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TDoR

On the 20th of November, many major cities in North America and the World, recognize Trans*Day of Remembrance. It’s not a celebration. It’s a somber and solemn occasion when the Trans* Community and their Allies gather to remember those men and women who were killed because of their choice to identify as their true self.

My friend J came to share her story with us last Sunday and while her story, at times, was difficult to hear, it was necessary for her to share it. She spoke eloquently of her knowing she was not male, although she was assigned male at birth. She shared her journey of “coming out” to her family and friends. Some reactions were better than expected; some were worse. Through it all she retained her sense of self and her affection for her creator.

Her son A came with her to Church and there were a few of her friends from the Trans* Community who came to provide moral support. There were a couple of members in the congregation who were uncomfortable and unhappy at what J was sharing with us. One member of the Congregation refused to share the Peace with her, while another nearly knocked her over in their urge to share their joy at her bravery and interest in her story.

Two families with children were present and both sets of parents commented how grateful they were that their children heard what J said. A seven year old thought she was “cool”. High praise indeed!

We are grateful for people like J who have the strength and courage to share their stories. We gather to remember those whose stories may never otherwise be told. Such as an eight year old boy who was certain she was supposed to be a girl. She stopped cutting her hair, began dressing as a girl and asked her family to use a female name for her. Her father was enraged and began to beat her, hoping to show her how it was to be a boy. In his anger and rage he beat her to death. Her father. She was eight.

I have the honour of offering a non-denominational, interfaith prayer at the beginning of the service. And I have been tasked with reading the story of one of the victims of transphobia, one of the many for whom we gather to remember.

It breaks my heart every time I hear of another young Trans* person taking their life rather than endure the taunts and horror that surrounds them, especially early in their transition. Its easy for those of us who are not Trans* to tell them to hang on…to wait…but until we live in their skin, think with their brain, love with their heart, see with their eyes, we will never understand.

What we need is a Revolution of Love. A commitment each of us makes to love without abandon. To love in the face of hatred and fear. To love when it seems there’s nothing useful to say. Because in times of great sorrow there isn’t anything helpful to say. But we can be. Together. In the peaceful quiet. And we can love.

Darkness cannot overcome darkness. Only light can do that. Hatred cannot overcome hatred. Only love can do that.

So when we feel the world has gone insane and there is only violence and hatred, we respond heart-fully, bravely, with love.

It begins with each and every one of us. If we know love we can share love. And in sharing love we overcome the hatred within us. I believe we can, with time, faith, trust and love…change the world.

And on Saturday, when we gather in the City for Trans* Day of Remembrance, our hearts will be filled with grief and pain. And hopefully through words of hope and courage we will begin to replace that grief with hope and that pain with love.

One soul at a time. One heart at a time. One being at a time.

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Today is the 11th of November. In the small town where I live we will gather at 10:50 at the Cenotaph for a service of remembrance and peace. My colleague from the Church across the street is participating for the first time and he will be preaching. A few years ago I wrote some prayers for the service and have adapted them each year. It will be interesting to see the faces in the crowd as my colleague preaches. We traditionally enjoy a vast demographic presence; from the very young to the very old.

Last year, after the Parliament Hill and War Memorial shootings, there was a particularly large crowd. The weather is sunny but cool, with a bit of a wind. The perfect combination for Remembrance Day.

Last Sunday I preached on Remembrance Sunday about peace, remembering and finding a better way to solve conflict. I must admit, I was angry when I was preaching as it doesn’t seem we’ve learned anything in the 4,000 years since the prophet Micah wrote “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, their sprears into pruning hooks; nation shall not rise again; we will war no more”. Our weaponry is more sophisticated than ever and the art of battle looks more like a video game than hand to hand combat. Yet PTSD and broken souls is still as prevalent as it was in the time of the Boer War. When will we learn a better way?

