i also spent some time on saturday preparing for fred phelps and his followers to assault my church. after escorting and before the memorial, laurel and i spent a couple of hours on the sidewalk outside my house, creating a masterwork of protest art: a banner, 5 1/2 by 9 feet, proclaiming, "people of conscience & people of faith support st. peter's: open, inclusive, affirming." i did the lettering, laurel decorated with rainbows, and we invited alyssa and her mom to contribute handprints. i thought a lot about pauline. later that evening, we decorated posters with bible verses and expressions of support.
my favorite creation said "beloved child of God" in the center and had arrows pointing off in every direction.
yesterday morning we all got up early. when laurel and i arrived at st. peter's at 8.00 am, there were already eight people there, waiting for us. we showed off our banner and signs. i showed off the church. people kept arriving. at 8.30, when congregants had begun arriving and phelps's people hadn't, there were over 30 people outside st. peter's. we had been joined by two gay men with a video camera and cardboard signs trimmed in hot pink feathers.
ken, my professor and advisor, showed up with his wife. friends from SPC showed up. ACRONYM showed up, having written a song for the occasion. people from haverford's production of the laramie project showed up. and parishioners kept thanking them. the gratitude that st. peter's showed was overwhelming. by 9.00, it had become clear that st. peter's, the one church with an organized counterprotest, was the one church these people were skipping. i went into service and was joined by jenny, katie and a few others. katie received her first communion.
after the service, we closed up shop at st. peter's. laurel and i went home and made eggs...and then gobbled them in fifteen seconds, rushing out the door, after eliza called to say the kansans were at st. mark's. we made it to sixteenth and locust in record time, and ended the morning being interviewed by philly weekly.
on the way home, laurel and i talked about how sorry we felt for these people, and how clear it is that they are suffering, really suffering, from their painful obsession. they spend virtually all their time, and an incredible amount of energy, thinking and talking about the ways that people have sex. their demonstrations have very little to do with God and a whole lot more to do with offensive, prurient words and images. for some reason, these people are cut off from the love and forgiveness that (for most of us, i think) constitute the experience of God.
once i asked a priest what hell would be like--i think i was ten or so--and he replied that essence of hell is the inaccessibility of God's love.
pray for the people of westborough baptist church, that they may understand a gospel of love and forgiveness. pray for the people they victimize. pray for those who try to reach out to both.