Visible Witness from the Intersection

a journey through the love of Christ reflecting the spectrum of gender and sexuality.

God’s Bel Canto March 31, 2010

Filed under: Daily Devotional Pages — visiblewitness @ 4:42 am
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I have been blessed by many people who have courageously spoken out in ways that teach and sustain we who are weary of homophobia, exclusion and injustice.  One such person is David Clenney who has generously allowed me to share part of his story.

David is the founder and director of the Westside Opera Society which began at Trinity Church on the Upper West Side in 1982. Over the past several years, he has organized a Bel Canto opera series to raise money for Trinity Place, our shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth.

The operas David has produced are filled with romantic treachery and betrayals.  David grew up with a different kind of  betrayal. His parents could not accept that he seemed different from other children. He was beaten violently and battered verbally. He made his operatic debut at age 11 as a boy soprano. It bothered his parents that he was singing “like a girl,” which earned him more abuse. His father tried to talk him out of his Carnegie Hall debut as a soprano saying that he would be beaten up when he came out of the theater. David prevailed.

For the past few years, David has faced a different sort of treachery, the kind that comes from cancer. He has undergone numerous, painful and exhausting treatments, but in the midst of them, he rises from bed to direct the operas. He says it keeps him going to know that he is able to help other youth escape the horror he endured.

The beautiful song that David offers with such courage and generosity helps sustain our shelter, providing a place of rest for the weary. David’s witness sustains me when I grow weary. I hope it does the same for you.

-Heidi Neumark


God’s Help Outside the Church March 30, 2010

Filed under: Daily Devotional Pages — visiblewitness @ 4:40 am
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A week before his death in 1991, my late partner Bill Prosser left the hospital, determined not to die in the midst of the machinery of modern medicine.  He was a theater director and he insisted on his own setting for the last act.  We climbed the stairs to our fourth floor walk-up very slowly, knowing he would never climb them again.  The next morning, he lost control of his breathing. I called the visiting nurse, who told him he would die unless got his breath under control.  Using meditation, he managed to pull himself back.

The next few days were rich with talk and memory until one evening he suddenly became incoherent.  Sitting in our apartment surrounded by the clutter of illness – boxes of adult diapers and chucks, pulse monitors and intravenous nutrition bags – I suddenly felt totally helpless and abandoned.  I called our friends Fred and Erica, who dropped everything to be with us.  Soon the apartment was straightened and a delicious dinner was prepared.  The impromptu dinner party brought Bill back again for a short while.  That night, and for the next few days, God’s help came to us through my non-religious friends.

-Eric Stenshoel


Living in Truth March 29, 2010

Filed under: Daily Devotional Pages — visiblewitness @ 4:38 am
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I was in the closet for most of my life: I didn’t come out until I was 65.  Such hiding is wearisome indeed, because of the enormous energy required to pretend to be straight.  Religion at first encouraged my deception.  I prayed mightily to be straight, because from the ‘40s to the ‘80s, both church and society seemed to say that straight was the only acceptable way to be.  But my struggle to hide became harder, and, at Saint Peter’s, I knew many out gay people who seemed comfortable with their homosexuality.  So, their simple presence caused me to question more and more my wearisome struggle to be straight.

A line from the Gospel of John kept coming to me: “…you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). My truth was that I was gay, and I slowly realized that I didn’t need to live a lie trying to be straight.

Saint Peter’s and particularly its gay members stood with me, often without knowing it, as I gradually gave up my wearisome burden.  Today my prayer is for all gay people, particularly young people, to feel that God loves them as they are.

-Peter McNamara


The Word of God Is Love March 28, 2010

Filed under: Daily Devotional Pages — visiblewitness @ 4:37 am
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When I witness hatred of others because of those they love, I feel ashamed.  When I read about attacks on people because of those they love, I feel anger.  When I hear speech used as a weapon against others because of those they love, I feel weary.

But the hate of others, the attacks of others and the words of others are not my adversaries.  Fear is my adversary—my own fear as much as the fear of others.

I pray that the Word of God will enter the hearts, the hands and the mouths of others, and maybe that will come to pass.  But I know that the Word of God can enter my heart and take my shame from me.  I know that the Word of God can enter my hands and take my anger from me.  And I know that the Word of God can sustain my weary heart and help me love those who would hate me, those who would attack me and those who would call out against me.  For the Word of God is “love” and “love” is the only answer for fear.

-T.J. Fitzgerald


Seeing Ourselves as God Sees Us March 27, 2010

Filed under: Daily Devotional Pages — visiblewitness @ 4:35 am
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I grew up on a dairy farm and spent much of my time hanging out with my dad in the fields and the barn.  I also got to go to the local farmer hangout – the Roundtop Diner.  The other farmers would tease all of us about girlfriends, but I already knew that my attraction was not towards Jill but to some of the younger farmer boys in town, in particular Ned and Lee.  I could not quite connect the dots, but I knew at seven that something was different about my hard wiring.