This Sunday a friend of mine is going to share her story as a transgender woman of faith. I have known her since early in her transition and I have witnesses a beautiful soul blossoming after years of fear and anxiety at being who she was meant to be. She was born male, and struggled all her life to accept who she was truly meant to be. Her transition happened later in life, but today she is strong, she is spirit-filled, she is a beautiful advocate who speaks eloquently. I am in deep admiration for her.

Next Saturday we will gather for the Trans* Day of Remembrance. My friend is the MC for the night and I’m so pleased for her. I have been asked again to provide a blessing and am honoured to do so. November has become, for me, a season of remembrance.

As the Christian year winds down it’s a time of great reflection in looking back at where we have been, looking ahead to where we may dare to be and being present in where we currently are.

It has been said that if we do not remember our past mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them. And yet, how and when do we learn a new way to disagree and manage conflict? War cannot always be the way. There must be a peaceable solution…

I believe in the very depths of my soul that peace is possible. But it has to begin with each and every one of us when we choose love over hate, acceptance over fear, and peace over war.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn;
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We WILL remember them.

Amen

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Sleep has been rather elusive over the past few weeks.  Part, I suspect, to the bizarre weather and temperatures that can’t seem to decide if they are seasonal, extremely warm or extremely cool.  Part is due to two awesome honours I have been given, one of which is happening tomorrow night at the Transgender Day of Remembrance or TDoR.  The other is the Invocation prayer for the newly elected Municipal Council on the 1st of December.

The groups are quite different and the types of prayers will be quite different, but they will have one thing in common: love.

We will gather for TDoR to remember those trans* men and women who were killed.  For no other reason than they were “different”.  We live in a world that is increasingly filled with hate.  Atrocities being played out every single day and broadcast into our living rooms.  There seems to be no safe place to hide.

As a proud ally to the Rainbow community, I take these things both personally and seriously and I struggle to not be overwhelmed with the zigzag of emotions as I craft the prayer.  Many people in the Rainbow community, especially in the Trans* community have been ostracized by the Church.  They have been told horrible things, by horrible people who do NOT speak for Jesus.  And they sure as hell don’t speak for liberal-minded clergy like myself.

I believe, with all that is good and holy, that the God who created us in God’s own image, is a God of unimaginable love. A God who would love us into being…creating order from chaos.  Who with the turn of a hand separated earth from water, light from dark.  Who created us in the same image; male and female; either or neither; queer, asexual, bisexual, pansexual.  Who showed us the way to love by seeking it and seeing it in each other.

In the midst of hatred and violence, there truly is only one way to respond…with love.  I am honoured to have journeyed with many members of the local Rainbow community; some who now live in other parts of the world.  For many of them I was a final attempt at meaningful connection with God.  When you are told that you are not loved, it is often a message that goes deep into the marrow of your being.  Being told that you ARE loved takes time to penetrate past the hate.

For many people in the Rainbow community and especially in the Trans* community, they need to learn to love again. Walls go up out of necessity; if you have a high enough, deep enough wall, nobody will get through.  It takes time, patience and above all, it takes love to reach through the wall.  Love manifests itself in many ways; through trust, compassion, understanding; and if not understanding, then patience and silence.

It has been said that I pastor to a fairly conservative congregation.  And yet, I have seen them reach through concern and questioning to embrace friends from the Rainbow community.  Reaching out through love; of seeing the humanity and human dignity of each other; the face of God reflected in each other.  And seeing that is a most beautiful thing.

We will gather tomorrow night to mourn for those whose lives were taken; that their lives will not be taken in vain.  We will remember those who blazed so brightly and whose light was extinguished; but not their spirit.  TDoR will be taking place across the globe in many countries.  The gatherings will be in beautiful, safe spaces.  Those who are present will be moved; often to tears.

And it will be my responsibility to ensure that everyone who is there feels the love of their Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer.  To be invited to ask an ecumenical, multi-faith prayer is an honour and a challenge.  I believe that the Mother and Father of us all, who loved us into being will be with us, and will give me the words to speak to the hearts of those who will gather.  Because in the midst of darkness we must illumine that darkness with the light of our love.  For our Creator, for ourselves and for each other.  We WILL remember them.

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