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Posts Tagged ‘MCC’

Ok, I admit it. Mostly I go to church to be with my friends. And BTW, 13 of us were there today. We’re taking up TWO pews now. I like the music and the sermons are sometimes inspiring, but most of the time they don’t jolt me awake. I usually can multi-task through them while planning the rest of my day. Maybe I should have finished my Dunkin Donuts coffee, but I wasn’t ready for the message this morning. Praying for Discomfort, anger, tears and foolishness is not my idea of serentity and peacefulness. There I was, sitting there half-drozy in half-coffee awake mode (they made me throw the other half away before I could come into church) and all of a sudden I hear “May God bless us with a restless discomfort………….” Huh??? Then I heard “May God bless us with holy anger………” Oh please, leave me be. Praying for tears and foolishness followed. Don’t make me think…on Sunday Morning at that. So I reached for the printed version to find out what we were supposed to be praying for.

“May God bless us with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that we may seek truth bodly and love deep within our hearts.

“May God bless us with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among people.

“May God bless us with the gift of tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that we may reach out our hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

“May God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we really CAN make a difference in this world, so that we are able to do what other claim cannot be done.”

Ok, let’s be honest here. This is not your typical mass. To me those are not spiritual or religious words, those are political calls to action and issues I struggle with every day.

I’m good on the foolishness, I’ve got plenty for the whole group. Using it to believe I can change things sounds like the same call to arms Robert Kennedy made when he said “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” Was he just being foolish?

Anger is a tricky one. There is good anger that motivates and bad anger that debilitates. Kind of like Good Cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Which is the good one, HDL or LDL? I keep getting the two confused.

Tears are there too. I do care about people in need. But actually reaching out a hand and helping sometimes takes work.

But the first one really is the one that got me thinking; restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships. I may have to take that one to my therapy session this week. That’s the one I really want to ponder.

All four of those prayer requests can be related to HIV and how we deal with HIV. Think about it. There might be a topic in there someplace. Have a good Sunday and a good week everyone.

Peace
-Steve

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Sunday is my day for spirituality, a time to reflect and work on my inner peace. But upon arriving at MCC this morning, my friends made me aware of new allegations coming out of the Catholic Church. This time it’s the Catholic Church in Belgium.

The last year has not been kind to the Catholic Church in Belgium. There has been widespread anger that Belgium’s bishops have failed to apologise and begged for more time to deal with an independent report that uncovered sex abuse over the last four decades, committed by at least 91 priests, other clergy or church workers in every congregation in Belgium. Let me repeat that, EVERY congregation. This is not some anomaly. At least 475 victims have been found, 13 of whom committed suicide. This in a country much smaller than Florida. The senior cleric responsible for rooting out these sex abusers, has further inflamed outrage by confessing that financial concerns over litigation stopped an official apology.

But that’s not what my friends were talking about. The newly appointed Archbishop of Brussels, Andre-Joseph Leonard has declared that people afflicted with AIDS are receiving “a sort of immanent justice” for their sexual practices. Leonard’s spokesman has tried to clear this up; “Let’s be clear, Leonard is here speaking about victims who got AIDS as the result of a promiscuous lifestyle. He is not speaking, for example, about babies who are born with the virus”.

Well, that cleared it up for me. I can just see Jesus sorting out the lepers into naughty and nice lists. Or was that Santa Claus? Children are innocent victims and everyone else needs to take responsibilty for their deeds. Everyone that is, except the Catholic Church. When these innocent children become victims of sexual abuse by church clergy, the church shuns responsibility. For the church, material possessions trump responsibility. The church cannot apologise, because it might cost them money. Does that sound Christ-like to you? And those 91 priests were not the only criminals involved in this situation. Everyone who covered up these sexual abuses over the last four decades was an accomplice. I might even argue that covering it up was worse than the actual crime because it perpetuated it and allowed more children to become victoms of this corrupt misguided institution. Everyone, without exception, and that goes all the way to the top.

Leonard seems to not live in the 21st century. He seems to have even missed the 20th century too. He seems to live an exalted life which exempts the church and church members from responsibility. That just doesn’t work when your congregation is literate. Catholics through out Europe are becoming increasingly indifferent to their religion. I see that in our group too and its not limitied to the Catholic church. I see it in most organized religions. They’ve marginalized their own people with rules they never even lived by.

