ISSUES OF FAITH: What’s a deacon to do in troubled times like these?

FIRST THINGS FIRST. To my queer readers (2SLGBTQIA++ of all kinds, though how you expect me to remember all those initials at my age, I’m sure I do not know): Happy Pride Month! And Happy Pride Sunday this week in Port Angeles. And much thanks to our allies, our true families, our friends who don’t flinch to name our true names.

It’s our time to celebrate our gains but also mourn our losses. In some ways, we are going back to the way things were when I was a very young, scared queer of 17.

I talked about this in my June column, but I worry a lot about the way things are going in this country.

How can we survive the sad truth that polls show we are almost equally divided between the left and the right, but all of us agree we are on the wrong track as a country?

My hubbie and I are legally married. He doesn’t feel that can be touched, that our relationship is and will be legally protected, but then so was abortion, ’til women’s control over their own bodies started going away, making it more difficult for women and trans men alike to get the abortions they need or want.

So, here I am, worrying about the safety of my relationship’s status. (I carry a digital copy of our marriage certificate at all times, just in case.)

Trans-men and trans-women and trans-everyone else (including your Author, Dear Readers) know we are under particular pressure, even oppression, these cruel days, especially in terms of hatred and even hate crimes against us.

We are too often looked at sideways, kept out of sight by the religious and political right (oh, my Christian siblings, how could you?), but also too often by the moderate middle that has replaced a true and lively left wing.

The queer community is not alone in this: other minorities are impacted and hurt by the present swing away from democracy to what reminds me of the Third Reich. Scholars who know that history far better than I do have been busy pointing out the parallels between that time and ours, especially when a campaign video by the presumptive Republican candidate for president used the phrase “unified Reich” in his campaign video, among other hypothetical headlines (as Michelle L. Price reported on May 21, 2024, in The Associated Press).

Admittedly, those imaginary headlines were only pictured as a potential future, but they were for a world too many U.S. citizens apparently want to see. But then reality often begins with this kind of dream, or sometimes nightmare.

Ask any science fiction reader: I saw a meme on Facebook that pointed out how many of us carry the equivalent of a Star Trek (Original Series) communicator in our pockets these days. And our smartphones often include video, not possible, apparently, in the 24th century or under Desilu’s 20th century budget (for those of you who don’t know, Lucille Ball, the “lu” of “Desilu,” saved Star Trek from early cancellation and paid for a second pilot).

Many of science’s advances were first predicted in the Golden Age of Science Fiction in the ’30s. But those stories and novels also predicted deadly weapons of mass destruction as in, say, any of the Lensmen novels by E. E. Doc Smith.

Those authors were aware of the wrong side of humanity and morality as well.

Some days, I wonder how people of faith from all traditions, my own included, can keep our belief in a just society going.

Paul’s promise in this week’s readings, for instance, gives us hope: “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

When I attend Pride parades in any number of cities, including Port Angeles, I am encouraged and filled with hope.

But I find myself asking “everything?” I don’t yet see everything becoming new just now, unless you want to count the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

The more we learn of the tribal schools here and in Canada, the more our hearts weep for what happened to indigenous babies and children.

The more we learn about poverty and its association with drug use, addiction and housing issues, the more I wonder in some despair about next steps, about where to go and about what is to come.

My reading of science fiction and fantasy alike may be helpful here.

As a deacon in the Episcopal Church figuring out next steps without being assigned to a parish (my doing and not a story for here) while living in the post-COVID church, I have to find out how to minister to my fellow queers and to other marginalized communities, something all deacons face as we try to model new forms of service.

Without a doubt, religious organizations need to change to meet the needs of younger generations and BIPOC folx.

As Kristen Glass-Perez, chaplain at Northwestern University, said during a panel held at Kellogg Northwestern’s Faith Leaders’ Week in Chicago, the future of her ministry was to people who are “Black, queer, spiritual but not religious, and interested in service.”

I agree with this 100 percent, except I would add the traditional charge of the Book of Common Prayer’s diaconal ordination service, ministry to “the poor, the weak, the sick and the lonely.”

Those of you who know me know I firmly believe that we must serve all people, and not just those who find their ways to us. We must adapt to what is often called a secular society but is actually a spiritual society, especially among young folks.

So, too, deacon training must shift as God calls new servers (the literal meaning of “deacon”) to replace our aging order.

Should we all be trained in the use of fentanyl as a prevention for deaths from opioid overdoses? Should we carry it in our communion kits and by our altars? My answer would be yes, without a doubt.

As a deacon not currently assigned to a parish, I want to commit more to serving those who need the community churches, synagogues and temples offer, but not necessarily in those particular third places, the places we live our lives outside of home and work. Church knows, other third places exist.

So, say hi when I’m going about town. I’ll be at Port Angeles Pride on the Pier this Sunday, June 23, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. I’ll be in my collar and there to talk.

The Facebook link to the info you need is https://www.facebook.com/events/422319760581486. You are welcome there.

As we would say in the Deep South, where I worked for over 20 years, “All y’all, come on!”

________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Dr. Keith Dorwick is a deacon resident in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia.

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