The church life of my community was very much a Hutchison thing.  Both my Mother and Father were very active in the church community, in fact the land the church was built on was donated by my parents.  Sunday School and Service on Sunday and dinner at Grandmas was a weekly guarantee.  My siblings and I were active young members of the United Methodist Church and it was a natural fit.  When I was 10 a piece of my childhood was stolen when my father died.  I had a powerful faith, even at that young age and  I quickly filled in the wide void by getting more deeply involved in my church and faith. 

Once in Sunday School class my teacher had us review some bible quotes.  One in particular stuck with me,   “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”  Hebrews 10:35.   I was never a shy one so I just built on my confidence and became one of the regular “kids” in town. Bike riding, trying to uncurl the pigs’ tails, challenging the rooster to a duel and just plain hanging out in the wonder of a very safe world.    No one ever made comments about gay people, I am not sure we even knew what the meaning of gay was.  To be sure a nagging feeling was always there.  Why did basketball captain Rodney Plowman hold such an attraction to me and not the Homecoming Queen Sharon Cowan?    Sharon even called me her best girlfriend once and I thought that was a pretty cool gesture on her part.   And let’s not forget about Ned and Lee, they were looking better and better as time passed.   This of course was all fantasy to me, and nothing ever happened, I was not even sure what I was suppose to do.   This was long before the web,  Will and Grace or Out magazine existed to guide a teenager.

Alas, that fantasy came to an end when I moved on to college and into the work world to discover that “fags” were bad people and worse yet I might be one of them.  I struggled major with this, dating, even getting married, thinking that it would all go away and I would be NORMAL. 

 After all Ward and June Cleaver had a great family life, why shouldn’t I?  However, it was not to be and I had to face the reality of who I was.  The first few years were not easy, having casual encounters, even falling in love with a married guy but they always ended in sadness.  Then I met Paul who was in a similar place to me, but we did not like one another at the start.  Over time we established common ground and he was determined to win me over, and the relationship flourished.  From there it progressed to outing myself to my friends and family.  Most of them said they already knew so I really had had nothing to fear.

31 years later I am proud to say, I am all grown up now, with a lifetime partner who shares many of the same values and interests that I do.  I have now come full circle back to a very safe world linked to a very strong faith.  Thanks be to God.

-David Hutchison


Letting Go of the Past March 26, 2010

Filed under: Daily Devotional Pages — visiblewitness @ 4:02 am
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The internal and challenging struggles I faced as a teenager in trying to reconcile my inner feelings and the uncertainty with who I am with what was expected of me growing up in a conservative community on Long Island were great.

I was fortunate. I grew up in a loving home.  Mom made sure my brother and I went to Sunday school and confirmation class.  But there was the expectation that when I grew up I would get married to a woman and have children. And so through high school and into college I dated females, but it just didn’t feel right.

I had sensed for years that I was “different” but figuring it out took time.   It wasn’t until I met David that it clicked…  there were inner feelings that were bubbling up.  I had the internal conflicts of my upbringing; how was I going to let that go? 

Several months after meeting David, I confessed my feelings to him and that began what is now a relationship of more than 31 years.   

But what about letting go of the past and looking forward to the future? 

Slowly, the journey of letting going of the past began, first with coming out to some close friends and then eventually family.  There were some who didn’t understand or want to understand and accept me for who I am.  Unknowingly to me at that time, these people were the starting point of the process of letting go of the past.  Choices were made and my life moved on without them.   By this point I had become comfortable with who I am and no longer lived in the closet.

Volunteering with community activities has allowed me the opportunity to give my time and talents to the community.  It is my hope that through these activities I am setting an example for those who are struggling with their identity that it is okay to be gay.

– Paul Backstrom


Hope Along the Way March 25, 2010

It was the bold witness and work of the civil rights movement that inspired lesbian and gay people to move out of the shadows. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that the arc of a moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

I grew up with the civil rights movement. There seemed to be a staight path to equality – until Malcolm and Martin were killed.  In the early 1970’s, it seemed like recognition and equality were within reach.  But then the forces of fear gathered strength.  When Anita Bryant got gay teachers fired, I gave up the thought of becoming a teacher.  She got the gay rights ordinance repealed in Dade County, FL, and St. Paul, MN followed suit.  And then, in 1978, Harvey Milk was assassinated.

And now, over thirty years later, the arc is still bending, however slowly.  We look to the example of Mildred Loving, the black woman who won the battle to marry her white husband but said, “It wasn’t my doing.  It was God’s work.” Before her death in 2008, she had added her voice to the cause of full marriage equality.

Sometimes you have to step back to see the full curve of that arc if you don’t want to be discouraged by losses along the way.

-Eric Stenshoel