My family and I chose to observe Solidarity Sunday, October 10, 2010 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Kapahulu Avenue. The service was organized by the Honolulu Chapter of Dignity/USA. We were early and joined the six or seven people, sitting quietly in the pews or kneeling.
By the time service started at 7.30 p.m. the congregation had swelled . . . to about 25 people. So many obvious questions intruded as I tried to pray.
Q: What was this small group of LGBT Catholics doing celebrating Mass in an Episcopal Church?
A: They had never succeeded in getting a Catholic Church to let them hold such a service.
Q: Why wasn’t the church filled to overflowing with straight Catholics standing in solidarity with their fellow LGBT Catholics who ask for nothing more than to be welcomed as equals in the Church because they are equal in the sight of God?
A: Probably because many did not even know about it. Not one news media organization picked up or published the press release announcing the Solidarity Sunday service. Apparently even the current media coverage of suicides of gay teens did not make a service dedicated to the memory of those lost to suicide media-worthy here in Honolulu.
Q: With so few people in the pews and no press coverage, where was the solidarity?
A: The congregation included a handful of straight Catholics, standing for the 70-80% of American Catholics nationwide who Dignity/USA recognizes are supportive of equal rights for gays and lesbians. The service was also dedicated to the two dozen or so Minnesota Catholics who were denied communion by Archbishop John C. Nienstedt recently because they wore a rainbow ribbon or pin as a mark of solidarity with LGBT Catholics who were discouraged by the actions of the bishops.
On a Sunday when the Gospel reading is the familiar story of Jesus curing ten lepers to see only one–the despised Samaritan–returning to thank him (Luke 17: 11-19), this small service, shot through with notes of both inexpressible sadness and joy, was a reminder that we never cease to ostracize or discriminate. But when we discriminate against our neighbors because they cross the borders of gender or geography, those same unwelcome “neighbors” may well be those who are indispensable to the quality of our lives and the timbre of our faith. Through the discrimination they suffer even within the church they refuse to forsake, our LGBT neighbors see, perhaps with greater clarity than those of us who take acceptance for granted, the redemptive, transforming light of Christ. They strengthen our faith even as we stand with them in solidarity.