Leonard has drawn fire for earlier comments on homosexuality, which he described as “abnormal” behavior resulting from “an imperfecty developed stage of human sexuality which contradicts its inner logic. Homosexuals have encountered a blockage in their normal psychological development, rendering them abnormal”. And yet as a member of the church hierarchy, he supports celibacy.

Lenny, let me explain something. I was born homosexual. Loving someone of the same sex isn’t abnormal. Trying to live my life with a woman I have no desire for would be abnormal. Trying to change me into something I’m not would be abnormal. And trying to be celibate is abnormal. Celibacy contradicts one’s inner logic and blocks normal psychological development. Supressing human sexuality is abnormal. Suppressing desires as strong as sexuality causes people to do abnormal things, like abuse innocent children instead of having normal relationships with other adults.

If you’re trying to make a point that promiscuity spreads AIDS, then promote monogamy and allow us to get married. No, don’t just “allow us to get married”, encourage us to get married, and marry the person of our dreams and desires so they we can build loving relations instead of trying to turn us into something different than the person God created.

I’ve heard your cries before. From a Republican Senator from Idaho who got caught tap dancing in a Men’s room. From a Religious leader in Colorado who got caught buying crystal meth from a male prostitute. From a conservative anti-Gay crusader here in Florida who got caught traveling through Europe with a young rent-boy. Me thinks thou dost protest too much.

The sad part about all this is how this turns people away from spirituality. The LIFE program has identified spirituality as a cofactor in HIV survival rates. There is a difference between spirituality and religion. The difficulty is finding a religion that supports your spiritual needs and not letting people like this discourage and mislead you. There are organizations out there that don’t believe or practice these hate-filled messages. If you need spirituality, I encourage you to take the time to find one that meets your needs.

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This was the message we heard this Sunday at MCC on 10-03-2010:

We Will Not Be Silent

by Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

When I was in college as an undergraduate, my friends and I…also known as the Theatre Department…formed a sort of cult…our highest ritual was to watch the Big Chill. We knew all the lines, and we took great pride in reciting them along with the characters in the film.

The film begins with the funeral of a man named Alex. Alex had tragically taken his own life. His friends from college came from all over to attend the funeral and they had a sort of reunion in his honor. The rest of the film is about that reunion. But the film begins with the funeral, and at the funeral an unnamed country parson says very simply of Alex’s death, “It makes me angry and I don’t know what to do with my anger. Where did Alex’s hope go?”

I think of that film today because you see, last month, 4…FOUR teens, that we know of, took their lives because they were bullied, harassed, tormented because they were perceived to be gay.

15 year old Billy Lucas hanged himself on September the 9th.

13 year old Seth Walsh was removed from life-support 10 days after he hanged himself. He died Sept. 19th.

13 year old Asher Brown took his step-father’s handgun and shot himself on Sept. 23rd.

The day before that, 18 year old college freshman Tyler Clements leapt to his death from the George Washington Bridge…the bridge in my old neighborhood on the Upper West Side of Manhattan connecting New Jersey to New York.

Tyler was filmed sharing what he must have believed to be a private moment of intimacy with someone until he realized that his sensual encounter had been posted on the Internet for the entire world to see.

The three younger boys had each been traumatized by their peers and classmates. They weren’t miserable because of who they were; they were miserable because of how people treated them for being who and what they were.

Such abuse makes me angry and I don’t know what to do with my anger.

Where did Billy’s hope go?

Where did Seth’s hope go?

Where did Asher’s hope go?

Where did Tyler’s hope go?

And where were people of faith when these boys were being tormented? You and I both know where many of them were…they were saying dehumanizing things about same-gender loving people, justifying their own fears and hatred by claiming that they were religious values, and turning a blind eye to or sometimes even encouraging the mistreatment of Queer youth. Where were people of faith? It is not entirely hyperbolic to say they were tightening the nooses and loading the gun and pushing a broken soul off a bridge.

Statistics are as grizzly as the anecdotal stories.

90% of Queer youth say they have been verbally harassed.

44% say they have been physically threatened.

22% have actually been physically assaulted.

60% believe that it is pointless to report such abuse because they just don’t believe adults will do anything to help protect them.

Where did their hope go? It was stolen from them, beaten out of them, shamed out of them, terrorized out of them.

Too many children, many of us in the room will remember, grew up either being bullied for being different, or being so afraid of being found out that we lived a lie for the sake our own safety. And then, we didn’t even believe that home would be a safe place if our truth was known, so we kept our secrets and the scars from our bullies hidden even from our families. We felt alone and afraid everywhere, all the time. No wonder in adulthood so many of us have formed families of choice that we cherish and value with all that we are…because those families are the first families we were able to let ourselves trust.

