Gary Paterson is the first openly gay person to be named the Moderator of a major Christian-based church, in the world.
The times they are a changing.
Chris Ball is from Calgary. A tourist in a city on the south-west coast of the United States. On the eve of the US election, while walking back to his hotel, he is attacked by three assailants, pummelled and kicked and beaten badly.
The times they are a changing; sometimes they seem to stand still.
On Sunday evening my eldest daughter and I attended the Jazz Vespers at St. Andrews-Wellsley United Church in Vancouver. Throughout the hour-long event, Rev. Gary Paterson intersperses the music with eloquent, educated and thought-provoking commentary on how to create change: We must name what concerns us. Be forgiving. Be grateful. We must create from the intention of creating better, for everyone. “Jesus Christ loves Donald Trump,” he says. “I’m glad he does because I’m not there. Yet.”
Not there. Yet.
Which suggests, the intention is to get there. To get to that place where the actions of a person are not the measure of how I love. How I love is the measure of my response and way of being in the world – may my response always be one that listens, hears and acknowledges the position of another from a place of integrity, dignity and compassion.
Miles Davis said, “I’m always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up in the morning and see the light. Then I’m grateful. To keep creating you have to be about change.”
What is the change you want to create in the world?
Chris Ball, the Calgary film-maker beaten on election night in Santa Monica is quoted in a Calgary MetroNews article as saying, “I’m in pretty good spirits. That’s just how I have to handle it. I’m alive and well and still very gay,” he laughed.”
The article states:
In retrospect, Ball doesn’t think it was really a political issue – it was a hate issue, fuelled by the charged atmosphere of the election night, with a group of drunk people who used Trump’s rhetoric as an excuse to get in a fight. He feels it could very well have been a Clinton supporter, or just someone else with a homophobic attitude on any other night – it’s an ongoing issue.
Chris Ball nor Gary Paterson can change the fact they are gay men. They can change their attitudes towards hate. And that’s what they’ve done.
We all can as Gary Paterson stated in his homily, “Stand with strong backs and soft fronts.”
We can all soften our hearts and love one another through eyes that see into and recognize and honour the human condition we each carry with us.
To create the change I want to see in the world, I must not hate those with differing views from me. I must not look at them through eyes of distrust, disbelief or disgust.
I must see them through eyes that honour their humanity. I must listen to them with a heart that is open to understanding their point of view. It may be different than mine but it is as right for them as mine is for me.
And, I must listen to their thoughts with the intent to not constantly override their words with mine. I must create space for their words to be as true as mine. It is on that common ground that we find space to hear, honour and know one another.
I must, as Ghandi so passionately exhorted, ‘Be the change I want to see in the world.”
In 2012, the United Church of Canada appointed a gay person as its Moderator.
I welcome the day when it is not the fact that he is a gay person or a woman or a First Nations person or person of colour that makes their appointment or accomplishments newsworthy.
I welcome the day when we have changed our minds enough on what it means to be human beings that the colour of our skin, our gender orientation or native bearing are not what we talk about. What we do. What we say. How we behave and accept one another as equal in all ways is how we greet and know and treat one another.
And for that change to happen, I must be the change I want to see and experience and create in the world.