San Francisco Pride was this past Saturday and Sunday. I want to reflect on what I saw and experienced and see what comes out in my writing.

My weekend started on a disappointing note. First of all, on Wednesday I got very sick… chills and sore throat and stuffy nose and swollen glands and 102 degree fever. I barely made it home from MCC San Francisco that night. And Thursday I had to miss work and go to the doctor. Luckily I was diagnosed with strep throat and got on antibiotics the next morning, but I was still contagious for 24 hours. I had to miss the Matthew Vines event at City Church San Francisco. And then my partner in crime let me know he was not going to be able to join me for Pride after all. I was starting to think I wouldn’t even go, because I couldn’t imagine going by myself. But then, as it so often does, everything started to fall into place.

First Annie invited me to Berkeley on Saturday morning to have breakfast with her and Michael Landon. Michael and Annie were in school together back in the day and hadn’t seen each other in decades. Michael is The Gay Christian Network (GCN) Facebook friend who had introduced me to Annie last year, so it was so fun to have all of us in the same place along with Annie’s wife and granddaughter. Great start.

Next, another GCN Facebook friend, James Bailon, reached out and invited me (and Michael) to spend the day with him and some friends. After finding parking for Michael’s handicap-accessible car (Michael uses a wheelchair to get around) on what felt like the side of a mountain, we joined the group in Delores Park for several hours. Good food and good wine and great new friends. Gay and lesbian and straight… Just a great group of Christians who were celebrating the beauty and diversity of God’s creation. We talked about life and shared our stories and laughed and commiserated. There is nothing like the company of other gay Christians, especially after spending years in the closet. They just UNDERSTAND. But I need to say that there is great joy for me in spending time with affirming straight people too. My vision is not to be with queer people 24/7, even though I (finally) feel so comfortable there. I love spending time with all kinds of different people.

There were thousands of people crammed into Delores Park. As an extrovert, an Enneagram 7 and an ENFP, I was in heaven. The people watching was off the charts, and I was once again reminded of the glorious diversity of God’s good creation. Age diversity, gender diversity, socio-economic diversity, ethnic diversity, “type” diversity… Such beautiful people. Such a beautiful, living illustration of the beauty and diversity at the very heart of God.

After several hours and a walk around the perimeter of the park to take in the sights (and witness an engagement!), we walked up to the apartment of one of the couples there for — what else? — the season finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race! I had never seen it, so it was really fun to experience that with this crew.

After that it was off for dinner at a Thai place in the Castro. As we walked that way, we met up with The San Francisco Dyke March coming from the opposite direction. We had an amazing dinner, and then four of us headed out for drinks and dancing at one of the Castro’s iconic gay bars. It was 12:30am when we headed back to Michael’s car, pushing the man back up that mountain!

I was tired but so happy. New friends, great experiences. So much fun. Crashed at Annie’s house and got some sleep.

Sunday morning I left my car at Annie’s and took BART and MUNI to church. We had a short noon service planned, in case anyone showed up, but no one did, so Michael drove some of us down to the Festival

For the last decade, MCCSF has run the treasury for the Pride Festival. It’s a great opportunity to serve the community, and it makes money for the church as well. So I got to be with the church in a different way for several hours. We were sent out in pairs to collect money from the entrance gates, and then people back in the treasury (super top-secret location) sorted and counted the money. It was really fun to be with MCC people in a different setting and to see the Festival from behind the scenes.

When my shift was over at 4:00, I spent about 30 minutes just wandering in the crowd before walking back up to MCCSF to prepare for our 7pm Pride service. So much fun! A powerful sermon from Annie, great music from the larger-than-normal choir and band, and just a great spirit in the room as we worshipped our God together.

And that was my first Pride. Some thoughts…

Once again, I felt so welcomed. Just as I am. I don’t have to be any one type of person. I just get to be who I am… a white 45-year-old formerly-married Christian father of four with a belly.

In general, everyone was lovely. I didn’t see any rudeness, no pushing or shoving, even in a crowd of thousands. I saw people helping each other, speaking words of kindness and affirmation, going out of their way to welcome everyone.

Yes, there were people with very little clothing. Just like Mardi Gras or Spring Break. Yes, there were people smoking weed. Just like every music festival I’ve ever been to. My point is that this “excess” is not about being queer. It’s about being human.

And here’s the thing: As a conservative Christian, I was told things about the gay community and about Pride that were simply not true. I was told that the gay community is all about sex and promiscuity. I was told that the gay community was all about rebellion and completely anti-God and faith. I was told that the gay community was completely self-centered, childish and dysfunctional. I was told that gay people were broken and perverted and evil. I was told that there is an evil “gay agenda” that was anti-family and anti-God.

I remember driving through San Francisco during Pride one weekend many years ago. I was in the thick of “ex-gay” therapy, and I remember feeling like I couldn’t even look in the direction of the rainbow flags. It was an “evil temptation” and was to be avoided at all costs.

Nothing could be further from the truth. These beautiful people have been abused, rejected, marginalized, neglected and abandoned, and still they show grace and love, welcome and generosity. I see God in this community of people, and I’m honored to be welcomed as a cherished member.

I’m grateful for SF Pride, and I look forward to many more years of celebration with my beautiful community!

What has been your experience with Pride festivals? I’d love to hear from any of my FB friends who were at SF Pride or any other Pride Festival! Feel free to fill up the comments!