The Boston Pride Parade: Surprise, Delight, and Joy

Massachusetts Bishop Tom Shaw, Bishop Steve, and New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson in the Boston Gay Pride Parade on Saturday.

Some months ago the Bishops of Province I (New England) were invited to the Cathedral of St. Paul’s, Boston, MA, for a reception for the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson as he prepares to step down as the Bishop of New Hampshire. As a long time friend and colleague of Gene’s, I was happy to accept the invitation.

A few weeks ago, I learned that the context for the reception was Gay Pride Week in Boston and that the attending bishops would march in the Pride Parade before the reception. With a certain amount of trepidation, I decided a quick trip for the reception would not work, and so went down the night before to get familiar with the lay of the land and make connections with Bishop Tom Shaw.
As fate would have it, only four bishops were able to make the parade and reception, ordinations and graduations requiring the rest of the Province I bishops to be elsewhere. That being the case, I was very glad I was able to join Tom Shaw, Bishop of Massachusetts, and Barbara Harris, retired Suffragan Bishop, in walking with and thanking Gene.
Photos by Deborah Gardner Walker
It was a quite wonderful day. Despite severe thunderstorms, including strong winds and hail, the night before, Saturday dawned bright and sunny. In fact it turned out to be a very warm day. The Boston Pride Parade route covered 2.6 miles, and the marchers themselves covered well over a mile. There were all kinds of groups, including Macy’s, local radio stations, the governor and the mayor. Something like 200 Episcopalians marched from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, led in procession by a crucifer, a thurifer, and streamer bearers from The Crossing, at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Barbara rode in a red Mustang convertible, honored as the first woman ordained a bishop in the Anglican Communion, while Tom, Gene and I trudged along on foot.
What struck me most on the long, hot and sometimes very noisy march, was the sense of surprise and, sometimes, joy which greeted our appearance. People would look quizzically upon seeing the cross and the incense pot, then suddenly recognize who was coming. People frequently called out Bishop Robinson’s name or would say loudly to a neighbor, “That’s MY church!” There were frequent expressions of thanks, and sometimes loud applause. Occasionally there were tears.
We weren’t the only church group, of course. There were many. And I would make no special claim for the Episcopalians. But we certainly do know how to transform a parade into a procession! And our message of welcome for all people is still vitally important. Despite the secularism of our age, despite the suspicion of many about large institutions, including the church, there is still a deep hunger for connection, for welcome, for community, for God. And people who may feel afraid to darken our doors were simply delighted that we came out to be with them.
The day ended with a cook-out at the Cathedral and a brief service of thanksgiving for Gene. I got to say a few words of thanks to Gene for his work, not only as a bishop, but long before as Canon in New Hampshire and as a founder of both Fresh Start and the Safe Church movement. He’s made an immense contribution to the health of our church.
But what I remember most are the expressions of surprise, delight, and joy on the faces in the crowd.

+Steve

5 thoughts on “The Boston Pride Parade: Surprise, Delight, and Joy”

  1. Thank you! I remember the day Bp. Gene Robinson was elected, our then 13 yr. old son said, ” I am so proud of our Church!”

  2. I am very very thankful that our Bishop made this witness, joining the celebration on the streets, exhibiting how the New Creation does indeed break into our lives and radiate the power of joy and love. He certainly models for us what to do when we discern the invitation to “show up” at places in the world where the Spirit is giving birth to new hope. Thank you, Bishop Steve!

  3. It was great to share that day with you and serve as the official Episcopal photographer! I am the daughter of one of the “Gardners of Waterville, Maine”, so I was especially pleased to see Maine participate in the parade.

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