Paster Washington & Jay

Pastor Wanda Washington & Jay

L to R: Jay, Pastor Wanda Washington

I am a pastor at Grace United Church of Christ, where Jay is a member. Jay is just so important to Grace United Church of Christ. He came to our church even though he knew he would be a minority: Jay is white and most of our church is African-American. Jay is a great role model for other gay Christians and is very committed our church. He is there every Sunday and he has been leading youth groups and teaching Sunday School with me.  He is the example of what we are at Grace: open and affirming.

People come to Grace because they know that unlike in a lot of other churches in Milwaukee, especially those that are mostly African-American, the LGBTQ community can come here and be themselves and be loved, accepted and respected

As clergy we need to be the voice of what is important to the people in the pews, and to the broader community that they represent. For me, that means making sure we honor the AIDS Week of Prayer. About 70 to 80% of my congregation is from the LGBTQ community, and they have seen this epidemic up close for far too long. AIDS has taken such a toll on the gay Black community; it’s like a community under attack. If clergy doesn’t take a stand on this, who will? I have partnered with other clergy to help make this happen but it is still hard to find other clergy, especially in the Black community, who can talk about fighting AIDS without gay-bashing, or who are willing to talk about it at all.

I remember talking with a colleague, who is also a member of the clergy, who did a lot of work with young people. A young man said to him at a youth ministry gathering, “Pastor, if you all want to save our lives then you need to teach us about condoms. But if you want us to die then tell us all this crazy stuff about abstinence.  That’s just the truth, Pastor.” We have to honor these truths when our community tell us how to be with them, how to help them. We have to be that allied voice that helps these young people protect themselves and lead long, healthy lives.