Greetings to you, my siblings in Christ!
Recently, the LGBTQ+ community of Las Vegas had its annual Pride celebration. We had the opportunity, alongside Boulder City UMC, to spread some of God's love over the weekend at the festival in Sunset Park. As you can see in the above photo, we had many visitors to our booth, where we invited people to spread messages of hope, love, or prayers for themselves or others by the way of "leaves" for our tree.
You can't really see the tree in the photo because it had so many messages by the end of the weekend that we had to start hanging the messages all over the booth! It was amazing and inspirational to see how many wanted to share something of themselves with us and the rest of the community.
The tree itself was an idea hatched by my wife, Diana, two years ago when UUMC also had a booth at the yearly Pride event. I want to share my observations on how it was different this year compared to 2015.
When we first decided to participate in Pride in 2015, it was done under the radar. It wasn't announced in services or even mentioned afterward. It wasn't socialized in the bulletins or even the e-news letter. It was just a small group of people who wanted to shine the light of Jesus' love on a community that was and is so often alienated. It was before the Supreme Court ruling granting marriage equality.
The tree itself was intended as a symbol of community, a place to share thoughts, prayers, fears, encouragement, whatever words came to mind. That year, many of the messages we received were hopes and fears. People praying for acceptance from their families, mothers praying for the difficult lives of their children, people hoping to be able to love out loud. There was a lot of pain in the messages, and most of them stemmed from very personal struggles and grief.
When we gathered supplies for the booth this year, we found the tree with the leaves from 2015 still on it (Thanks to the Youth Group for keeping it so well!), and we read and prayed over the messages and writers again as we set up the booth for this year.
But what a change we found now, in 2017! The response, as you can hopefully see in the picture, was overwhelmingly positive. We noticed that this year, instead of fear and struggles being shared, there were many, many more messages simply of love and encouragement for OTHER people. In this transition from mourning to hope, we saw clearly demonstrated what acceptance and love can do in a community.
If you have the time and opportunity to visit our Fellowship Hall this week, take a moment to look where we have put up many of these "leaves" to remind us of the transformational powers of love and acceptance. Pray over them with us, and rejoice for the hope our congregation and community has helped blossom in the past two years.
We want to thank the volunteers both from our congregation and Boulder City UMC who came out to support this vision.