Voices of faith at CNY Pride: “God loves you so much.”
Episcopalians and Lutherans traveled to Syracuse from all over Central New York to march in the CNY Pride Parade on Saturday, June 22, 2019. We asked them why they marched, and where they saw God at work in the celebration:
[We marched in the parade] to show the LGBTQIA community that there are people of faith that welcome and embrace them. We know how important this is from a personal perspective. We want others to know how welcoming our diocese can be.
[I saw God at work] in the sharing and laughter, and in the therapy our dog Gracie provided. She is a master in unconditional love. I think she found her ministry!
—The Rev. Deacon Kay Drebert, Christ Episcopal Church, Binghamton
The Revs. Kay and Becky Drebert brought their dog Gracie to the CNY Pride Parade. Deacon Kay serves Christ Episcopal Church in Binghamton, Mother Becky serves as the rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Bainbridge.
Melinda: The LOVE was amazing!!!!! I’ve been going to Syracuse Pride for 20 years (not every year), and I was TOUCHED by how many people were there. I remember when Pride was attended by a couple hundred people! It brought tears to my eyes a handful of times… [We marched because] my husband Pete and I are bisexual and I identified as a lesbian in my twenties before identifying as bisexual.
Peter: As a married man and woman, we walk in straight circles and are not subject to the same persecution same-gender/non-binary couples face. My wife and I are queer and feel a responsibility to be out and present in queer events. Thank you for your prayers, love, and encouragement. It is a rich blessing to fellowship with believers.
—Melinda and Peter Hawley, members of St. James’ Episcopal Church, Skaneateles (above, Melinda pushes their two children in a yellow stroller as Peter holds up a sign behind her)
I chose to participate with both my parish family and my biological family to celebrate the diversity of the people that God created. I marched specifically with the Episcopalians and Lutherans because I stand 100% behind the way in which we embrace all, not just some, in the communities where we live the love of Jesus. See Galatians 3: “We are all one in Christ Jesus.”
—Estella Bryans, member of Grace Episcopal Church, Utica
My late wife Millie and I were married in 2013 at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in East Syracuse, where we were both members. Millie passed away last fall. We were blown away by the support and friendship extended to us by Emmanuel members. We had 70 invited guests to our wedding plus many members of Emmanuel attended. And it was a great comfort to me to hold Millie’s funeral on our fifth wedding anniversary in that same wedding chapel.
—Deborah McGavin, member of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, East Syracuse
Deborah McGavin (right), a member of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in East Syracuse, is pictured at CNY Pride with a member of St. Mark the Evangelist Episcopal Church in Syracuse.
John Gillmeister (right), a member of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in New Hartford, New York, is pictured at CNY Pride with a member of Grace & Holy Spirit Church, an Episcopal/Lutheran congregation in Cortland, New York.
There was a person in our group giving out “parental unit hugs.” I remember seeing people’s faces light up when they read their sign. These bright faces would give way to tears of relief as they embraced their “new adoptive parent” and years of pain and sadness melted away. They realized that even though their earthly families might not understand yet, God does, and loves them for who they are. And in that hug they found the love and acceptance from a parent they had been longing for… for such a long time. I felt God in that street and I felt God in that parade.
—John Gillmeister, member of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, New Hartford
I was there because there are, unfortunately, still plenty of people who have either been hurt by a church, or who assume that all churches are cruelly discriminatory. Walking in the parade behind our banner makes an instant and positive impression. It’s an easy thing for me to take part in. I think Jesus would smile.
—The Rev. J. Brad Benson, Episcopal priest, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Seneca Falls
Young Christians working on signs to carry in the CNY Pride Parade, one reading “Love has no limits” in multiple languages.
Pastor Malfatti wears her “Free Pastor Hugs” t-shirt at the CNY Pride Parade on June 22nd. She is pictured here with the Rev. Becky Drebert of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Bainbridge, New York.
I was wearing a “Free Pastor Hugs” t-shirt and many people asked for that hug. With each hug I proclaimed “God loves you so much.” I also saw God’s love in the chants that were loud and strong in the face of hate at the end of the parade with the sign-holders preaching a different gospel. [Two protesters from an unknown group brought signs to the parade proclaiming, “homosexuality is a sin.”—ed.] God’s love was present in so many people of faith—other churches/denominations marched too! It was hard to miss God.
—The Rev. Norma Malfatti, Lutheran pastor, Director for Evangelical Mission at the Upstate New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America