Pride Reflections - June 2020
Domestic Partnership for same-sex couples began in New Jersey on July 10, 2004. That was a Saturday, and just a week beforehand we learned Maplewood would mark the occasion with a festival in Memorial Park. I was on St. George’s vestry and chaired the communications committee at the time, and I was seized with the idea that St. George’s should have a presence at the festival. With only one week to prepare, it was a mad scramble – and I had started a new job that same week. We needed a banner. We needed flyers about St. George’s to hand out. We needed a table and chairs, and we needed a roster of people to staff the table. My husband Kirk Petersen pitched in to help. Mike and Cecilia David loaned us their tent – which we were grateful to have, given the July sun. It was a gorgeous, sunny summer day. St. George’s was the only house of worship at the festival, and we had a lot of curious visitors. The St. Georgians who were waiting to go across the street to Town Hall to be “domesticated” hung out under the tent until it was their turn, so it felt like a giant party. I had thought of myself as an ally for a long time, but that was the first time I did something about it.
The first time I marched in the Pride Parade with my church after coming out. It was a moving and powerful experience. That moment when you turn off of 5th Ave and into the village and the crowd is electric- I felt God’s presence with my church community. It was amazing.
I was born and raised Roman Catholic. I became an Altar Boy and attended church regularly with my family. Forty one years ago this July, I met my best friend, partner and eventually my husband and moved to Maplewood. I attended a local Catholic Church here in Maplewood for a number of years, yet never felt truly welcomed, never felt like I was a part of the Church community. It was during this period, while receiving Confession, I was told by a priest there, that because I was in a gay relationship that I should/could not receive Communion. I was sad, and I was angry; angry with the Church and angry with God. For a number of years I stopped going to Church. Years later at a social gathering, I met Father Poppe and he introduced me to St. George’s. I was welcomed and accepted as me, a component of which is a gay man. I received Communion again. I became part of the Church community. Yes, God loves me, even if I am gay.
From the time I was in high school I have had friends who identified as LGBTQ and I don’t recall questioning very much. I think, however, that the time when I felt called by God to affirm someone in their identity was when My very young children asked for the first time about a family with same gender parents. We have always had close friends who are families with same gender parents but never even thought that at some point the kids would recognize that as different to theirs until they actually asked about it. We were in the car and Mark and I began explaining about how families can be different and about two people loving each other and wanting to have a family together was such a wonderful thing and did not have gender barriers. We reveled in the opportunity to be the ones to teach our children about acceptance and embracing our differences and similarities and about what family means and I think we felt glad to live in and raise the kids in a community where we perceived a greater sense of acceptance and embrace of people of LGBTQ identities than they might have in some places. They seemed to take this all with ease as they were able to reference families we knew and just seemed to get a deeper understanding of family thru this discussion. I was only put off a little when 4 or 5yo Molly at the time reflected that her friend was very lucky that she got to have 2 dads instead of a dad and a mom. Lol. Still working on my parenting skills.
1989 – A Different Time, A Different Health Crisis
Only twenty-two years of age, hovering in hospice, too young for a closure of life.
This should not be happening, we anguish.
He is bright, charming, talented and exceedingly fashionable.
Late-forgiving family members grieve at his bedside.
Loving friends remember the countless moments of joy.
An ending breath is replaced by eternal grace.
A caring God caresses him warmly.
And God’s presence is strongly felt with a powerful sensation of awe and wonder.
I felt the deep love and presence of God while helping to empower ordinary LGBT folk and our allies share their stories. In partnership with GLAAD and other sister organizations I helped media train people at the grassroots level so they could talk to their local newspaper reporters, editorial boards and elected officials about our need for marriage equality. Lambda Legal knew that we needed to win our case in the court of public opinion and the court of law. In this instance, the public opinion shifted before the courts caught up with justice.
Rev. Grant Mansfield
Last year, I preached a sermon on Jesus’ coming out story, how he “came out” as the Son of God at the Wedding of Cana. During that sermon, I reflected on my own coming out story in relation to his and spoke of the gift LGBTQ people are and give to the Church; essentially, our coming out processes taught us how to boldly live out whom God creates us to be and, as Christians, we are called to live fully who God calls us to be boldly.
