A few years ago, I went to San Francisco with tickets to see Hamilton. Tickets were hard to come by; we had purchased them months in advance and did not really care about the exact date. I flew down from Seattle in late June for a much-anticipated theater weekend.
As I enjoyed a ride on B.A.R.T, the SF mass transit train system, from the airport into the city, I was searching Google Maps to find the hotel. I noticed that one of the major streets near my hotel had a giant rainbow on it. Now, I knew what yellow and red meant on a Google map, as those are the universal indicators for moderate and severe traffic. But a rainbow, I had never seen, nor did I have any idea what this might mean. I looked up from my phone to ask someone. As I scanned the train, I noticed it was fuller and a lot more colorful (at this point) than when I got on at the airport. I looked down at the rainbow on my phone and continued to scan the throngs of humanity, beautifully diverse, packing the train car. And I put it together. Just then a fellow tourist, who had also started this journey at the airport, tapped my shoulder and asked, “who are all these people and where are they going?” I replied, “They are going to the Pride Parade and so are we.”
After the parade wound its way through the city streets and the festivities waned, I made my way to Grace Cathedral for evening Eucharist. I got there in time to explore the cathedral, to enjoy the various art exhibits and the sacredness of the space. As I explored, I found myself in front of the chapel. I was frozen as lights in every color of the rainbow blazed and bathed this sacred space. I had never seen a church so boldly proclaim recognition, welcome, invitation and love to our LGBTQIA+ siblings inside a sanctuary. Sure, I have seen rainbow flags on websites and draped on the exterior of churches. I have every reason to believe that those churches were authentic in accepting all peoples to come as they are and know God’s love. I had never seen anything like this. I stood transfixed and beholding the illumination, as it wrapped up the walls and gently defused into an undistinguishable glow in the expansiveness overhead.
My mind transported back to a college friend who was “sent away” after coming out to their parents. They were sent to a religiously affiliated “rehabilitative center” for this unacceptable and “curable condition”. Though over 18, my friend’s ability to leave this center was questionable as there were fences, cameras, and security personnel on site. In our collegiate naivety during the 1990s, we could hardly believe what was happening. How does this happen? How in the name of God does this happen?
My thoughts and awareness return to Grace Cathedral. I focus on the lights. All beautifully unique, shining brightly, like hands reaching to God. I prayed then and continue to pray now:
God forgive us.
God helps us.
God give us strength and courage.
So that we may love as we are loved by You.
May our LGBTQIA+ siblings know Your love.
Let us love one another as beautifully unique beams of Christ’s light and love in this world.
Karla Koon is a Worship Leader and Eucharistic Minister at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, in the Greenlake neighborhood of Seattle. When not serving at church or working as the Director of HR Operations and Administration for Catholic Community Services of Western Washington (Catholic Charities), you can find Karla, reading, quilting, golfing, hiking, kayaking, and (safely) gathering with friends and family.