Queen Story Hour.  


We have made visible progress; we also have room to grow.  For example, I have wondered at times that if LGBTQIA+ persons were to visit our church for the first time, without knowing anything about or anyone at our church, would they know, from the moment they walked in, that they were welcomed into our house? Would they even come inside? Would they stay during worship? What visible signs outside, inside, on our worship materials and slides, in our pews, in our liturgical dialogue, or in our scriptures and readings convey to an LGBTQIA+ person, family, or child that they are welcomed and invited to full participation in the life of our congregation?  These are important questions when welcoming LGBTQIA+ people to our church as many, who are outside the Church looking in, are often leery and distrustful of it, regardless of the denomination.  In a conversation I had with a LGBTQIA+ clergy, they remarked to me, “Most people don’t realize what incredible courage it takes for LGBTQIA+ people to even walk into a church building.” 


You are invited to take up this courage yourself, this year, and partake in LGBTQIA+ Pride at (and outside) First Pres of HoCo.  Our theme this year is “Signs of Welcome”.  We are taking up the challenge of figuring out how to make our community visibly welcoming to members of all sexual identities and gender identities/expressions.  How do we visibly convey a sense of LGBTQIA+ welcome here are First?  In what ways can our worship service also convey a sense of welcome to LGBTQIA+ people that visit our church for the first time.  


We encourage you to attend events planned at our church, and to take up the courage to visit others in the Baltimore Presbytery hosting LGBTQIA+ events. On June 2nd, the 2nd Annual Prelude to Pride of the Spire Series at First and Franklin Pres in Baltimore City, featuring LGTBQIA+ pianist and activist Paul Bisaccia in an all-Gershwin recital, with a reception to follow.  On June 9th, after worship, we will be hosting our 3rd Annual Drag Queen Story Hour lead by Mamma Bella.  On June 15th, Catonsville Pres hosts the 4th Annual Family Pride (a family-centered event) sponsored by the church, aimed at the Catonsville community, but open to everyone.  On June 16th is our “Pronoun Sunday” when we highlight our pronouns on our name tags during worship.  We close the season of Pride on Pride Sunday. 

We encourage you to attend these events hosted by different churches in our Presbytery, and we encourage you to ponder the signs of welcome that they used to indicate inclusion and welcome at the event.  Be on the look-out for a calendar of Pride events!

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