A few days later, I received an email from a middle school youth in our parish. She shared with me how much my coming out story and Jesus’ coming out story impacted her. It impacted her so strongly, she shared, that it moved her to live more boldly who God created her to be by coming out as gay to her family that same evening. It is in that moment of deep sharing from her that I felt affirmed by God in my queerness and felt affirmed in my call to affirm others in their queerness. The Holy Spirit used my story to bless her and embolden her in living out who God calls her to be in this life and used Jesus’s story to affirm for her that Jesus reflects her journey, just as much as it reflects the stories of our heterosexual siblings. What a most humbling and life-giving moment from the Holy Sprit- praise be to God!
Rev. Grant Mansfield
Donez and I first came to St. George’s to attend a dance in the Parish Hall. The event was called First Friday (not the RC version), but one organized by the lesbian community of north Jersey. We had read the notice of the dance in a lesbian journal of the time—The Lavender Express. We were intrigued by the event, but even more so by the venue. We attended and were delighted.
After a few months of dances in the Parish Hall, we thought that if it is this good downstairs, we should go upstairs for a service. The rector was Rev. Barry Stopfel. Need I say more? We were captivated by his courageous and compelling presence and his inspiring leadership. Donez and I knew we had found the right spiritual home for us.
In our previous church attendance, Donez and I would often leave the service and remark to each other, “Well, that wasn’t too bad.” We knew that if that was the best we could say, we needed a new spiritual community. We wanted a spiritual home that would accept us for who we are: lesbian, pacifist, vegetarian, sea-kayakers. We found it in the warm, welcoming, and diverse family of St. George’s. How fitting that God called us to come to St. George’s through dance.
Judith Chelius Stark
William Jaglowski & Kevin Clark
We started attending St .George’s in the spring of 1999, after moving to West Orange from Manhattan. We became active at St. G’s, Kevin in the choir and musical revues, and I became an usher, lector, vestry person, among other activities. We both felt a calling, but didn’t quite know what that calling would be. How that calling presented itself to us, were we ready, perhaps God had a bigger plan for both of us. We engaged the St George community to participate and march in the New York Pride Parade. Marching with other faith communities, it was uplifting to spend a Sunday afternoon in June, with LGBTQ folks from our own parish, and allies. Seeing the bishop Of New York holding a sign affirming marriage equality that we provided him with was especially gratifying. Everyone enjoyed themselves, and we felt the presence of the Spirit. St George’s also participated in the annual community wide gathering known as Maplewood Pride. We managed a table for many years, handing out brochures and answering questions from the participants. Some years, we were the only faith based community present, but it was necessary for us to be present and to affirm our faith outside the walls of our church. St. George’s has been, and will continue to be, our spiritual home. We may not be able to attend very much since we retired and moved to Pennsylvania, but we will always feel a strong connection to the people and the ministry of St. George’s
William Jaglowski and Kevin Clark
“I have always felt affirmed in my identity as an LGBTQ+ MOM at St. George’s! My son David, now 25 and a comedy writer in LA, came out his first semester in college. That means he spent his entire time evolving from a boy to a young adult at St. George’s, both in Bernie’s confirmation class and, at the invitation of Chris Carroll and Chris West, as an 8-o’clock acolyte. So, for many of the Sundays in his life, he listened and learned from Bernie, a wise, spiritual and loving man who happened to be gay. David loves St. George’s and considers it his forever church home.
My second son, Sam, 23, is asexual. He came out a few years ago and I blithely dismissed it. I laughed and said “Oh honey. People mature at different times.” Shame on me. I hurt him deeply and since that time, he has graciously helped me understand what being asexual means, along with all of the stripes on the continuum. I asked if he was okay with me writing this and if he had anything to say about St. George’s within this LGBTQ+ context. Wrong again! He simply said “I like the people.” Couldn’t have said it better myself!
“This is easy. Palm Sunday, 1986. I went to St. George’s with two friends – Bill Lorentz and Michael Francaviglia – because as Catholics they were anxious about going to an Episcopal church; but I’d been raised in it, baptized by a bishop in 1955. We had been invited by the rector, Craig Burlington, because we were part of gay groups that met weekly at St. George’s – when few churches would let “our kind” meet on their premises. Craig promised us that we’d be welcome as full members of the parish, not as second-class citizens. He said our partners would be welcomed as spouses, our families as families.
I was thirty years old and had drifted away from the church over the previous fifteen years. Something clicked inside me that Palm Sunday, and I kept going back. Bill and Michael and I became what I suspect were the first openly gay members of St. George’s. My Jewish husband, Gary, and I have made many friends at St. George’s, and our children were baptized there in 1996. St. George’s gave me the Bible as a shield when others would use it as a weapon. St. George’s gave Jesus back to me. “