Pride in our Church written by Flower Pearson
As you have probably seen – there is a pride flag hanging on our sign right now. We don’t know who put it there, but there it is. You may know the pride flag that has been in residence outside the United Church was recently defaced and presumably, our gift was given in response to that. The flag was up for ONE day before a note of disapproval was delivered - stuck to our door with tape and vitriol. It makes me sad and it makes me tired.
I’m sure lots of you remember the 60’s and 70’s. I don’t personally recall a lot of the 70’s – I remember a lot of appalling wallpaper, the toe-curling, static producing horror of nylon sheets threatening to incinerate me and my nylon nightgown as I slept. I also remember a lot of brown and orange and everything looking as though it was made by someone who had just discovered colour. It was a decade of sensory overload for sure. And then of course there were the hippies.
I was on the Isle of Wight at the time – a small, countrified area where fox hunting and square dancing was still quite popular – people actually did country dancing in public! We learned it at school! We still had an actual Haberdashery store and a shoe shop where a man went up and down ladders to find (apparently) the ugliest shoe in the world. The only reason they could still sell them was because they were so well made they were indestructible and thus your Granny could still wear the style she wore as a child. Presumably the shop had to continue to sell them – they couldn’t send them back to the supplier because the cordwainers who created them were put out of business during the ice age.
What I’m trying to say is – there really weren’t many hippies. Hippies were to us what the leopard is to Canadians. We know they exist but they not something we would ever have to deal with.
That was all well and good until 1970 and the world renowned Isle of Wight Festival. A HUGE free festival, the British equivalent of Woodstock, and it took place right near our home. An estimated 700 000 people descended on our small island and although I wasn’t actually alive, the stench of disapproval lasted a looooooong time.
The Island is very small, and the nearest ferry terminal to the festival was in Yarmouth, which just happened to be where my Grandparents lived. Grandpa was the Rector at St James’ Church and they lived in the rectory attached to the building. Granny told me the town (I use that word in the loosest possible way) was overrun with young people on their way to the festival and the locals did what you would expect – I don’t know what the word for it would be but it would involve pulling up a metaphorical drawbridge, drawing in your skirts and nailing crooked pieces of wood across doors and windows. If they hadn’t been too scared to leave the house they would have rushed to the high points of the Island and lit the beacons, still in situ from the days of the Spanish Armada and kept for just such an uncouth emergency. The influx was as nothing compared to the exit however. Obviously all 700 000 people wanted to leave at the same time, and the ferries were not big enough or frequent enough to allow this to happen smoothly. And so many, many people were left stranded. Sleeping on the pavement, hungry and thirsty, filthy from days of mud and revelry. Again, the villagers retreated to their home havens and stayed there. Fearfully watching as the throng descended.
My grandparents responded in their own way and with they own gifts. Grandpa went out and opened up the church building, propping open the door and telling whoever wanted to listen that they were welcome within. Granny did the same thing in their home, but she filled the tea urn first.
I love that they did that and I can picture her telling me the story. She never said how she felt, whether she was afraid of people so far outside her sphere of existence, whether she was scared of being completely overrun. She just did what she knew was right - she loved as she was loved. She never said how she felt about their lifestyle, their appearance or their personal beliefs. She just loved them. And that’s the point. I can’t think of a better example of loving your God with all your heart, mind and spirit AND loving your neighbor as yourself.
If you’re a Christian, that’s your mandate – “Love God and love others”. It’s never going to be easy – but it is pretty simple. If we stick to the greatest commandments, we can and we absolutely should, have pride in our church.