A dozen different faith traditions will be represented in Knoxville’s Ninth Annual Interfaith Pride Service, entitled “Our Beautiful Puzzle of Creation – All Genders, Stages, Ages, and Roles Held Sacred”
The service features prayers, blessings, music, readings, reflections, a call to action, and a supportive message from Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon. Also included are brief interviews with individuals who were raised in homophobic churches but who are now “out and proud” as members of communities of faith.
The common thread throughout the service: Each human being is a piece of a great puzzle that is not complete until all pieces are included and held sacred. “We imagine a world in which every sacred and awe-filled piece of the puzzle is celebrated for the perfect creation that it is,” says Rev. Katina Sharp of Powell Presbyterian Church.
This service is not to be missed. Here is a brief overview of the various elements of this virtual event.
Three pastors reflect on the meaning of the current moment. The Rev. Bobbi Anderson, member of Church of the Savior(United Church of Christ), shares the Native American prophecy of the Rainbow People with humanity as one people. Rev. John Gill, minister of COS/UCC discusses the ways in which one person can be a puzzle made of many pieces — of many genders, stages, ages and roles. “What matters,” he notes, “is that the whole is held sacred and loved.”
Referencing recent anti-trans legislation by the Tennessee State Assembly, the Rev. Jametta Alston of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (TVUUC) asks viewers to adopt a Rainbow Covenant. “Today I ask you to make a covenant, to make a pledge, to put your honor and your integrity on the line, to stop the evil that is being spread against our LGBTQ people,” Rev. Alston declares. “I ask you to stop being quiet, because today being quiet is to acquiesce to the evil that is out there.”
Musicians include the Knoxville Gay Men’s Chorus singing “A Patch of Light” by Robert Bode and Jacob Narverud; Christopher Hamblin, founder of the Interfaith Pride Service, playing autoharp and singing Dolly Parton’s “Just the Way I Am;” and Shelly Torres-West (MCCK), rendering her own “The Miracle is Me.”
Other music is provided by queersacredmusic.com’s “Fearfully, Wonderfully Made”, Jon Bird and Michele Williams of Unity Transformation Church, singing “Get Together”, and Little Brother and the Sisterhood (Paul, Denise, and Carolyn of TVUUC) with “I Can See Clearly Now.”
The blessings and prayers speak to a more inclusive sense of community. “The beautiful diversity of our world enriches our lives as we learn to celebrate the gifts and perspective of others,” prays Pastor Susan Thisell of Messiah Lutheran Church.
“May the day come,” implores Rabbi Erin Boxt of Temple Beth El, “when it is well known that if just one unique body within your creation is not allowed to make its distinctive beauty manifest in the world, it is impossible for all of your creation to thrive and rise each day joyfully before you.”
The video production at various times features a landscape painting by Shelley Mangold (Temple Beth El). In her painting, mountains frame a river flowing with multicolored puzzle pieces.
Former Knoxville Poet Laureate Marilyn Kallett (Temple Beth El) delivers an original poem, “Unfolding,” while Kimberly Turnmire (All Saints Catholic) reflects on Galatians 3:28, and Father R.J. Powell (St. James Episcopal Church and Tyson House) delivers “Blessing for Longing” by John O’Donahue.
In a unique departure from a traditional Order of Service, Rev. Colleen Darraugh (Metropolitan Community Church of Knoxville) interviews five individuals from different faith traditions, about their views on the connection between sexuality and spirituality in their lives. “Initially my spirituality gave no room for my sexuality,” Clarence Scott, a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church, tells Rev. Darraugh. “Growing up, I was taught that homosexuality was unacceptable… (Now) I know that I am created by God, loved by God, and I can live as a full gay male and be a Christian — no question about that.”
Drag Queen Story Time returns to this annual event with Rahla Abdul, a member of the Knoxville Gay Men’s Chorus, reading “My Rainbow,” a children’s book based on the true-to-life experiences of a young, black, trans girl and her mother. Dr. Talbin MacGillvray of Pagan Pride of East Tennessee talks about the “Green Man” and our connection to all living things.
Jack Knoxville, an Afro-Latino trans activist, discusses the work of the Trans Empowerment Project (TEP), which advocates for and supports people of color, trans and gender non-conforming individuals nationwide. An offering will be collected for TEP’s work.
Click here to watch it streamed at 11 am on our Facebook page. You can also watch it on our YouTube channel by clicking here