Celebrate Your Life

On July 2, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Celebrate Your Life Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Pride 2019 Let us dwell together in peace, let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. It’s World Pride Weekend. It’s the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. I want to […]

Celebrate Your Life
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Pride 2019

Let us dwell together in peace, let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

It’s World Pride Weekend. It’s the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. I want to lift up heroes and history makers today, but our time is limited. I’ll mention a few, but oh so many will be missed today.

I wish I could tell you about St. Paulinus who wrote really steamy love poems to a dude named Ausonius, and I wish I could share the story of Wenceslaus (of xmas carol fame) and his “chamber page” Podivan.

I wish I could tell you the stories of Ss. Bacchus and Sergius, Ss. Perpetua and Felicity, St. Bernard of Clariveaux who wrote erotic poetry to an Irish bishop and who was buried with that bishop each wearing the others’ clothes (like buddies do).

I wish I could tell you about the Reverend Troy Perry who founded a church with an affirming outreach to LGBTQ people in 1968, the Metropolitan Community Church, 9 months before the Stonewall Uprising.

I wish I could mention Father John McNeill who was booted out of the Jesuits by Cardinal Ratzinger himself (later known as Pope Benedict). John was expelled for his advocacy of LBGTQ people. He himself was gay and is at rest in our columbarium here at Sunshine Cathedral.

I wish I could tell you about Pauli Murray who was the first Black woman priest in the Episcopal church. She was also a Queer person, and today she (or “they”) would probably identify as gender non-binary.

But I just don’t have the time.

But I will take the time to tell you about three people from the Stonewall era.

And so I lift up Marsha P. Johnson today. She was given the name “Michael” at birth but she was really Marsha.

Marsha moved from NJ to NYC when she was 17. She was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and with Sylvia Rivera, she co-founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries).

She was active in Act Up and she was there that night that the Stonewall Inn broke out in revolution.

Marsha died in 1992 after a hard life of fighting and activism. She was found in the river with a head wound. Her life is an embodiment of Jesus’ words: “Whoever accepts you also accepts me.”

And I lift up Sylvia Rivera today. Sylvia was named “Ray” at birth. That name didn’t fit at all. She was Sylvia.

Sylvia was abandoned by her father early in life, and her mother died when she was just three years old. She then lived with her grandmother who thought she didn’t act boyish enough. Apparently, when Sylvia (still known to her grandmother as Ray) came out of her room with a fully beat mug, that is, with a face adorned with makeup, Granny was not pleased.

Sylvia was living on the streets by age 11 and surviving as a sex worker. She was taken under the wings of older drag queens living on the streets. They may have saved her life.

For much of her life, Sylvia was housing insecure and she battled drug addiction. She was part of the Stonewall era and culture, but there was doubt about whether she was at Stonewall the night of the riots. Once when she told a reporter that she had been there that night, her best friend, Marsha P. Johnson just said, “Sylvia, you know you weren’t there.”

Nevertheless, Sylvia with Marsha cofounded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR).

Sylvia wound up working on the staff of MCC New York in their food sharing ministry!

Her friend and Pastor, Rev. Pat Bumgardner, loves to tell the story of Sylvia’s many foiled arrests. Repeatedly, when Sylvia would be arrested and the police would put her in the car, she would slide all the way over to the other door, get out and run away.

And Sylvia was the first transgender woman to have a portrait in the Smithsonian.
Her life is an embodiment of Jesus’ words: “Whoever accepts you also accepts me.”

And I lift up Storme DeLarverie today. Storme worked as a bouncer, a drag king, an MC, and a body guard. She was from the time when people like her were called dykes or butches. Those terms were used by her and by those who loved her.

Storme was bullied as a kid in New Orleans. When she could she moved to New York and lived there until her death in 2014.

Storme was at Stonewall. Indeed, she may have been the match that lit the powder keg.

Witnesses say that that night police arrested what they described as a butch dyke, and the woman complained that the handcuffs were too tight. Her response was a nightstick to the head, and then people said they kept seeing this bleeding, handcuffed woman running. She’s get away from the cops, they’d chase her down, she’d fight them off and run away and they’d apprehend her again. That happened several times. Finally, they did overpower her and physically toss her into the police wagon. That violent act, according to some, was what triggered the revolt. Also, some of the witnesses believed the amazon warrior to have been Storme DeLarverie. Whether or not it was her, she was there that night and part of the riot.

Actually, she denied it was a riot. She said, “It was a rebellion. It was an uprising. It was a civil rights disobedience. It wasn’t no damn riot.”

In her 80s, she roamed lower 7th and 8th avenues, looking into lesbian bars and hangouts to make sure no one was mistreating her “baby girls” as she called the younger generations.

Her New York Times obituary said, “She literally walked the streets of downtown Manhattan like a gay superhero.”
Her life is an embodiment of Jesus’ words: “Whoever accepts you also accepts me.”

Well, that’s the intro. Let me give you the sermon now.
Relax. It’s super short and it only has two points.

1. Celebrate your life. People have paid a high price, sometimes everything, so that we can. Oh there is more to do. The work isn’t over. But even as we work and wait and lift our voices and lift our prayers…let us celebrate who we are. Let’s celebrate our place in the rainbow diversity of creation. Let’s know and declare that we are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.

2. Care about others. In telling the story of Queer heroes we have also heard about issues of poverty, sexism, racism, violence, homophobia, transphobia, gender fluidity. We have heard of people who served church and society in silence and others who took to the streets. To tell the Queer story is to tell the human story and the human story continues to show the horrors of injustice, oppression, greed, and cruelty, and it also shows the healing power of courage, hope, generosity, and love.

We don’t get to just be concerned about whatever impacts us most directly…our lives and experiences overlap…if we want God’s LGBTQ+ children to be treated with dignity and respect, then we must want and demand the same for God’s refugee children, God’s food insecure children, God’s medically at risk children, God’s unjustly incarcerated children, God’s girl and women children whose bodily autonomy is threatened daily, God’s planet that really is experiencing deleterious climate change…Pride Sunday is a reminder that LGBTQ+ people and all people have sacred value…and it is a call for LGBTQ+ people to stand up for our rights, and for everyone else’s. As we accept the other, we accept Jesus and the kin-dom of God that he preached. And this is the good news. Amen.

God for us, with us, and in us:
We celebrate our lives today!
We give thanks for divine diversity.
Heal our hurts.
And help us to live with hope, love, and joy.
Alleluia!
Amen.

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