Saturday, 10 December 2011

Back in the Pulpit

I liked my work at Gordon Fabrics but I was trained to be a minister in a congregation. The Rev Bob Wolfe was a well liked Pastor but his health was not the best so he decided to return to the US. The Rev. David Gunton from Ontario was 'called' to replace him and he ministered to us for a couple of years - and then he left to go to Tucson.

Some of the congregants - and especially some of the women (knowing my background) - asked me to apply for the vacant position. I did - and was accepted. The UFMCC (Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches) held a General Conference every two years and, in 1981, the church in Houston, Texas was the host. I attended and my 'Call' was ratified.

The General Conference lasted for a week commencing on Monday and finishing with the Service on the following Sunday and, at that service, the new Elders and we new clergy were commissioned.

Getting to Houston was interesting. The Conference was at the end of July and, on the Thursday of the week before, was the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and The Lady Dianna. Also, on the weekend following the Royal Wedding, was the 'Gay Rodeo' in Reno, Nevada. As some of my Vancouver buddies were going there I included that event in my itinerary.

I flew from Vancouver to Reno on United Airlines. In those days it was United that gave passengers a 'scenic tour' on their way to a destination. As this was three months after the eruption of Mount St. Helens, the pilot of our aircraft flew south on the east side of the Coast Mountains and, when we arrived in the vicinity of the mountain, he dipped to the right so we could see the blasted crater and the peripheral damage. That was an ugly sight.

We were billeted by members of the Reno based 'Leather/Levi' Club and my hosts were two delightful men. I was amused by the first words out of the mouth of one of them - "Did you watch the Royal Wedding?" I had seen the beginning of the pomp and ceremony, went to bed, and then watched the conclusion after I got up the next morning. My hosts had remained up all night to watch while I - a subject of their majesties - had gone to sleep!

The rodeo was amateurish but fun - and I did meet some neat guys in the stands and around the grounds afterwards. On the following day I flew from Reno to Dallas and then a brief hop on to Houston.

I do not remember too much about that Conference. However, we Vancouverites were billeted in a nurses residence a couple of blocks from a shopping area. In the evening we would walk over to the local IHOP for a bite to eat. This was in August, the weather was hot and humid and, on the walk along the sidewalks, I saw some cockroaches that made the ones that I saw while I was in Brisbane seem like pygmies!

When the Conference ended I flew back to Vancouver via the now defunct Frontier Airlines. This was the first day of a US Air Traffic Controller strike. While the weather was OK, there were big billowy clouds in the sky. At one point we flew into a clear area and, down below us and, flying diagonally to our path, was another aircraft! That gave me pause although, in all likelihood, both pilots were in communication with each other.

My being the Pastor of MCC-Vancouver made me a 'dignitary' in the local Gay Community and there were 'perks'. Already the 'Royal Court' was well established and, copying the drag community in San Francisco, there was an annual Coronation Ball which I was obligated to attend. It was held on one evening each spring in a ballroom upstairs above some shops on Granville Street. The whereabouts of the Ball was well known so each of us had to 'run the gauntlet' of jeering 'macho males' while on our way in. I never experienced any physically negative actions though.

Because of my position in the community I had to make an 'Entrance'. I stood at the edge of the crowd on the opposite side to the stage until my name (and position in the community) were called, then I had to walk across that 'sprung' dance floor in the blinding glare of the spotlights to the stage, up the steps and then salute the 'retiring monarchs'.

Each of those balls had a 'theme' and, one year, it was 'Royalty'. At intermission I was trying to cross the hall in the area in front of the biggest bar. Suddenly I heard a booming male voice yell, "Get off of my train". It was the butch 'Empress of Seattle' dressed as Marie Antoinette - her train was yards long and she/he had no one assigned to hold it up.

Cleopatra was there too - as was Evita Peron!

There was a source of tension between the 'Drag community' and we of the leather/levi group - the former always expected that we of the latter would build the backdrops needed for the Ball. They were refused each time.

There were other aspects of my pastorate that I will discuss in following blogs.

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