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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-06-08



Ecumenical PRIDE service showcases solidarity
By Jason Carson Wilson

This article shared 2924 times since Wed Jun 25, 2014
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God loves everyone equally.

That was the message a Chicago Coalition of Welcoming Churches-sponsored ecumenical PRIDE service sent June 22, which showcased the coalition's theme, "Solidarity: Standing on the Side of Love." University Church, 5655 S. University Ave., hosted the service.

The church's senior pastor, the Rev. Julian DeShazier, said the reason for hosting the service was simple.

"It was an opportunity for us to make an investment beyond name alone," he said. "This is what we stand for. This is who we want to be. I don't think it's much more than that."

University Church is a United Church Christ/Disciples of Christ-affiliated house of worship on the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park.

Music and communion punctuated the service, before speakers shared their words. The communion service was conducted in a special way. It allowed participants to serve each other the Bread of Life and Cup of Salvation.

Speakers John Adewoye, Kooper Knebel and Pastor Jamie Frazier each shared their unique perspectives. Frazier, the Lighthouse Church of Chicago founder, said the word "love" has nearly lost its potentency, thanks to overuse.

"[It's] tossed around more than a tennis ball at a Wimbledon tennis championship," he said.

With that said, people seem to indulge in inordinate self-love, according to Frazier. Solidarity is an antidote.

"Solidarity moves one away from the savior complex," he said.

Adewoye, Chicago LGBT Asylum Support Program co-founder, currently houses five gay men from Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda, in his three-bedroom Riverdale home. But, he'd never consider himself a savior.

Other asylees need a place to escape. They can't come until there's more room in Adewoye's house. So, CLASP is investigating ways to expand, including looking for more housing options. Adewoye co-founded CLASP with Broadway United Methodist Church's pastor, the Rev. Lois Parr.

Adewoye, a former Catholic priest in Nigeria, came to America in Dec. 1999 to get reparative therapy. He had a lover, while serving the church in Nigeria. Even so, Adewoye came to the United States "to seek the therapy to make me straight." Everything didn't go as planned.

"Something gave me real strength," Adewoye, now an American citizen, said. "I found the freedom to be a great homosexual. I came out like a rocket."

CLASP offers refuge to those in danger in their country. Kooper Knebel, a transgender woman, gave people a glimpse at life, when your assigned body and gender isn't who you are inside.

"I knew for 25 years that my name would be Kooper," she said.

So, Kooper became experienced at fighting gender norms. She stressed exactly why she scares some people.

"I'm not hurting anyone," Knebel said. "But, I'm messing with people's sense of order and normalcy. People feel the need to make their opinions known."

Those opinions usually become weapons that can mentally bruise and injure transgender people.

"We, who start out with so much hope for the future, start to wear down," Knebel said.

Society, she said, generally chooses to blame the victim—"you brought this on yourselves." That animosity and adversity dashed Knebel's hope, eventually leaving her without a job, home, car or cat.

So, she decided to end with an overdose of alcohol and barbiturates. Knebel said a 2011 National Center for Transgender Equality/National Gay and Lesbian Task Force study revealed 41 percent of transgender people will attempt suicide.

"I didn't want to die," Knebel said. "I only started living."

Today, she said, transgender people must accept that being true to themselves requires a trade-off.

"We won't grow old," Knebel said. "Something or someone will kill us."

Knebel, who graduated from Chicago Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree in May, issued a call to action. Knebel works with the Night Ministry, which serves homeless LGBT youth throughout the city.

"We cannot wait for society to come around to [transgender] acceptance," she said. "Our brothers and sisters are dying."

This article shared 2924 times since Wed Jun 25, 2014
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