Louie Crew's "Welcome to Samaria"

Welcome to Samaria

Louie Crew's Sermon
preached on the occasion of Integrity's 20th Anniversary Celebration,
during General Convention 1994
at Christ Church Cathedral, Indianapolis, IN
August 26, 1994

Welcome to Samaria!

My gaydar broke about 20 years ago, but I checked with some who have working gaydar and they have explained to me that we have many non-Samaritans with us tonight. Welcome!

I want you to know that when I go someplace where I have not been, I often feel uncomfortable - not because I think they're doing something wrong if they don't have persons making nice smells with a purse of incense, but I just don't know what to do myself to feel I'm a part of it. I want to do the maybe improper thing and tell you the ending, so you won't be uncomfortable.

For a few minutes you will be in Samaria. But the Rabbi who first came to visit us told us about this wonderful well. When it's over, we will go to that well, and we will drink living water together. And then we won't be Samaritans, Jews and Gentiles anymore. We won't be women and men anymore. We won't be anything except those who love one another and who are loved.

Do not be afraid. There is no hidden agenda to my love. Only love will be spoken here tonight. And you will like that!

Now in listening to the lessons, you may think I didn't read them. How will I be able to preach on them if I'm going to speak only love, because they talk so much about justice. If we start trying to live justice, we know how difficult it is. But I want to tell you how love, at least as God's love has blessed me, helps us to live justly. It's so simple you can almost miss it.

Several years ago I was teaching in the University of Wisconsin, where it is really cold and people don't speak the way I was brought up to speak (Alabama accent). I had a young student who was a rather attractive young man, but didn't have much between the ears. It became quite apparent early in the semester that Robert didn't have much chance of passing the course without some special help. So we scheduled (I offered at any rate) to have him come by my office with every paper he wrote in Freshman English. Bless Robert's heart. He did beautifully. He was there. The next paper wouldn't be that much better, but (nor is mine necessarily) we worked and we worked and we worked. And near the end of the semester, Robert got just enough better to pass that course with a C-minus, which was the best we were going to get from Robert. But he earned it, so that he could get out and do the work of the other courses. I was so happy. And he was happy too.

I didn't see Robert for maybe a year or year and a half. Back in those days I was still jogging. It very difficult to jog in the wintertime. But Spring was on its way and the world was, as e.e. cummings says, "puddle wonderful." I was out jogging around the lakes on our campus, trying to miss a puddle here and not slip there. And I looked ahead of me, and no farther than from me to Bp. Sims I saw Robert jogging through this wet, cold, but wonderfully bright lake area. And I was so happy to see him (That meant that he was still at the University!). I brightened up and I said "Robert!" And at that point Robert spat in my face and said, "Faggot!"

We are here tonight for the Roberts of the world.

Can you...can you imagine what it would be like to be Robert? Can you imagine what it would be like to be Robert's wife? Forget the spit on my face. Can you imagine what it would be to be Robert's daughter? Coming to your father with a need... any kind of need. Anything that stretched him to reach out to her? What we know as Christians on our journey, Robert so much needs. I knew in the moment that Robert's spit got in my eyes, just as Jesus talks about spittle taking scales off your eyes, that the Roberts of the world are vastly in need of love! We must learn how to speak that love.

You see, we're not here tonight to tell you how "good" we are. Quite frankly, we're going to have confession, and I hope you realize that we're not. We're not here to proclaim our righteousness, but God's infinite mercy, and God's love.

I don't understand this either! Why would God take an old quean like me, and love me? But, I've been asking myself over the last year, with so many celebrations and arthritis hitting in so many more places, what does it mean? Why did you choose me and others like me, God? What does this lesbian/gay movement mean to the world? And it's not to get you to love us. It really isn't. It's to tell you we've been loved by this wonderful Rabbi who brought us to this well. And to a rabbi in the Episcopal Church who came to say "There will be no outcasts in the Episcopal Church."

What love! What hope! I know people who are dying tonight because they haven't heard that good news. If we could make the Episcopal Church safe for sinners, we'd pack every church like this is tonight.

How many of you in this room who are now Episcopalians were as an adult not Episcopalian? [70% or more raised their hands.]

