I first came to St. Luke in the Fields four years ago this month. After a Google search for “Anglo-Catholic churches NYC LGBT programs” turned up St. Luke’s, I apprehensively crept in at the start of a June Pentecost service.
Raised Southern Baptist, I had no idea when Pentecost occurred, and wasn’t exactly sure what it celebrates. Southern Baptist as I was (and gay woman that I am) I had also suffered an excruciating breakup with God five years earlier. A pastor had told me that the Personal, Passionate, Jealous, Old Testament God of my parents and childhood “loved me too much to let me live a gay lifestyle.” Having failed to become the better, more heterosexual self God had in store for me, I stopped going to church, stopped reading the Bible, and tried to stop myself praying whenever I caught myself doing it.
Starting in the Easter of 2011, though, I’d realized that any understanding I had of myself and of the world carried such a Christian shape and tone that I could try to find a way to consciously make Christianity my own again, or have it creeping in the backdoor of my heart for the rest of my life.
So there I was, at the back of St. Luke’s sanctuary on Pentecost, gobsmacked: the color! the sound! The smell and touch of the place!
But beyond the smells and bells and vestments, what I experienced at that service four Junes ago was the feeling of Pentecost happening: the feeling of what was far away being brought near, the feeling of all things (things in heaven and things on earth) being gathered up in Christ. It’s the feeling I imagine in Jerusalem thousands of summers ago: jostling with peoples and languages from every part of the known world, who could suddenly, inexplicably, speak to and understand each other. The feeling of Pentecost is what Peter must have felt when being told to go eat with Cornelius, a gentile and Roman officer, to boot. It’s the feeling of Peter’s dream of a sheet descending from heaven, inviting him to a picnic with every animal he’d ever avoided eating.Pentecost is what I continue to feel at St. Luke’s, every time I am welcomed, different as I am from the person I grew up believing God wanted me to be. I cherish most of all the way in which my fiancee, Paige, and I have been welcomed as a couple, and the way in which our forthcoming marriage is celebrated as one of God’s blessings, as sweet as any other.
Pride month, then, feels like the perfect extension of what Pentecost means: the welcome has just begun, and, like the love of God from which it flows, neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else can keep any part of creation from that welcome.