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Posts Tagged ‘Rev. Durell Watkins’

Where can you go on Sunday morning to hear a call to action, a quote by Martin Luther King, a chorus singing The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha, a live version of The Rose, and a final quote by Harvey Fierstein

Sunday morning??? Where can you go on Friday or Saturday night to hear a performance like that? 15 of us attended service at MCC this Sunday. We started by standing and saluting our own singing Elf aka Kevin and then listened to one of the most rousing calls to service I’ve ever heard. If you’re looking to find inspiration and camraderie in a gay and HIV friendly….. actually friendly isn’t the right word. The pastor at MCC is gay and HIV positive. He doesn’t just tolerate us or even just accept us, he embraces us because he’s one of us.

“Yesterday a congressional representative from Arizona was shot. In fact, 18 people in Tucson were shot. At least 1/3 of them died. There is so much hatred, so much intolerance in our society. We have work to do.

In Broward County, there are people who don’t have enough to eat. We have work to do.

Our environment is assaulted by greed and apathy every day. We have work to do.

LBGT and questioning teens continue to fear they have no place to turn, nowhere to be accepted and affirmed, and they continue in desperation to face isolation, abuse, and even self-harm. We have work to do.

Even in our own community, misogyny rears its ugly head, racism (including the ways people are eroticized for their race) remains largely unaddressed, and tragic ignorance about gender identity and bisexuality remains almost epidemic. We have work to do.

Addiction ravishes our community and decades into the crisis, people are still contracting HIV. We have more work to do.

Marriage equality is not a universal reality in this country. We have work to do.

Same-gender loving people in Jamaica, Nigeria, and Uganda risk death every single day simply for being who they are We have work to do.

MLK said “How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a [human]-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an ‘I-it’ relationship for an ‘I-thou’ relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and awful.”

Harvey Fierstein: “I do believe we’re all connected. I do believe in positive energy. I do believe in the power of prayer. I do believe in putting good out into the world. And I believe in taking care of one another.”

Come join us some Sunday. We go to the 10:30 service and sit up front on the left side.
-Steve

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We got a good turnout at MCC this morning, but I was late because I got a little distracted by the yard sale across the street. Let me tell you, I got some great deals.

But the message this morning was right-on. Here are the parts I especially liked:

We tend to project onto others what we really believe about ourselves; which is why theologian Howard Thurman said “every judgment is a self-judgment.” Or as one thinker put it, “We are never more discontented with others than we are with ourselves” (Henri Frederic Arnier).

When we are unkind or unfair, that is a reflection of our own insecurities and self-doubts, just as when people are unkind or unfair to us, that is much more about them than about us. To change our unattractive habits, we must recognize them for the errors they are, and then develop new habits of appreciating and loving ourselves; as we learn to love ourselves more, love is what we will more often transfer onto others, and love is what we more often will attract.

Now, let’s be real for a minute. To have peace within, we have to stop looking for, creating, and perpetuating conflict. Our schools, our businesses, our government, our relationships, our churches…the level of perpetual fault finding, complaining and attacking has reached toxic levels in our society. We can’t fix the world, but we can work on us and show the world what is possible. We have to break the habit of complaining; we have to move beyond pessimism and perpetual unhappiness. Those are only habits, and habits can be broken and replaced with new habits. This new season of a new liturgical year is a perfect time to embrace a new way of thinking and speaking and relating…it’s a perfect time to embrace a more peaceful way of being. I need that; maybe you do too.

If we think of P.E.A.C.E. as meaning People Everywhere Are Created Equal, then we’ll see our mission as affirming that message and sharing it boldly and indefatigably. That’s why we marched on Wilton Drive on World AIDS Day…people living with HIV are created equal to everyone else and they need to know that. That’s why we continue to hope for, work for, and demand marriage equality. That’s why we confront racism and sexism, even in our own community and even in our own hearts. People Everywhere Are Created Equal; we need to believe that about ourselves, and we need to believe that about all people.

Gays and Lesbians, Heterosexuals and Bisexuals, Transgender folk and Muslims and Jews and Christians and Hindus and Agnostics and Buddhists, people from every nation, men and women, People Everywhere Are Created Equal.

Another point made during the sermon that I liked, was to remember to keep the main thing the main thing. How many times I forget that!!!

Have a Happy Sunday

-Steve

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Those who attended the Sunshine Cathedral last night, Monday, held in response to the nationwide call for Vigils and Marches as an alert to the recent rash of gay suicides, no doubt found themselves this morning with a revived sense of awe, inspiration and purpose.

