So the first image: the path I’ve trod has been made by others, or at least they’ve laid cairns and other markers to guide me on my way.
A second image I want to share was referenced this week at National Gathering by Rev. Nekira Evans-Hernandez. The giant redwoods in California—some of the tallest trees in the world-- don’t have very deep roots. Instead, in order to withstand storms and grow to great heights, their roots are connected with all the roots of the other redwoods around them.
These two images form the core of what I want to say tonight: while I am deeply honored to receive this Courage Award, nothing I have done is singular. I am because so many others are. And much of who I am, much of any courage I have is because of you and the Open and Affirming movement in the United Church of Christ.
In order to illustrate this truth, I want to do two things. I first want to name a few folx whose being and struggle for intersectional, queer liberation within the UCC have been the roots intertwined with mine. Some of them are older than I and some of them are younger.
And, secondly, I want to recognize so many of you in this room whose names I may or may not know but whose lives are woven with mine.
If you in the room have ever come out in any church-related space, please raise your hand and keep it raised. If you have ever participated in an ONA process, please raise your hand. If you have ever preached or sung in a worship service celebrating the LGBTQIA, same-gender loving, two-spirit community, raise your hand. If you have ever been to The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries Convocation or National Gathering or an event hosted by El Proyecto, raise your hand. If you have ever marched with your collar on or your church’s banner with Black Lives Matter or Mi Gente or been at Standing Rock in the Two Spirit camp or danced in a Pride parade or shut down Capitol Hill with disability justice activists, raise your hand. If you have ever baked a hotdish or brought pizza for a campaign to repeal anti-trans+ laws or knocked on doors to get people to vote against voter suppression or got arrested with the Poor Peoples Campaign in support of minimum wage laws, please raise your hands and keep them raised. I invite you to look around.
You are the root system, the unbreakable connections that allow any of us to have courage to act for justice and liberation and God’s bodacious, sexy, intersectional realm of God which is here and is coming. But we need to keep reaching wider if we are going to truly hearken the realm of God and withstand today. We desperately need our connected, collective courage.
Because a storm of Empire Christianity, woven with a virulent white nationalism, deploying the practices of family separation on our Border that devasted indigenous communities through Boarding Schools and African American communities during slavery at auction blocks, this storm is blowing through the trees of our movement and we must withstand and resist.
So, hold fast to one another. And know that I am holding fast to you and to the deep roots of the Open and Affirming Movement.
I need you, you need me, we’re all a part of God’s Body…. I pray for you, you pray for me, I love you, I need you to survive.