By Sally Watkins
A coworker. A client. A church member. A friend’s son. A friend.
Over the past 25+ years, many LGBT persons have appeared in my life. But my raised-consciousness began with a fellow Methodist and former seminary student who was in Downtowners Class briefly before he died of AIDS in 1988; his name was Jim Smith and he was from a tiny town in northeast Texas. I remember sitting at Jim’s memorial service in the FUMC sanctuary and seeing Jim’s father put his arm around Jim’s male partner, and thinking that in spite of how strange it all must have been to the father, there he was loving and caring for his deceased son’s partner.
I thought of Jim and his father during the PRIDE Interfaith Worship service in our sanctuary on August 25. Noticeable to me were how many couples were there, and the fact that the FUMC ushers were evenly divided between LGBT persons and straight allies. The head count was 300; 300 people wanting religion in their lives – but in so many cases afraid to step into a church. As Taylor noted on Sunday, there was a strong feeling of healing in that room. Very much appreciated were these comments from Joy Butler, RMN head for the Rio Texas Conference: “What stood out for me was the naturalness of FUMC’s hospitality. It felt evident that LGBTQ inclusiveness wasn’t something new, because you can tell when a group is trying too hard to “prove” that they are inclusive. Y’all just were.”
I’m grateful to be seen as a safe and welcoming “straight but not narrow” ally to the LGBT community; I strongly felt and continue to feel “in the right place at the right time” to offer that haven. And FUMC is likewise ‘in the right place at the right time’ and living into that ministry. I am so proud of our members, guests and staff for awareness and welcoming hospitality!