As background I offer this. When I was asked if our church would like to be a co-sponsor, I jumped at the chance and then last spring, I attended a community reading designed to give a flavor of this play to community members. Many showed up and read various parts. That was gratifying. It was also gratifying that some whom I know believe homosexuality is a sin against God were cast as members of the play.
When at the talk-back, I listened (talking just once, no small feat for me). These are my comments about the talk-back: Most of those who convened after the play were proud that Hamilton-Gibson staged the play thereby opening this touchy subject for community discussion. Most of the comments were innocuous and talked about how this community is open and welcoming to all and how we would not have hate crimes.
When I spoke I just said my church was pleased to have the opportunity to participate and that our congregation is an "open and affirming" congregation, meaning that all, gays, lesbians, bi-sexual and transgendered, are welcome to participate in every aspect of our faith whether by sitting in the pews or by leading worship as an ordained minister. What I wish had happened was that one (or more) openly gay man or lesbian woman had either been there to speak or, if they were there, had self-identified and spoken up. I cannot speak for the GLBT community but people who are part of the community do talk to me. This is what they say:
- this north central Pennsylvania community is not as open and welcoming as they feel they are;
- many from the GLBT community are fearful of being out in this community;
- my friends also tell me that they must leave the area if they seek a relationship.
There is an additional opportunity in our area (well, 75 miles south) to again talk about issues that plague the GLBT community. The following is from an email I received from a colleague:
Out in silence
"LEWISBURG, PA – September 16, 2009 - A screening of OUT IN THE SILENCE, "a stunning new documentary" (Philadelphia Inquirer) by Oil City native Joe Wilson is scheduled for Sunday, October 4, 2009 at 2:30pm at the Campus Theatre, Lewisburg, PA. The showing is sponsored by the Bucknell University Office of LGBT Awareness and FLAG&BT, Central Susquehanna ACLU Chapter in collaboration with the Campus Theatre. The screening will be followed by a discussion featuring film makers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer aimed at engaging the audience in a dynamic conversation about the rights of LGBT persons in Pennsylvania and across the country.
OUT IN THE SILENCE is an uplifting film about courageous local residents confronting homophobia and the limitations of religion, tradition and the status quo in their conservative small town in the hills of northwestern Pennsylvania. The aim of the film and associated community engagement campaign is to expand public awareness about the struggles gay people continue to face in rural and small town America and to promote dialogue and action in communities around the country that will help people on all sides of the issues find common ground. "
Back to me, and the blog. I hope for this community we all begin to realize that the talk back opportunity should be the beginning of our talk, not the end.