by Jay Varnedoe
Scripture: Psalm 71: 1-14
Over MLK weekend, I was driving my 92 year old grandmother to church. On the way she started talking about the Lord, and she said, “Jesus is my rock, and with him I shall never fall.” I thought, “For 92, she is so full of wisdom.” For most of my life, my grandmother was a quiet woman who didn’t talk about religion with me. However, in the past few years, she has opened up more to me and it has been nice to connect with her on a different level. When I sat down to write this devotional and I read these verses, there was an immediate connection to her.
In Psalm 71, the psalmist is declaring the message that the Lord is my rock and in him I have no shame. This message not only spoke to me on a personal level because of the recent conversation with my grandmother, but it also spoke to me as a member of the LGBTQ community. So many of us have been taught to be ashamed of who we are due to the religious views of others. However, in this verse I read that in him I have no shame. I choose to favor this verse over the negative views of others. I also feel that this is a primary reason that most of us are drawn to St. Mark – we realize and celebrate that we don’t have any shame for who we are. This is part of what makes St. Mark unique, a quality that we should share with the rest of our community.
Prayer: Lord, let us realize that we are created in your image and we should have no shame. In times of trial or tribulation, let us come to you as our rock and our refuge. Amen.
I am so proud to be a member of St. Mark United Methodist Church!
In the 80’s, long before I came around, the congregation had dwindled to a few older folks who had been members for years. Midtown Atlanta had long been a haven for the gay community in the south and St. Mark was there at Peachtree and 5th Street, right in its center.
A gay PRIDE parade had started marching past the front doors of St. Mark down Peachtree St. once a year. The giant Southern Baptist Church across the street hired security every year to protect their campus from the “pink hoard.” (My friend Bill, resident church historian, says maybe they were afraid the gays were going to break in and redecorate.)
As AIDS began to decimate the gay population, the tiny St. Mark congregation decided to reach out and open its doors as a welcoming and accepting sanctuary for worship, comfort, love and solace for a ravaged, battered and feared community of men.
In 1991, the 20th annual PRIDE parade day rolled around and as usual, the Baptists high-tailed it out of town. But the little old ladies of St. Mark proudly set up their table on the sidewalk in front of the church and handed out water to the parade participants as they marched down Peachtree Street. That became known as “The Miracle on Peachtree Street.”
As the word spread that St. Mark was a different kind of church, the membership began to burgeon and today St. Mark is a thriving United Methodist church, proud of our diversity, but focused on doing Christ’s work in the world through our robust mission programs, ministering to the people of Atlanta and beyond, and fostering thoughtful and open-minded worship and learning.
I invite you to come experience one of our many PRIDE week activities this week. If you’ve never spent time in a house of worship that’s truly accepting of who you are, your mind and heart will be BLOWN! (Particularly the Sunday worship services.)
St. Mark United Methodist Church PRIDE Week Activities 2014
Tuesday, October 8 – Saint Mark hosts the annual Atlanta Pride AIDS Vigil (7p) featuring music performed by the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus
Thursday, October 9 – Diversity Dinner (6p) & Service (7:30p)
We are delighted to announce that our guest speaker at this year’s Diversity Worship service will be the Rev. Frank Schaefer! Rev. Schaefer stepped in the national spotlight in 2013 when he faced charges in his home United Methodist conference for performing his son’s marriage to his partner. The jury who heard Frank’s case declined to take away his ministerial credentials for doing his son’s wedding, but then tried to bind his future ministry by insisting that he promise not to do another same sex marriage. He refused—not only because he has two other gay children, but because he truly feels for the marginalized LGBTQ community within and without the United Methodist Church.
Frank Schaefer will be signing his book, Defrocked: How a Father’s Act of Love Shook up the United Methodist Church, directly after the Diversity Worship Service.
Saturday, October 11 – Saint Mark booth in Piedmont Park
Sunday, October 12 – PRIDE Sunday – Worship at 9a and 11:15a
Barbecue for sale in front of the church from Noon to the parade’s end. (All proceeds go to St. Mark missions.) And we don’t play about our barbecue either. This is the real deal! Pork, chicken or vegan: come get your grub on and watch the parade!
Join us, y’all! We’re not into proselytizing. We meet you where you’re at and love you for it.
Come say hi! I’ll be the girl in the baseball cap and shorts behind the sound board upstairs!
Meet you there!
“If you want men to like you, you need to look more like a woman,” someone important said to me yesterday. She said I should wear my hair softer, wear more feminine clothes and maybe wear some makeup if I wanted to attract men. At first I was aghast. Then I felt shattered.
I have always fought a mighty war of self-confidence inside myself because of that idea. I have felt that I am not a “good enough” woman because of how I look on the outside. I have only very recently come to a place where I feel comfortable (most of the time) being exactly who I am. I love my super-short hair. I don’t feel like myself when I wear frilly things. I occasionally like wearing a baseball cap. And I know that makes me look like what society thinks a “man looks like.” I don’t even get mad anymore when they call me “Sir” at Chick-fil-a. I understand.
Maybe I fall in the category of genderqueer – leaning towards the male end of the spectrum in my physical presentation. But I am not a man. Nor am I a Lesbian. I am a straight woman with super-short hair, maybe a pair of Doc Martens, and sometimes a baseball cap. And I am so much more than just what you see on the outside.
I was Little Miss Bill Arp 1971. I was a hell of a softball player. I finished 7th in the state in the shot put in 1985. I majored in Church Administration at Berry College. I worked five summers with developmental disabled campers.
I like to read. I like to write. I like to bake. I adore baseball. And I can explain the infield fly rule.
I love the Georgia Bulldogs and Star Trek and The Twilight Zone and King of the Hill and Frasier. I love animals and my family and my church and the internet.
I like to cuddle and hold hands and hug and kiss. I don’t mind going outside and getting dirty. And I’m so low-maintenance I can get out of the house and be ready to go somewhere in five minutes.
I’ve run two marathons. I work with the homeless. I sing in the church choir. I have a great smile and a big heart. I have a tie-dyed bikini. And I have wonderful friends who love me.
I am funny and I am generous and I am smart. I am kind. I am thoughtful and open-minded and sensitive. And I have a picture of myself as a little girl with Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.
I like barbecue and buttered biscuits and brussel sprouts and sushi and Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Unfrosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop Tarts. I like things that light up or sparkle or twinkle. I like pigeons.
I am awesome.
But you’ll never know any of these things if you only look at my outside and decide that I somehow don’t qualify as an “appropriate” straight woman.
I know who I am. I am beautiful – inside and out.
And if you can’t take the time to get to know me, and to get to know that, then fuck you.