A Community within Communities: A bridge over troubled waters.

“Act locally think globally” is a catch phrase that tries to capture a sentiment seeks to understand the connections throughout the world that make us the human family. St. Anna’s has recently received a grant with a daunting task at hand. The task seems simple enough but the execution may be difficult indeed.

Within our local and national conversation on the role of GLBT community several African American churches, among many other groups and denominations seem to speak out against full inclusion. The fact is that main-line churches in general seem to do so and even more so independent ‘evangelical’ fundamental churches. GLBT community in New Orleans, on the other hand, is far from homogenous and like so many things in our city there seems to be a lack of strong solidarity beyond our very keen ability to have a good time. We do know how to party!

So here is the thing… the civil rights movement in the mid part of the last century was all about the inclusion of minorities, particularly Blacks, in the life of the community that we know as the U.S.A. Sometime later that same challenge has presented itself to GLBT community. Where is the solidarity? Harvey Milk, the Stonewall Riots, Gay Pride in NYC and San Francisco, glimmers of hope all. Where is the common ground of inclusion and to what degree are we willing to step up and be counted?

The task before St. Anna’s and indeed two communities that seem disconnected is to call to common conversation local African American religious community and local GLBT community. Sounds easy enough but it isn’t. Will either community engage the other? Will either community risk being hurt or scandalized? Will either community be willing to expose its own privately held sense of distrust and fear? So, do we simply walk away and say “it is what it is?” Is that good enough?

If that is the measure of who we are locally, to simply say, “it is what it is” and to walk away then what egos we presume when we are disappointed or even disaffected when civil rights are violated or even deprived. Even greater is the spiritual darkness that descends on a people who do not or cannot love at least offer dignity and respect to the other. Yes, I know it is complicated. I know that social moiré’s and social expectations are nuanced and difficult. I know that it is more likely that Black gay men hang out in black gay bars. I know that it is more likely that pastors use GLBT community as examples of some perceived threat to “families and homes.” I know about ‘down low’ and other avoidance language. Yes, we know that and we know that fundamentally we move ever towards disconnection instead of connection and we tolerate it. We tolerate it in bars, pubs, churches, masques, holy and profane places we tolerate it in government. “It is what it is.”

After the first of the year during the quiet time of Lent we intend to invite you; yes, black and white, gay and straight to a conference intended to build a bridge of at least civil respect and if more, then solidarity. To begin the conversation is indeed an attempt to connect instead of disconnect; to honestly become a ‘Community within communities’ and to give up some independence and self wanting in order to stand together as one people created by God for the glory of God. Again, I point to our own Baptismal promise in the Episcopal Church and ask it of the entire community back and white, brown and yellow, gay and straight:

“Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” and “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”

Will you? Really? If so, it requires action not quiet assent. More on the “Act Locally Think Globally” Conference after Christmas. Until then pray for all victims of HIV/AIDS and be careful out there.

To support Dodwell House Community Center contact fr.bill@stannanola.org or go to www.dodwellhouse.org to make a donation to the dream.