Buffalo-Clarence Congregation - June 26, 2011

What a weekend.

Nate wrote and transmitted his ‘sermon’ to me; three different times….each with revisions – that was during his last day in school on Friday.

I, of course, did a little editing and expanded on his ‘closing paragraph’ to help him round out his thoughts.

Friday night we were supposed to attend a meeting of Network of WNY Open and Affirming Congregations (NwnyOAC) at Pilgrim St. Luke’s (UCC) in Buffalo, but in the late afternoon Nate sent me a text saying we were meeting friends for dinner at 6:30 p.m. at one of our favorite restaurants.

I reminded him of our plans for the NwnyOAC meeting. It had been rescheduled from the previous Friday after we advised the other organizers in our group that we would not be in attendance because that date was Nate’s birthday and we had dinner plans.

He responded that he’d received a phone call from one of our dear friends in which she indicated that she’d heard from her doctor that her cancer had returned and her husband was wearing a heart monitor because he’d gone to see his doctor and they thought they’d found some issues. He said that they would prefer to go to dinner and keep things private a little while longer rather than attend the NwnyOAC meeting that evening. Nate let our friends at NwnyOAC know that we would not be there; others from our congregation would be in attendance.

Following dinner, around 8:00 p.m., the six of us returned to our townhouse for a quiet evening and the next thing I knew the TV was on and we were looking for news on whether the New York Senate had acted on gay marriage yet. I say ‘yet’ because the Senate kept putting off bringing the legislation to the floor. Friday, June 24, was the last day of this legislative session and if the issue was not brought before the full body it would be a moot point and would have to start from scratch in the next or succeeding sessions. In the last several days such important issues as the state vegetable, state fruit, stage bird, state flower (you get the idea) had taken a great deal of time, effort and deliberation in the chambers.

We found that Time Warner Cable was covering the NY Senate ‘live’ on channel 127, however, the picture and audio kept freezing up, so we were only hearing part of the deliberations. I’d already found a live feed on the internet a couple of days before, so I booted up the laptop and went to www.livestream.com/nysenate and connected with the same ‘live’ feed that was supposedly being aired on the television….except now we had clear audio and video…albeit on a ‘small screen’, but we had audio!

The Senate broke for a ‘brief recess’ just before 9:00 p.m. and finally returned to session somewhere after 9:30 p.m.; the amendment to the main bill on gay marriage was brought to the floor and we listened as Senators were given the floor to ‘explain their vote’. By prior agreement (which we found out as time went on) the debate was limited, finally concluded and the final vote was announced for the amendment to the main bill; carried.

Agonizingly we listened as the main bill was brought to the floor and we began to hear, once again, explanations as to why Senators were voting in such a way. We were totally amazed when the Speaker indicated that in accordance with prior agreement over the procedure that would be followed, there would be two more Senators allowed to speak and then the final vote would be announced. We already knew that the Senator that represents our district was a ‘yes’ vote, but we also knew that the newly elected Senator from the adjoining district was a ‘no’ vote; he campaigned on the issue. Imagine everyone’s surprise when he was recognized to ‘explain his vote’ and as he began speaking it was not quite as negative as we expected. When he made the comment to the effect that many of his supporters would probably unhappy with his vote, but after careful consideration and listening to people from both sides of the isle, he could not find a logical reason (other than the Catholic Church of which he is a member) why gay members of society should not be allowed the same freedoms and responsibilities that he and his spouse enjoy….and then he voted, ‘yes’.

Knowing that the ‘nays’ would be announced, by name, I began ticking them off on my fingers until I got to fifteen and then I began counting aloud. I knew when I hit 29 and, alphabetically,  the last ‘nay’ vote had been announced that it had passed….because it only took 32 votes and the total number voting was 62. The announcement was made: 29 NO and 33 YES; the bill passed!

During this time Nate had been on Facebook via his mobile phone and had texted a lesbian couple from church, Sharon & Nance, and told them to get into their car and come over to watch with us. They stopped and picked up a dear friend and ally, Nancy Cervi. They also called their friends Candy & Diane, Kim & Desere and Nate contacted Andrew Chesnutt and all of them converged on our place as the celebrations began! Oh what a night! We hugged, cried, took pictures of our group and Nancy Cervi offered a prayer as we held hands in a circle of pure love in our living room.

Then Nate began obsessing that he’d now have to change his ‘sermon’ for Sunday….ok, whatever….and I smiled as I recalled that the ‘logo’ screen shot I’d picked used a building with the rainbow flag flying…that would be the opening shot on the power point and the one that would be on the screen throughout Nate’s ‘sermon’. Our friends assured him that whatever he did on Sunday would be fine and not to worry.

Saturday Nate went on Facebook telling friends that he was speaking on Sunday (next day) and inviting people to come out to the service; several responded that they would do so.

We attended a ‘marriage rally’ Saturday night in the gay area of Buffalo and marched the street for several blocks with party whistles, flags, signs and singing ‘Going to the Chapel’; ran into a lesbian couple that were in town visiting from North Dakota (used to live here…Nate sang at their wedding when they were in Buffalo – BTW, I believe they’d neglected to pay him for singing at their ‘wedding’)….he invited them to church.

We made a stop at the Tim Horton’s across from the Buffalo Airport – our usual stop – and found that although there were five people working behind the counter….none of them seemed to be taking care of customers in the store, only in the drive through….and then found that the only guy working the store counter didn’t seem to have a clue and was taking ten minutes to fill one simple order. We walked out and stopped at the next Tim Horton’s, five minutes down the road. (Already the day had not begun well.)

Once at church I set up the laptop, got power point running, put out a CD ready to be used, checked sound and lighting, posted copies on the bulletin board, made a couple ‘oversized’ versions of the bulletin for those that have limited eyesight.

I recall looking out the windows to the parking lot to see an older couple that are not too fond of what some have described as the ‘liberal’ lean our congregation has taken by becoming a Welcoming Congregation….coming up the sidewalk…oh well. Then I realized that the lesbian couple (North Dakota) from the day before were there with their twenty-something daughter….and another gay friend of ours arrived that said he would attend….and another….and the usual gay and lesbians arrived (and now we had about twelve or so that were gay or lesbian).

I happened to be by the door when a guy walked up the walk that I did not recognize….I shook his hand and welcomed him to the congregation. I mentioned to Nate that I did not know him and asked if he were a friend of his….Nate did not recognize him, but went over and said ‘hello’…found out that the guy (bells and whistles went off) was in town from Phoenix and had been walking the neighborhood the day before, saw the church sign with the rainbow flag and said, “I don’t know if you believe that God speaks to people, but I do.” Further he said that he’d heard a voice speak to him saying, “attend church here tomorrow!”….and so he did! O.M.G., I was already in tears before the service began!

The service was phenomenal! It started on time (this was only the second Sunday that we observed ‘summer hours’ beginning worship at 10:30 a.m.). We used two hymns with unfamiliar words…which caused people to look at and think about what they were singing. It just seemed that everything flowed so well and everyone seemed to be caught up in the warm, comforting spirit that prevailed….even the conservative folks that I’d worried about—but then realized that it was them and not us—they would have to respond to the spirit in their lives and there was precious little we could do other than be facilitators. Everyone was chatty afterwards and a couple asked for parts of the service (be sent to them so they could use them elsewhere). We were so very blessed. All of the events of the past several days came together and the timing could not have been better! It was truly moving and amazing!