This past Sunday, San Francisco showcased two communities of people celebrating different stories of victory, love, and liberation. One of these groups celebrated on a popular downtown street amidst decorations of rainbow flags, colorful streamers, and an assortment of interesting people. The other gathered in a small room centered on remembrance, worship, broken bread and juice. I got to experience both of them.
My wife and I moved to San Francisco from St. Louis about five weeks ago for the purpose of helping Redemption Church share the story of Jesus. We were excited to learn how to do so while engaging the rough religious climate of the city–which includes a deeply-rooted homosexual pride. We viewed this past weekend’s LGBT Pride Festival and Parade as an opportunity to learn and grow, so we traveled downtown to engage in the action.
We experienced a massive celebration of almost epic proportions. An estimated 1.5 million people stood scattered down Market Street engaging in laughter, music, dancing, decoration, food, and, what appeared to be, sheer joy. The celebration included people from all neighborhoods throughout San Francisco, representing citizens from multiple countries all over the world, and several major organizations. The parade, with over 200 marching groups, included high influencers and celebrities from Mark Zuckerberg, to Chaz Bono to Santa Claus. We stood on a tightly-packed street corner, pressed up against a metal guard rail and watched the parade unfold. The roaring cheers and blasting music intrigued and overwhelmed both of so, that we just stood in silence and watched for hours.
Floats passed by, motorcycled revved their engines, and we saw naked people. Politicians spoke with passionate words of rally, while street evangelists spoke of fire and brimstone. We ate awesome food, talked with nice people, and took the #5 bus home. It was an experience we will never forget, and the memories have captured our thoughts and conversations for the past week– and likely will for weeks to come.
After taking a couple of days to reflect on the things we saw downtown on Sunday, my wife and I have concluded that the experience has done nothing but grow our love for San Francisco and the people in it. Some Christians would ridicule other believers for being at the Pride Parade, but frankly, I was proud to be a member of Redemption Church and be present among what was happening. For good or ill, the Pride Parade shows a reflection of what is San Francisco. As a member of Redemption Church and a follower of Christ, I love San Francisco as it is–because that is what Christ did and does–he takes us where we are and loves us. We then love because He first loved us.
If there is one thing that I know about Redemption Church, after being here for such a short time, it is that Redemption is a place to belong and a place to be loved. Jesus was in the business of welcoming and loving–and Redemption Church is a place to experience just that, no matter where you live or what you believe in. Reflecting on the Parade, the one thing that I want each person to know is that there is another community who loves them and a God who loves them even more and wants them to belong in him.
Looking forward, I am genuinely excited for the future of Redemption Church and the role it will play in showing San Francisco the love of Christ. Our city is beautiful, inside and out. And if youlove San Francisco, even a hint of how much my wife and I have fallen in love with it, you can imagine the infinitely more-massive amount of love that God has for it and every person within it.
JOE SLAVICH / / JULY 10TH, 2013