Welcome to June and to National LGBTQ Pride Month!

If you are lesbian, gay,  bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex or gender fluid (in other words, if you don’t fit neatly into the tiny box of heteronormativity), where is your place in the life of the church? Or temple or mosque? Where can you worship? Where can you be all of who you are?

If you were telling the story, the full story of who you are, would that story include being rejected by your religion?  Your denomination? Your church, your temple, your mosque or your God?

Our religious histories have quite an impact on who we are, and our spiritual  journeys shape us. Therefore, one would hope that when you enter a religious institution of any sort that you’d be met with a radical welcome and an unconditional love — a love that is not based even a little bit on who you are or where you come from or what you look like or sound like.

One of my congregants wrote a beautiful song about the fact that we all need places of solitude where we are not judged. Some of you have that luxury while others are still working through the coming out process to yourself and/or to others with varying degrees of acceptance. In the postmodern world we live in, there are days when it seems the clock of progress has been reset to an earlier time. Since the current administration took office, hate crimes have been on the rise. This is cause for concern. It is also a call to continued activism; thus, I’m grateful for friends, allies and religious institutions who stand up for what is right, and by “what is right,” I mean things like protecting basic human rights, cherishing diversity, cultivating justice, showing kindness and radiating love.

Remember to find ways to nurture your beautiful spirit in the midst of political and religious debate over your value. Remember you are a person of worth and dignity, and you have a right to pursue happiness and to find a spiritual path that resonates with you.

During this month of National LGBTQ Pride, look for celebrations in various locations. The Salisbury Pride Festival will be on June 22nd. The Charlotte Pride celebrations (including a parade) take place in August. My congregation and others will be involved in both of these celebrations.

We want you to know there are welcoming spaces and welcoming people in our city. If you had told me 20 years ago that I’d one day be the minister of a church that supported all of us on our journeys, it would have been difficult to believe. While some religious bodies still uphold a stance against same-sex relationships, remember there are many places where you are welcomed just as you are, and we don’t have an agenda to change you, “fix” you or put you through some barbaric conversion therapy.

For those of you who know the pain of being shunned or rejected by religion, or worse, being damned by it just for being who you are, know that you are not alone. You have many allies. Perhaps you haven’t met us yet, but we are here, and we’d count it an honor to walk alongside you on your spiritual journey.

Albert Schweitzer said: “The path of awakening is not about becoming who you are. Rather it is about unbecoming who you are not.” Some of you have spent a great deal of time in life trying to be something or someone you aren’t. What an exhausting endeavor! So, during this National LGBTQ Pride Month, take a deep breath. Breathe in peace. Remember to nurture your spirit. Know you are loved, and may you be proud of exactly who you are.

Rev. Mary Frances Comer is lead minister at Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church, with locations in Charlotte and Salisbury, N.C. For more information, visit puuc.org.