Greater NW Pride: A Program Update


A Program Update: Trailer to “Called to Love One Another,” an LGBTQIA2S+ Folx OR-ID Conference Wide Event, And Looking Forward to 2021 

In mid-March 2020, six months ago, the world around me, and the way of life that I had taken for granted, came to a stop. We closed the Conference Center building, “until further notice” because of COVID 19. Working from home on our computers became the new norm. The major projects I was working on with “Q Camp: High School,” an all LGBTQIA2S+ camp for high schoolers with an all LGBTQIA2S+ staff, was postponed a few months later, as were most of the camp and retreat programs in the OR-ID UMC Conference. I was working with folks at the Cascade AIDS Project, in finding young people who were LGBTQIA2S+ and recently diagnosed as HIV positive, with hopes of welcoming them to the Strength for the Journey camp experience with other people who are HIV positive in August 2020. An autumn retreat for all LGBTQIA2S+ clergy, lay leader, lay member and friend of the OR-ID UMC Conference at Suttle Lake came to a stop, too. And the work that I was doing with individual churches, with planned trips to parts of ID and southern OR, along with Portland, also stopped as clergy people focused solely on worship and immediate care of their respective congregations. Phone calls, conference calls, on-line worship, Facetime, Google Duo, and Zoom became our new ways of meeting with one another.
Then, in September 2020, things started to change. With a lifting on some of the mandates of “no personal meetings” to meeting with others in rare instances with “Reimagining Life Together” protocols, and phased in changes in terms of mandates in OR and ID, people are getting to be creative in adapting to the new world in which we live, with 6 feet distancing, meeting outdoors, washing hands and washing down surfaces, opening windows up if meeting in-doors, testing, and contact tracing, we have started to move again and meet again, in person, usually outdoors. We are still greeting one another with waves of “Hi,” and bowing good-byes of “Namaste,” which all works.
Along with maintaining this weekly blog, I also moved forward with one project that seemed easiest to work with in this time of the COVID 19 pandemic was the film/video project, Called to Love One Another.This film/video project began with the Reverends Bonnie Parr Philipson and Jim Philipson, based on their workshops with several UMC churches in the OR-ID UMC Conference on gender equality, Called to Love. When I was given the project as part of my portfolio as the LGBTQIA+ Advocacy Coordinator, the project evolved, and was tweaked, to be film/video project the explored, through narratives, the process by which churches moved from being closed to LGBTQIA2S+ people, to being open and affirming, welcoming and reconciling. We also focused on the lives of LGBTQIA2S+ people of faith, who moved from being hidden, listening to their discernment process in struggling with hiddenness, to being out, open, welcoming, and still part of a UMC church. The Scripture that held this all together was John 13:34-35, in which Jesus gives us a new command to love one another. In Called to Love One Another became a project that captured the lives of UMC pastors and lay members, learning what it meant to live out Jesus new command to “love one another.”
Click here for the trailer to this film/video which will come out later this fall. We thank the Collins Foundation who made this film/video project possible. A teaching guide will come out with the 20 min. version of this film/video, and a longer 40 min. version will also be available for viewing in churches and church groups. 
Along with this project coming to fruition, other projects are starting to move again as we all become more creative with the new world of a COVID 19 pandemic hanging around us: For example, instead of holding an in-person, all-LGBTQIA2S+ gathering of clergy, lay leaders, and lay members at Suttle Lake, we are going to host a Zoom event in the coming weeks, and will plan on a retreat with all the LGBTQIA2S+ folxs in the conference in 2021, post-COVID 19 pandemic days. The creative team who were working on Q Camp: High School, are getting in touch with those who expressed interest in the camp for 2020, with plans to hold this unique camp experience at Camp Magruder in early August 2021, in a post-COVID 19 world. In the meantime, I’ll be sending out a survey to all the UMC churches in the OR-ID UMC Conference to find out where everyone is in terms of welcoming, affirming, and accepting LGBTQIA2S+ people of faith. Finally, I am starting to meet with pastors and church members who were working towards welcoming, accepting, affirming, and being and becoming Reconciling congregations this year.  And one of the ways that I will be encouraging these congregations to welcoming and affirm, accept and love those of us who are LGBTQIA2S+ is with this film/video,Called to Love One Another.
And perhaps that has been the best part of this COVID 19 shut down: I’ve discovered that a large part of my job as a kind of “church coach” is to work with UMC churches and LGBTQIA2S+ people in the art and practice of following and living into the new command that Jesus gives us: to love one another (John 13:34-35). 

Brett Webb-Mitchell
Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell is an openly gay Presbyterian pastor in the Portland area serving as the part-time LGBTQ+ advocacy coordinator for The Oregon-Idaho Conference of the UMC. He can be reached at brett@umoi.org. Become a subscriber to the Greater NW Pride blog to get Greater NW Pride in your email box!