This is a close approximation of what I said at today’s Interfaith Pride Service: (please remember these words are meant to be spoken, not read as an essay.)
This time is entitled “Words of Prayer and Praise” and this is a prayer of gratitude, for I know I am blessed. I am blessed to be here, in this communityâ€”this beautiful family, where faith, hope and love are more real than division, fear, and hate. I am blessed to have a chance to share briefly with you some of the things that are on my heart this afternoon. I am blessed to wear this robe and stole, symbols of my calling and position as a Unitarian Universalist minister. I am blessed to be who I amâ€”a transgender man, a father, a partner, a ministerâ€”and loved and accepted by so many whom I love and treasure so much.
Todayâ€™s theme: â€œPraise me, Praise you, Praise Godâ€ is a celebration of the ways we are all blessed. It is a reminder to love others as we love ourselves. It is an invitation to recognize the blessings we have been given and the blessings we bring to this world. It is also a challenge–a challenge to find ways, despite our differences, to praise ourselves, to praise each other, to praise all life, and all that transcends and sustains us. It is an invitation to deeper and deeper blessing.
Todayâ€™s theme called back to me the words of Dr. Howard Thurman, who wrote in his essay â€œLove of Selfâ€
Now, I cannot love myself if I am anonymous to myself. If I have no idea about who I am, I cannot get close enough to me to love me…
Todayâ€™s theme challenges us to love and praise ourselves. One of the hardest parts of being gay, lesbian, bisexual, intersexual, queer, questioning, and/or transgender (or even straight) is that the world asks us to be anonymous to ourselves and to everyone else. The world asks us to hide, to stay in our closets, and stay silent about our lives and our love. In this way, we are estranged from ourselves and struggle to learn to know and love who we are. I know this struggle intimately, for I have lived it.
But I come from a traditionâ€”Unitarian Universalismâ€”that offers a different message. From our Unitarian heritage, I am given the assurance that every person has inherent worth and dignityâ€”that is, every person is valuable, and every person full of potential and gifts to offer the world. From our Universalist heritage, I inherit a theology of infinite love. The poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning described it this way:
To Universalists, God is universal, all compassionate, unconditional love which compels us to act from the warmth of the spontaneity of a heart of love that moves us to action.
Today, as we challenge ourselves to praise God by loving ourselves and each other, I want to tell you that I am confident of three things. These three things are at the heart of my own faith story and I offer them to you with the hope that they will resonate with your own tradition and your own practice. My life and my faith have convinced me to my very depths that these things are true:
You are good. You are loved. You can make a difference.
Let me say that again:
You are good. You are loved. And you can make a difference.
That is the simple message of hope, the heart of universal love, the reason I have come to be able to praise me, praise you, and praise God. These are the words of assurance I cling to when the face of fear and hatred shows itself in discrimination, prejudice, anger and in yet more legislation meant to punish and silence us. We are good. We are loved. And we can make a difference.
This is a message of pride, a message of love, a message of hope that can help us allâ€”no matter who we are or what we believeâ€”be part of blessing the world, and knowing that we too are blessed.
May it be so.
Amen. AshÃ©. And Blessed be.