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Healing and Connection at Utah Pride

John Gustav-Wrathall, President

Affirmation members participated in the Pride Interfaith Service at First Baptist Church in Salt Lake City on Thursday evening, had a contingent in the Pride parade, and staffed a booth at the Pride Festival on Saturday and Sunday. Our presence was noticed and appreciated. More importantly, it created contexts for significant conversations, connection and healing.

At the Interfaith Pride service Thursday night, leaders representing religious communities in Utah that affirm and welcome LGBTQ+ people offered expressions of faith and support. Sara Jade Woodhouse and I represented Affirmation, and Erika Munson was there representing Mormons Building Bridges. Affirmation member Sadie Thomas performed on bagpipe as one of the “Pride Pipers,” and Affirmation member Mark Packer sang two very moving songs with the Gay Men’s chorus. One of the speakers, a Metropolitan Community Church pastor, expressed solidarity with LGBT Mormons in the wake of the November 5 policy change.

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At the Affirmation booth we used the “Where On Earth Did You Serve a Mission?” map again (always a hit!). Also popular were business cards with great scriptures and General Authority quotes and the Affirmation web site URL. There was a synergy that came from having our booth right next to the Mormons Building Bridges booth (which was staffed by plenty of Mama Dragons).

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At the booth we had lots of great conversations. Over 400 people stopped by over the course of the weekend to ask questions, pick up business cards or conference fliers, or to chat. (We tracked numbers of visitors using a little clicker counter!). Occasionally people would come up just to say, “I’m glad you’re here!” or “It’s a good thing you exist.” One of the first people that we spoke to was the mother of an LGBT youth. She was very clearly struggling. At times there were tears in both our eyes as we spoke, as I tried to answer her heartfelt questions, and as we discussed resources that were available to her and her child.

In explaining to people the mission of Affirmation, we emphasized the importance or providing support for people across the faith spectrum. A lesbian couple who stopped by were delighted to learn that Affirmation had a place for them even though they had left the Church long ago, while it also had a place for their devout, believing family and friends. Another lesbian woman I spoke to shared her faith and her testimony with me, as she also shared the intense conflict she experienced, and was grateful to learn about Affirmation’s Prepare group, for church-active LGBT Mormons.

This was the very first Pride experience for new member Wendall Hair. It hadn’t been what he’d expected. He told me what a moving experience it was to express love and acceptance through “free hugs” all afternoon, to folks who find too little love and acceptance out in the world. It felt like the place where Christ would be, where Christ would want us to be.

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The line-up for the parade started at 9:30 a.m. The Affirmation contingent included about 40 first timers and old timers, LGBT Mormons, family and friends of all sizes, shapes and colors and beliefs.

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The contingent was relatively small but impactful. The crowd was especially responsive to all the Mormon contingents, which included MBB, Affirmation, and Mormons for Equality.
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In the end, I think it was the connections that we made with people, one-on-one, that were most significant. The LGBT Mormons and/or family members or friends who came wanting to talk about the various challenges they are facing found listening ears and hearts, and learned in a concrete way just how Affirmation can support LGBT Mormons, their families and friends, whoever and wherever they are on their life’s journey.

Other Affirmation Pride events in June:

June 11, 2016
DC Pride

June 18, 2016
Boise Pride

June 25, 2016
London Pride

June 26, 2016
Seattle Pride

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