Well, I’ve got good news today for people of all ages and all gender identities and all ethnicities and all walks of life. And the good news is we’re here, Sunshine Cathedral is here, and we’re going to always be here. We open these doors week after week, this campus is full of activity every single day, we are on the Internet and in publications, we speak on college campuses and we meet with people every day and speak with people by phone and email encouraging them, answering their questions, praying for them. We live out loud as a thriving LBGT friendly community of faith. We dare to exist openly, unapologetically, proudly, and optimistically so that there will be a spiritual home for people to come to from their long wanderings in the wilderness of loneliness, fear, degradation, and despair.

Sometimes people will send me those charming emails chastising me for talking about the “gay thing.” If you were looking for a closet to worship in, you did not find it at 1480 SW Ninth Ave. Sometimes, from their own internalized homophobia people will say, “Why do we bring up these issues? Nobody cares anymore…We’re past that. Young people especially just don’t care about sexual orientation anymore.”

Well guess what? Asher Brown didn’t the memo. Tyler Clement didn’t realize that the crisis was over once and for all. Billy Lucas and Seth Walsh were somehow unaware that nobody judged gay people anymore…in fact, they seemed to have assumed that the people torturing them still had a problem with gays.

We used to say in the early days of AIDS and it remains true today, “Silence = Death” and my promise to you is that as long as I am the pastor of Sunshine Cathedral MCC we will NOT be silent in the face of these tragedies; we will not be silent as homophobic rhetoric continues to be vomited out of the mouths of preachers and politicians. We will not be silent as people are abused, ostracized, abandoned, targeted, and spiritually destroyed. We will not be silent because Silence = Death and the Galilean Prophet whom we follow and in whose name we minister said that he came to show us how to live more abundantly. We will not be silent.

As long as discrimination is written into state constitutions, as long as entire denominations uplift heterosexism and homohatred as religious values, as long as politicians run entire campaigns based on demonizing same-gender loving and gender variant people, we will not be silent because their hate speech is costing us the lives of our children. Conscience will not allow us to be silent…and so we will faithfully, passionately, even obnoxiously affirm the sacred value of all people and make heroic efforts to make sure that LBGT people know that they are, just as they are, children of an all-loving God! We will not be silent.

A week from tomorrow, Oct. 11 (National Coming Out Day), right here at 7:30 pm we are going to have a vigil for the teens who have lost their lives as a result of the cruelty of bullies…bullies on the playground, bullies in the dorm, bullies in the pulpit, and bullies on the political stump. We will let our light shine with hope that those who need it will see it and be drawn to it; we will speak out for those who have not yet found their voice. Please join us on Oct. 11th.

Metropolitan Community Churches were founded 42 years ago this month to provide a home to same-gender loving and gender variant people and those who love them. Our primary outreach has always been to the LBGT community and our allies…we are concerned with human rights in general, because all people are God’s people, but we were born to address the very issue that is still killing our youth. Our founder Troy Perry attempted suicide in the 1960s because he was so wounded by homohatred. But thank God he recovered from that suicide attempt and answered a divine call to start Metropolitan Community Churches so that people who have been hurt the way he had been hurt could have a place to hear and to know that they are what God created them to be and God loves them just as they are.

We are not passé, we are not old news, we are not done, we don’t have to water down our reason for existing and God forbid that we should ever try to water down our reason for existing. Four teenagers last month reminded us in the most horrifying ways that our presence, our ministry is as needed as it has ever been.

I’m going a little long, and I hope you’ll forgive me; but I need to say just two more things.

To the people who currently make up this congregation…the world needs you. The world needs Sunshine Cathedral. So many people still need a safe place where they can be loved into wholeness, have their dignity affirmed, and never once be told that who God created them to be is a mistake. The world needs gay and lesbian and straight and bisexual and transgender and questioning people working and worshiping together affirming the sacred value of all people. Your generous giving, the ministries you volunteer for, the people you invite into this place, the worship services you attend each week, the prayers you say for your church, and the good things you say about your church…these things will help us always be here for those who can’t yet even imagine that such a wonderful place exists just for them. If you have been distracted by anything less important, please come back to what matters today. Will you renew your commitment of time, talent, and treasure to Sunshine Cathedral and help us be all that the world needs us to be?

