Written by Vince Amlin
"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit...To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." - I Corinthians 12:4, 7
"Many gifts, one Spirit,
one love known in many ways.
In our difference is blessing.
From diversity we praise..." Al Carmines from "God of Many Colors"
The first time I met Rev. Al Carmines he was ensconced on a couch in the church fellowship hall, smoking two cigarettes at once. As he greeted my friend and me, one of the cigarettes dropped onto his sweater, and he let it burn there on his belly while he puffed on the other.
Al was legendary to me. I had read about his place in the 60s theater scene in Greenwich Village, and I had sung many of his beautiful hymns while worshipping at Judson Memorial. When I told him so on that first meeting, he requested that I sing a solo in the service that was starting in five minutes!
Eight of us shared worship that day, which featured me on "Old Rugged Cross" and an extended pastoral prayer by Al about Princess Pansy, a drag queen he had met at a bar the night before. It was one of the most unusual and beautiful services I've been a part of.
Al's only hymn in the New Century Hymnal is "God of Many Colors." It seems a fitting introduction, since I have rarely met anyone as colorful or Spirit-filled, anyone whose unabashed uniqueness reminds me more of the beautiful variety in which we are created, or anyone whose great difference from me has made me feel quite so blessed to share one body.
Singular Spirit of infinite gifts, be manifest in me for the common good.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.