Friday, May 16, 2008

Me, Aids and the Quilt today

My first blog shall be a sermon I Gave to the CST students and faculty on april 17th 2008 exactly 2 days before my ordination.

Today we have heard the story of the stoning of Stephen in the story it states that the witnesses covered their ears to his truths. Then they rushed him and stoned him. The witnesses stoned him. Most of the time when we think of witnesses we think of bystanders who do nothing but watch an event and later, perhaps report on what they have seen.Here in this story to be a witness is to be an active participant an active participant in Stephens death. It gives me pause am I witness? Am I a witness or have I ever been a witness?Could silent non participation make me just as guilty of a crime as those who participated in it?I would like to read an excerpt from a story in Time magazine originally printed in 1970
"One summer night in 1968, Troy Perry bailed a fellow homosexual out of jail and tried to calm him. "It's no use," sobbed the young man. "No one cares for us homosexuals." "God cares," said Perry. "No, not even God cares," came the answer. At that moment, Perry found his calling. His church was launched on a tiny ad in the Advocate, a local gay newspaper. Nine friends and three strangers turned up. "It was a mess and a mass," Perry recalls. "But the Lord really moved that day. People were weeping." The church was peripatetic at first, forced to move time after time as landlords discovered the nature of Perry's parishioners and indignantly evicted them. Finally Hollywood's Encore Theater donated its building for Sunday services."
The story as , told by Troy, is that the owner would not accept any money for rent so that they could save to buy their own building. Eventually they did buy their own building, and later in 1973 that building was burnt to the ground by an arsonist.
Troy writes in his book Don't Be Afraid Anymore "We have become familiar with fire. Not by choice! Seventeen sites where we have worshiped have been intentionally burned, three in 1973 alone."One of those was a bar in New Orleans. They were having a Sunday beer bust on the anniversary of the stone wall riots which are now known as gay pride, it was an upstairs bar one in which you had to go up a narrow stairway to gain access. 32 people were burned to death.
"This was something that could happen to any homosexual, and it still could happen at any time in any city!"I wonder who were the witnesses? Who, in their silence, allowed this to happen?
on both sides of the chapel here today we have Panels from the AIDS quilt. This wasn't a random act. It was actually intended for the multicultural festival which did not occur this year due to extenuating circumstances.
As the current chair of the alphabet soup group or the SGLBTQQI group here on campus I wanted our group to do something that made a statement about our culture. Yes like it or not HIV/and AIDS are a part of our culture. But these quilts are more than our culture they are part of a global story. The world has AIDS. It is touching every community and every life. This is very much a part of my own story as well.
as most of you know i live with AIDS. It is actually impossible not to think about it every day as i take 5 pills in the morning and three pills at night just to help keep my immune system working at an acceptable level.
I graduated from high school in 1980 , I came out in 1981 in Detroit city. In those days we heard that some people were dying in New York and San Francisco of "Gay cancer," later called GRID, (Gay Related Immuno Deficiency) By 1982 it had the name of AIDS.

