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REV. MARK STRINGER: Inspired and motivated by the spirit of love
Submitted by j on Mon, 2011-02-07 13:56
by Rev. Mark Stringer, First Unitarian Church of Des Moines
January 24, I attended the Subcommittee meeting at the Iowa Statehouse on the proposed ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions. In order to secure a seat, in the small room where the meeting was originally scheduled, I arrived 90 minutes early, requiring me to sit for a previously scheduled, nearly 90 minute-long prayer meeting, held by a non-denominational group, that claimed it held these meetings on a regular basis.
I took my seat in a chair against the wall, along with some other marriage equality supporters who also wanted to be sure to have a seat for the meeting to follow. The dozen or so members of the group doing the praying sat at the big table in the middle and traded off extemporaneous prayers for our legislators, for our country, for our state, or each other, for unborn children, confessing their love for all people, and their desire that the meeting that would follow would be civil and that all voices would be heard.
At one point, the chairman of the subcommittee, Rep Dwayne Alons, entered the room (apparently the prayer group had invited him) and they asked if they could pray for him. They put their hands on him and they prayed. Then he offered his insistence that he believed the people of Iowa should be allowed to vote on protecting marriage, which really means that he wants Iowans to be able to vote on taking away people’s rights, even if he won’t acknowledge it.
Soon he left, and the group continued their prayers. I remained silent, taking in the scene, thinking of my time in the room as an opportunity to meditate on the complicated humanity and inherent worth and dignity of my neighbors.
Just past the one hour mark, one of my friends and fellow marriage equality activists leaned over to me and said, “Mark, I’ll give you five dollars if you offer a prayer.”
I brushed off the offer. It wasn’t my place to invade their prayer meeting when my theology is so clearly different. But just a few minutes later, around the time one of them offered a prayer for those “perverting the Lord’s sexual intentions”, I couldn’t help myself.
I broke a moment of silence with a prayer for all those couples I have had the privilege to marry, and for their families, a prayer of celebration for them receiving the rights and benefits and equal treatment that they have deserved for so long. I offered my gratitude to live in a state where this is possible and to be able to be at the statehouse that day in support. And I prayed that we could all be inspired and motivated by the spirit of love.
I didn’t get that five dollars, but I got a lot more. You see, I was glad I spoke, that I offered my voice into the mix. It was, after all, the least I could do for my faith, for my friends, and for my hopes for our state.
Even with my friends beside me, I felt really alone in that prayer meeting until I was able to muster the courage to respectfully participate on my own terms, with my own terms.
In the days ahead, may all of us be inspired to share our voices, too. On behalf of those who came before us and those who will follow.