The speakers were nothing less than top notch. Each had a specific message, delivered with eclectic soul reaching verbal acuity, embellished with appropriate humor and containing well reasoned intellectual points, impossible for any rational person to challenge or refute.

The program was lead off by Dr. Robert Griffin, Minister for Social Justice of the Sunshine Cathedral, who set the key note for the event. His remarks were then followed by a lengthy series of speakers, each making a point as they saw it, each from their respective positions of leadership within the community or as allies of the LGBTQIA (I know, all those damn initials we use are a bit too much) community.

The follow up speakers included our Executive Director of the Pride Center at Equality Park, Paul Hyman, Chair of the Sunshine Cathedral, Anne Atwell, Presiding Elder of the MCC, Nancy Wilson, members of the Inter-Religious Leadership, Rev. Gail Tapscott of the Unitarian Universalist Church, Rabbi Noah Kitty representing the Congregation of Etz Chaim, a Florida State Senator and a Florida State representative. The closing and summation was eloquently delivered by Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins who also administered the Community Blessing to all who attended as well as extending it to all who did not.

The generally paid for musicians, donated their artistic abilities, declining any compensation, as a proof offering of their sincerity and dedication to the event. The music they provided was from a range of well selected pieces such as “Prayer of St. Frances” performed by soloist Elena Correia, “Holding You,” “This is the Day” with Katy Peterson directing portions of music which included the Sunshine Cathedral Community Choir along with members of the Gay Men’s Chorus having various portions backed up on organ, piano and drum. This was also interlaced with specially created drama “To Be or Not to Be” by the SunServe’s Youth Interactive Theater Group followed by “One Heart” musical of Kris Drumm, as director.

My personal take on all of this? It takes a lot to impress an old high milage, elder curmudgeon such as myself but I was totally impressed by it all, but once being impressed, I remain impressed. All points, all views and all tastes were well represented and fairly presented.

I can not help but further point out the genuine warmth of the Greeters and volunteers of the church. The dedication and sincerity of their purpose was clearly evident, as well as was the overall warmth the church membership and others attending. Coming from background religious mixture of a lapsed Lutheran and shunned Amish, this was all new to me; inspirational, ennobling, humanizing and stimulating.

We also had a good showing of the Wednesday Night Group. I didn’t take a head count, but we did more than fill an entire pew, which afforded us the opportunity for us all to hold hands, cross shoulders, and join together in the celebration of what was taking place.

Though I was unable to go, the group later retired to Peter Pan. I surmise being more attracted to a certain Argentinian waiter than food quality, but with all my sexual afflictions, peccadilloes and proclivities, I realize that I should be the last to talk about that.

So, let us all join together in continuing our crusade against hatred and oppression, now refreshed and re-inspired.

-Marqus

I counted 10 people from our group.
-Steve

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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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Progressive Positive Practical

I go to the MCC church for many reasons. There is the social aspect, a place to go on Sunday morning to be with friends I like very much.

I go for the music. The music is diverse and fantastic every Sunday, although some Sundays are better than others. Today was one of those Sundays when the music was absolutely Spectacular. Elena Correia performed an aria from La Traviatta that was outstanding and received a standing ovation.

But mostly I go for the message. Spirituality is a cofactor integral to my health. I could get spirituality at any number of the gay-friendly progressive churches. But the sermon today is why I go to the MCC.

The Reverend Durrell Watkins is an HIV Pozitive Gay man, just like me. His sermon today was titled The Magic of a Grateful Heart. This is what moved me:

“I’ve seen people survive amazingly difficult health challenges, seemingly because they were more grateful for the possibilities that existed than they were discouraged by the disease, or they were more grateful for the medical treatments available to them than they were troubled by their discomfort, or they were more grateful for one more day of life than they were afraid of an uncertain future. The power of gratitude sustained them and sometimes transformed their experience.

I’ve even known people who were grateful for their disease, because they said it helped them wake up, to know what mattered, to be more present to the people in their lives, and even to take better care of themselves. Whether or not the disease shortened their lives, it did cause them to be more mindful, more loving, more grateful, more intentional, and therefore more alive for as long as they lived. Gratitude can work miracles.
……Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone. Feel it and express it. Express it with your words, your actions, your giving. Release the power of gratitude by expressing it”

Let me restate my first paragraph. I go to the MCC church for many reasons. There is the social aspect, a place to go on Sunday morning to be with friends I love very much.

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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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