“What kind of Christians are you?”

I was ready for the question as I stood with Laura G. at our SUMC table on the Andy Warhol Bridge on the first day of Pride weekend in Pittsburgh. I had been advised that some in the LGBTQ+ community wouldn’t want churches sharing in their celebration. Many had been hurt and frustrated and abandoned by churches.

“What kind of Christians are you?”

I was ready for the question, expecting it to come with resentment, with contempt, with suspicion and distrust.

“What kind of Christians are you?’

The question came from two young women, probably teens, drawn to our tables by the rainbow assortment of lollipops Laura brought, and the rainbow-colored eyelashes Laura was wearing. “Love the lashes” echoed throughout our afternoon.

The young women accepted the lollipops, probably watermelon, because everyone wanted watermelon, and then paused over our literature celebrating inclusiveness.

“What kind of Christians are you?”

And I pointed to the scripture, taken from Luke’s Christmas story, that I had taped to the table. I took it from the angel who heralded the birth of Jesus. “Good news… great joy… all people.”

They smiled and thanked us for being there.

Alyx, Felicity, Eric, Mitch, and Bill at our booth

Another young woman, accepting the lollipop and admiring Laura’s lashes, said, “I’m an atheist, but it is good to know there are some Christians who really do love their neighbors.”

Another said she was on a path to become a Methodist minister in Massachusetts and took a fistful of our literature. Another saw her grandmother’s church on the short list of inclusive Methodist churches in the Pittsburgh area.

“I go there with her every Christmas. That’s so good to know.”

And there was zero resentment, or contempt, or suspicion, or distrust, on display.

I was reminded of mission trips I’ve made to Honduras and the Dominican Republic. You think you’re carrying Jesus to other people and other places, and you find He’s already there, waiting for you.

You will never convince me that Jesus wasn’t in the crowd, and with the crowd, and driving the crowd that lined the streets Sunday as many of us from SUMC joined other United Methodists and marched together in the Pride parade. The cheering and the applause for everyone marching—churches, Giant Eagle people, the Carnegie Library, Uber drivers—was unrelenting.

We were hugged and high-fived, and Genevieve and Felicity must have each been stopped for photographs a dozen times as they carried rainbow signs.

Marching down 5th Avenue

It was clear that “we” weren’t guests at “their” parade. It was OUR parade, a celebration of an us that excluded no one and embraced everyone; it was a gathering of the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted, the poor in spirit, those who hunger & thirst for righteousness…

“Best parade ever,” Genevieve said as we reached the end. “So reaffirming,” Susie said in the same moment.

When you’ve been battered by exclusion, you have two choices: you can retreat into resentment, or demonstrate inclusion. Demonstration can be overwhelmingly convincing.

What kind of Christians are you?

We’re hoping to be the kind of Christians who love and welcome and include with the same energy and same encouraging, elevating, enveloping spirit that welcomed us on Pride weekend.