Cleveland churches to take part in rescheduled Pride Parade
Thousands of members, clergy, lay leaders and staff from across the United Church of Christ were ready to participate in the city of Cleveland’s annual Pride Parade, Rally and Festival in late June during General Synod 2015. They never got the chance, however, because bad weather nixed the event that Saturday afternoon. But in their place, members of UCC congregations in Northeast Ohio will march this weekend, showing their pride, faith and support of the LGBT community during the rescheduled parade on Saturday, Aug. 8.
Given very short notice of the parade route, mostly due to road closures for construction, several Cleveland-area UCC churches are planning to participate in the parade, with Pilgrim UCC in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood leading the UCC contingent.
“This congregation has been taking part in the Pride Parade for many years as a means of public witness,” said the Rev. Kelly Byrd, pastor of Pilgrim UCC. “Although now there are many more churches that support LGBT people in relationships, I know that when we walk as Christians we still reach people for whom, until now, have felt they had to chose between Christianity and sexual orientation, and couldn’t reconcile those aspects of their lives as compatible. It still matters that we do this every year.”
In addition, the denomination’s LGBTQ advocacy organization — the UCC Open and Affirming Coalition — will be represented at the parade and festival, along with Pilgrim, Dover Congregational (Westlake), Plymouth UCC (Shaker Hts.) and Mount Zion United Church of Christ (Cleveland). Members of South Haven UCC (Bedford) also plan to join those from Pilgrim UCC for the parade.
“It’s important for historically and predominantly African American churches to open our arms of love and acceptance to the LGBT community, and we want to have a presence at the parade so people know there is a place where they are welcome,” said the Rev. Cheryl Lindsay, associate pastor at Mount Zion.
“The UCC ONA Coalition advocates for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the United Church of Christ and beyond, and equips UCC congregations to become effective witnesses to Christ’s extravagant welcome,” said the Rev. Rod Mundy, the ONA Coalition coordinator.
In recent years, UCC members have been one of the largest groups present at the Cleveland Pride Parade. Nearly 350 people from area congregations and staff from the denomination’s national headquarters joined the event last year. As in 2013, when more than 200 UCC supporters gathered, the Church once again boasted the biggest turnout of any faith group in the 27-year history of the parade.
Participation in the Cleveland Pride Parade was planned as one of the highlights of the 30th General Synod in June, but rain forced the cancellation of the June 27 event. The timing of the original parade coincided with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality that overturned statewide bans on same-sex marriage throughout the nation.
Both Byrd and Lindsay estimate about 20 to 25 people from their congregations to participate on Saturday. “In addition to being a public faith witness for LGBT pride and equality and rights, this year is also a time and place we are drawn to celebrate those things. It’s still an opportunity to celebrate the marriage equality decision with like-minded people,” Byrd said.
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