Well, Dick Grien is wrong. Dick Grien says in his book, and it's quoted in the Human Sexuality report, that 56% or 58% of adult Episcopalians once were members of other churches as adults. I was. I became an atheist to the god that I grew up to worship, and remain an atheist to a god of hate and fear. A god where I was supposed to be more afraid whether I danced or drank a beer than whether I knew anything about racial justice.

Most of us in the Episcopal Church have come to the Episcopal Church because we haven't had to hang our minds up at the door when we come in.

I don't know about you, but when I joined the Episcopal Church I really didn't think I believed in God, but I had discovered Episcopal prayers to talk to God in a pretty way. The wonderful thing about it is, God believed in me!

And God is always there in every one of those things; if you genuflect, or in raising your hands, or whatever your way of experiencing God's wonderful grace. God doesn't really quite care.

You see, so many people talk about faith as if it's our gift to God, and if you don't pay you don't get in. It's not that way at all! It's God's gift to us! We don't have anything to do with it! God already loves us.

There are people who are dying, not Samaritans only, people everywhere who are dying who may never know that God loves them unless they can see that God loves a tired old quean like me. And She does!

The man I married. (I know I'm not supposed to use that word, but right now I'm in Samaria... You notice I didn't say the man the church married me to, we did it ourselves in the presence of the Holy Spirit with the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. ) The man I married. I still don't understand him. And that's one of the great things about marriage. I, you may have noticed, have a ghetto mind. I hope I'm not defined by it but I'll willingly own up to it. But the man I married just doesn't seem to have one.

We were both enormously loved by both of our parents, which made it a lot easier to understand God's love. But I just didn't understand how, with all of the horrible things that happened, it never seemed to get to him at all. Maybe it was because he is African-American and just finally got his own coping mechanism that if you take it all seriously you'll never get through the day. I don't know.

Oh, once in awhile we would notice that in going to the grocery store in Ft. Valley, Georgia, that whenever we would go in together, all the people who worked in the grocery store, no matter what they were doing or how crowded it was, would go back behind the butcher's two-way counter and watch the faggots shop. And it would really get to me but it never got to him, and one day he noticed it was getting to me and rather impatiently he said, "Oh honey! They may gloat, but we're the stars!"

Ernest's reticence did bother me because you want in an intimate relationship for people to share with you pain and suffering of their own. You certainly don't want it to be only one way. Though if I subjected him to every one of my painful stories he'd tell me to get up and go on about my life and not worry about them. But one evening very early, maybe a year, into our relationship (a long time ago!), I said to him; "Baby, didn't they ever get to you? at least once?"

He moved the conversation into another register and said; "Well, I remember once when I was a child..." (And for once I remembered to shut up so he would tell me about it.)

And he said, "I was visiting my aunt in Florida, and I must have been 9 or 10 years old. Maybe 12 or 13, I don't remember. But, I had been down to the playground, and the boys had started teasing me about the way I walked.

And I said; 'What do you mean? What's wrong with the way I walk?'

And they said; 'Well, you walk like a girl.'

'Like a girl? What's like a girl about the way I'm walking?'"

They didn't want to play with him. He felt embarrassed, and he started on the way home. And he said that as he approached the house his aunt was out on the back screen porch. He couldn't see her but she could see him.

And as he came closer he was trying to walk this way, and then this way, but none of it was working right and it was all very awkward and he was really hurting.

She came off the porch, and he didn't see her come off the porch, and she was there in the back yard. And as they came up together she said,

"Boy, what you doing?"

(When we integrated the schools the white teachers didn't understand that little black children wouldn't look you in the eye because it's a respectful thing not to do so, and of course white people thought that they weren't respectful.)

But he lowered his eyes and he looked to the ground and said, "Ma'am?"

"What you doing?" "Nothin'" "But what you doing?"

"Walking."

"Walking?"

"Yas'm, just walking."

"But son, you been here how long? 8 weeks? I been watching you go over to that playground every day. You never walked like this! What you doing now is not walking!"

"Yas'm."

In a wonderful change in her mood, a gentleness, she came up and put her arms around him and said, "Son, did they tease you down at the playground?"

"Yas'm."

"About the way you walk?"

"Yas'm."

"Son, God gave you the legs that you have. And you've been walking on 'em pretty well until today. You can't be walking on nobody else's legs. God loves you just the way you are! You hear me?"


Listen to an audio recording of Crew delivering this sermon during General Convenition 1994,

Send mail to: lcrew@andromeda.rutgers.edu

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