I was still fairly a novice and trying to figure out where to go to meet people when I entered a small bar on the west side of the city. At the bar there were two men one was named Butchie and the other was his best friend Jamie Heston.
They both were members of the club STUDS 30. Which I too joined eventually.
Jamie was a cool guy. You would of loved him. Everybody did. He was an artist. He loved to paint and draw. He was tall about 6'2. I remember cause i had to look up to him. Jamie lived with his mother Jean she was also an artistic type. She dreamed of going to Africa and staying in the tree house hotel.
When Jamie got sick it devastated her. Butchie and I would spend many an hour with her and Jamie running him to Dr. Appointments. Keeping them company. Once we received a frantic call that Jamie had taken the car. This normally wouldn't be so bad but Jamie was suffering from dementia.
I still laugh wondering what we were thinking driving all over Detroit trying to find one man in one car. It would be like trying to find one person in Los Angeles and we didn't have cell phones or GPS tracking devices then.
He eventually made it home where we promptly disconnected the distributor cap. I miss him.
Another club brother of mine was warren. Warren was a DJ at one of the clubs downtown. I used to spend hours just sitting in his sound booth while he spun or upstairs in his apartment above the bar on his off days just talking about music or making some crazy plans to have fun.
One Friday night he was DJ-ing and I was feeling kind of crazy so I said " you know I have a friend in Chicago wanna go for the weekend?" He said yes, so at closing time we packed up all his records and left with nothing but the clothes on our backs at 2am headed for Chicago. After our weekend in Chicago was about over I turned to him and said you know I have a friend in long beach. So we kept on going.
I miss 1982 there were 285 AIDS cases reported in 17 U.S. states, five European countries according to the U.N. the Status of the World AIDS Epidemic, End of 2007 Total Adults Children under 15 years People newly infected with HIV in 2007 2.5 million 2.1 million 420,000Number of people living with HIV/AIDS 33.2 million 30.8 million 25 millionAIDS deaths in 2007 2.1 million 1.7 million 330,000
Source: World Health Organization, UNAIDS. Web: .
Founded in 1987, The AIDS Memorial Quilt is a poignant memorial, a powerful tool for use in preventing new HIV infections, and the largest ongoing community arts project in the world.
Each "block" (or section) of The AIDS Memorial Quilt measures approximately twelve feet square, and a typical block consists of eight individual three foot by six foot panels sewn together. As of June last year there are more than 47,000 individual panels representing more than 90,000 names. The names on the quilt represent approximately 17.5% of all U.S. AIDS related deaths. The quilt is 1,293,300 square feet in size, if laid end to end there would be over 52 miles of fabric it weighs over 54 tons.
So why the quilt? The quilt is a witness, The Quilt was conceived in November of 1985 by long-time San Francisco gay rights activist Cleve Jones. Since the 1978 assassinations of gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone, Jones had helped organize the annual candlelight march honoring these men. While planning the 1985 march, he learned that over 1,000 San Franciscans had been lost to AIDS. He asked each of his fellow marchers to write on placards the names of friends and loved ones who had died of AIDS. At the end of the march, Jones and others stood on ladders taping these placards to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building. The wall of names looked like a patchwork quilt.
Inspired by this sight, Jones and friends made plans for a larger memorial. A little over a year later, he created the first panel for the AIDS Memorial Quilt in memory of his friend Marvin Feldman. In June of 1987, Jones teamed up with Mike Smith and several others to formally organize the NAMES Project Foundation.
As the epidemic continues claiming lives around the world and here in the United States, the Quilt continues to grow and to reach more communities with its messages of remembrance, awareness and hope.
The quilt besides being a remembrance it represents comfort when there was none. Making a quilt is a healing process where love, loss, memories are sewn in every stitch. It represents the human warmth that the loved one, now missing, can no longer give. Above all the quilt is a comfort to know that our loved ones shall never be forgotten.
Often we do not think much about AIDS today as it appears not to effect our daily lives. Yet people are still dying, people are still being stigmatized. There are people who have such a fear of AIDS that I would not be allowed to hold their child.
In South Africa today there is an orphanage, it really is a community of people living with AIDS. When the clinic is open people will walk 40 miles for treatment. One of my church elders, Rev. Jim Miltulski, tells the story of how the people were amazed to see a healthy man, really they would call him fat man, who is over 40 and still living with AIDS.
The Rev. Troy Perry put it best when he stated "God did not create gays and lesbians so He could have something to hate!"
I am calling you all to be the other witness in Stephen's story. That is Stephen himself who in speaking the Truth saw the face of God. That in spite of those who wished to stone him and condemned him for speaking Christ's message of radically inclusive love, he stood and through their objections and stones. He saw the Face of Christ.
I am asking you to consider to work for justice, and healthcare not just in your own communities but world wide. To fight against countries where to be gay is a death penalty. To fight the groups here in CA that are trying to make the constitution state that marriage is only between a man and a woman.
Remember what The Reverend troy Perry said “I find it hard to believe that God made a whole group of people just so the world could hate them.

Will you pray with me?Loving creator, Bless each and everyone of us here that we may hear and answer your call to stand before the nay sayer's, the hate mongers, and those who simply fear what they do not understand.
Give us the strength to stand before your people, the people of the world and announce with out shame that your church, your spirit and your love is for all. I ask this in the name of the one who came in your name the Christed one Jesus. Amen

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