And to the people who are in this room or who may be watching us on the Internet, I have to say this: YOU, just as you are, have sacred value. YOU are a child of God. YOU have dignity and worth, and you add beauty and light to the world we share. Please don’t give up! There is joy to be had. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Don’t give up until you reach the morning of renewed hope and renewed joy.

Jesus said in the gospel today, “You could SAY to a mulberry tree, ‘be uprooted and planted in the sea’ and it would obey you.” You could SAY…you could speak up, speak out…and something amazing could happen. That’s what we are doing here today…that’s what we’ll always do at Sunshine Cathedral…we will speak up and speak out and expect and allow amazing things to happen. This is the good news. Amen.

© Durrell Watkins 2010

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We’ve outgrown one pew. 10 guys showed up for service at the Sunshine Cathedral for the 10:30 service.

Rev. Durell Watkin’s sermon this week was epecially topical to our group. I was especially moved by this paragraph:

“Have you ever felt betrayed or abandoned by a lover, a friend, your family, the economy, your own immune system?
Have addictions, depression, regrets over the past or fears about the future immobilized you?

Have you ever needed love to be demonstrated so dramatically that once it was you were restored, saved?

Well, if you’ve needed that, guess what… there is a whole world out there that needs it too, and we are choosing here, in this place, to offer what we can to those whose pain has overwhelmed them.”

The music was outstanding today. The Impossible Dream has some great lyrics and was sung beautifully.

After service, we went down to the social room and then 10 of us went out to eat at Peter Pan.

-Steve

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Sunday Morning, 8-22-2010

Each week, more of us from The Group are attending the Sunshine Cathedral Sunday morning service. We’ve now filled up one pew. It’s really nice to spend Sunday morning with a bunch of friends doing something fun, healthy & truly inspirational. Come join Lain, Bob, Tom, Derek, Jimmy, Keith, Kevin, Steve and others at the 10:30 service some Sunday and see if this is for you.

After the service we walked over to the Church’s social room to speak about the service, meet some others, and to grab some snacks (sandwiches, cakes, cookies, veggies…) before heading out to Peter Pan for a Group Brunch. I hate eating on an empty stomach!

Other guys from the Group are finding inspiration at the Unity Church in Victoria Park and at Center for Spiritual Living at 26th Street and 15th Ave in Wilton Manors. Both deliver an uplifting, positive message as well.

– Steve

From the Service:

The Rev. Durell Watkins‘ sermon, titled “UpLifting” spoke of compassion and the power to heal.

“Religion isn’t meant to make us hate ourselves. It isn’t meant to make us hate other people who practice their understanding of the divine differently. It isn’t meant to make us condemn the unchurched, or those of other churches, or those who worship in synagogues, or in mosques…Religion is meant to help us stand tall with hope and dignity. Religion is meant to bring us together so we can help one another stand tall with dignity and hope and love.”

“When the world bends the truth about the sacred value of women, of same-gender loving people, of gender variant people, of our brothers and sisters in or from the middle east, when the world bends the truth of God’s unconditional love while using the language of vengeance and hatred…when depression, homophobia, illness, abuse, slander, or any condition bends us down, we can be sure the will of God is for us to return to wholeness and for us to be raised up to hope and joy and empowerment…and no abusively misused biblical text can change that truth.”

“...we are in the lifting up business…not tearing down, not wearing down, not breaking down, but lifting up. And as we lift up others, we ARE the good news.

“The Good News Affirmed
When I am down, I can be raised back up.
Nothing can keep me down forever.
The power of hope lifts me up today.
And I share hope to uplift others.”

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Sunshine Cathedral Fort Lauderdale

Sunshine Cathedral MCC Fort Lauderdale

Take part in Sunshine Cathedral’s Sunday morning worship service. No matter what your spiritual beliefs or dis-beliefs, you are fully welcomed to join in this “celebration of unconditional love.”

Fort Lauderdale’s Sunshine Cathedral, a Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), practices at Progressive & Positive theology. The Rev. Durell Watkins, an HIV+ Gay Man, always inspires and entertains.

The Service has something for everyone – Inspiration, Music, Laughter, and Community Fellowship. Everyone finds acceptance. Some find healing. Many find divine inspiration. The Service is rich in pageantry. Some members liken it to a Broadway Show.

Join the Group for the 10:30 Service and then go out afterwards for Sunday Afternoon Brunch.
1480 SW 9th Ave (just South of Davie Blvd), Fort Lauderdale, FL 33315

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