About a week ago, walking to Safeway to do a bit of grocery shopping, I passed Abbotsford City Hall and noticed a rainbow flag flying alongside those of British Columbia and Canada.
“Oh yeah, when is that Pride event anyway?” I had read something about it on the website of the local newspaper, but not taken proper note.
Google and a bit of searching led me to various online sources of general information about the Fraser Valley Pride Celebration 2015 but the little detail of date, time and starting point of the celebratory walk was another matter. The event organizers – Fraser Valley Youth Society and Out in the Valley – had failed to mention it anywhere in their material, so I ended up sending an email. The reply, thankfully, was swift: “Saturday, 1:30 p.m. at Tretheway House in Mill Lake Park.”
What I envisaged was a group of perhaps two hundred colourfully clad people of all ages and shapes, waving rainbow flags, making their way around Mill Lake accompanied by appropriately festive music. Freddy Mercury belting out “Don’t Stop Me Now”, Elton John doing “Rocket Man”, or the stereotypical “YMCA” by the Village People.
Next year I’ll have to make the playlist and bring the boom box.
There was no music, no two hundred people, and no broad support of all ages and shapes from our city. Renata and I were indisputably the oldest people in the group of nearly thirty participants (and one cop) who made the two kilometre trek around the lake. But yes, our few fellow marchers where colourfully clad, waving flags, and appropriately proud to be “out” in the Fraser Valley.
We passed a wedding party setting up for a photo session. A cheer went up and congratulations were exchanged back and forth. We passed a large group of teens in a picnic hut who, eyeing the cop, seemed suddenly intent on holding their bottles and joints behind their backs. Another cheer, more greetings, and onward we went. We passed a larger area of picnic tables, families gathered for reunions, who watched us silently, saying their “Jesus, what has happened to Abbotsford?” prayers, and who did not return our well-wishes.
Renata and I chatted as we walked, thinking back on the different times we have marched in parades and protests. Had we ever done one of those “March for Jesus” parades? Yes, we had, now that we thought about it. In Randers, Denmark, in 1985 with crazy old Arthur Blessitt leading the way, towing the giant cross that he has carried around the world.
Today, I’m marching for Jesus too, I thought. Marching for Jesus in a Pride Parade.
If you are among those Christians who believe homosexuals are living in sin then let me ask: Wasn’t the one you call Saviour known as a “friend of sinners”? Didn’t he hang out with prostitutes and robbers, with the ostracized and the marginalized? Why not consider joining with Jesus in showing yourself to be a friend of the LGBTQ community?
And if, like me, you don’t have a problem with the variety of sexual orientations within creation, then this is an opportunity for you. Will you consider supporting this group of people as they celebrate who they are and pursue greater freedom from discrimination?
Next year: join in!
This I know: I went for a walk with Jesus around Mill Lake last Saturday, and we had fun.