Monday, May 25, 2015

My Story - Part 4

In June of 2010, I allowed myself to be drug reluctantly to the Columbus Pride festival.  I just wanted to stay on the sidewalk and hide.  The friend that I went with ended up marching in the parade with a group that one of his friends was in.  I watched the parade with a college professor that one of my other friends had helped connect me with so that I would have a guide for my first Pride.  As the parade began to file past me, I was prepared for scantily clad dancers.  I was prepared for the drag queens.  What I was not prepared to see were main line businesses with groups in the parade.  I also wasn’t prepared to see politicians marching to show their support.  Where I was from that would be political suicide, regardless of which party you were aligned with.  I was also not prepared to see churches marching in this parade.  

In the midst of all the craziness, I began taking pictures of all of the church banners, wanting to be able to go through them later and see what I could learn about them.  As I looked through the pictures later, I noticed that 75% of the banners were from United Methodist Churches.  This was interesting to me.  I also walked away with a rainbow colored wrist band from one of the churches, King Avenue United Methodist.  The one phrase that I saw over and over was “All Are Welcome.”  I wanted to trust that phrase, but I just couldn’t.  My old church would have told me that I was welcome.  They would have had other plans for me once they got me through their doors though.  The message that I needed to hear from a church was that I would not only be welcome but that I would be safe.

Columbus Pride 2010
Over the next few months, I would connect with a United Methodist congregation in my home town, and the senior pastor there would connect me with a former seminary professor of hers who helped connect me to Troy Plummer, the Executive Director of Reconciling Ministries Network, and Troy would help connect me to my current congregation which is Broad Street United Methodist in downtown Columbus.  It wouldn’t be until February of 2011 that I first walked through their doors.  My original plan was to just make Broad Street the first stop on a tour of churches until I found one where I fit, but I felt welcomed the moment I walked in and I ended up staying.

Columbus Pride 2011
In the 2011 Columbus Pride parade, I walked down High Street carrying the very banner that I had timidly stood on the sidewalk and photographed only a year before.  Each year, during the parade, I find myself scanning the crowd and wondering if there is someone else like me who just needs to hear the message that I needed to hear and to know that there is a place in the faith community for them where they can be loved and where they can serve.

~ Culbs

© Joshua Culbertson 2015

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