At the beginning of 2013, after two years of EarthSpirit’s participation in the annual Pride Interfaith Service, I joined the organizing group, the Pride Interfaith Coalition, as a representative of EarthSpirit. The group began meeting in January to plan this year’s service, which took place on June 8.
One of the great strengths of the Coalition is that it is made up of people who unite around central shared concerns. As I said in my welcome on behalf of the Coalition during the service,
We join together with the common purpose of doing two things. First, as human beings, as people of faith, and as leaders of religious or spiritual traditions, we want to affirm, support, and celebrate you as members and allies of queer communities. And second, we affirm that the sacred, in the wide variety of ways that we understand and perceive it, not only accepts but embraces all of who you are.
Coalition members include representatives from queer-affirming organizations within traditions from Buddhism to Judaism to Catholicism. Because EarthSpirit, like most contemporary pagan groups, has always been queer-affirming, our membership in the Coalition felt like a natural step to me. This year, I was delighted to be able to part of reshaping the format of the service so that it was more organically connected to our intentions and to the specific traditions of Pride, rather than borrowing from a single religious tradition.
I was also delighted to bring one of our tradition to the service: a cloutie tree that we prepared where attendees could share their wishes, blessings, and prayers for the Pride community.
As we planned this service, we thought a great deal about the creative tension between each of us as an individual and our collective and communal identities, and one thing that came out of that is the blessing tree that many of you tied wishes or prayers on to before the service. The idea of tying blessings or prayers onto trees has a long history: in ancient Ireland, people used to rip strips from the hems of their shirts and tie them on to trees near wells and other sacred sites to ask for help, healing, or blessings. The idea has been passed down through folk customs and has been adopted in my pagan tradition.
I was thrilled to meet some of the pagans in attendance at the service this year. For next year, we’ve already started talking about organizing a pagan contingent to march in the parade! Please do reach out if you’re interested in being involved in these efforts. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about how queerness and paganism connect for you.