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Week of Action LGBTQIA+ day includes homage to Mister Rogers

Worship service, poetry/story slam bookend day dedicated to highlighting Queer Community

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Cecilie Johnsen via Unsplash

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — On Wednesday, Aug. 25, the Presbyterian Week of Action will turn its attention to the LGBTQIA+ community with events including a children’s story time and a poetry and story slam.

“I hope that people will understand that the LGBTQIA+ community is just that: a community,” says the Rev. Ashley DeTar Birt, a member of the planning team for the day. “It’s a community filled with a variety of different people, different voices, different perspectives, all united in the fact that we’re all created in the image of God. We are all blessed with the same saving grace of Christ. We are all connected through the same Holy Spirit flowing through every one of us.”

The Second Annual Presbyterian Week of Action, Aug. 23-29, is designed to bring attention and action to people and communities living under different forms of oppression, a response to the PC(USA)’s Matthew 25 invitation and Hands & Feet initiative. It is seven days with online  events each day designed to illuminate the issues the focus group for the day face.

Visit the Week of Action website for information on all days and an overview of the week

“The PC(USA) has come a long way but still has a long way to go to be a leader in prophetic love and celebration of all in the Queer community,” says Courtney Hoekstra, Associate for Advocacy Committee Support in the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “As Queer folx, we bring something powerful and essential to the table when we’re able to live into our truest and best selves. This day is a small step in the direction of the PC(USA) acknowledging just that.”

Among Wednesday’s events will be “Mr. Chance’s Church,” a children’s story time featuring DeTar Birt playing a variation on a familiar Presbyterian icon.

“I’ve been a drag king longer than I’ve been an ordained pastor, and I’ve been working with young people and telling stories longer than I’ve been a drag king,” says DeTar Birt, whose resumé includes a bachelor’s degree in theater. “I’m also originally from Pittsburgh, so Mister Rogers has always held a special place in my heart.

The Rev. Ashley DeTar Birt

“My hope and prayer is that, through ‘Mr. Chance’s Church,’ people of all ages will see that drag can be a tool to embody character and to add to storytelling in a fun, Spirit-filled, enriching way. Just as Mister Rogers was a pastor who ministered to children through story and care, I hope that I, through Mr. Chance, can do the same.”

Also slated for the day is a morning worship service led by the Rev. Jessica Vazquez Torres and an evening virtual poetry and story slam featuring people in the Presbyterian LGBTQIA+ community telling their stories.

This is the schedule for the day (all times Eastern):

9 a.m. — Chapel service

10 a.m. — Daily prayer

Noon — Children’s story time: Mr. Chance’s Church, “Who is My Neighbor?” (Repeats at 8 p.m.)

7 p.m. — Poetry/Story Slam with participants from around the country

All events will stream on the Week of Action webpage. LGBTQIA+ facts will also be shared throughout the day on the PC(USA) social media pages, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Courtney Hoekstra (Screenshot)

“While it is only one day, the hope is that it reflects a radical expression of love, joy, resistance, and resilience — qualities often hard-won by those who must choose to celebrate who God made them to be in the face of many messages to the contrary,” Hoekstra says.

DeTar Birt says, “Our Book of Order talks about ‘Unity in Diversity.’ It is my belief that, by having days like this, by having weeks like this Week of Action, we truly live into that call. By highlighting and uplifting the diverse faces and needs in our community, we are bringing ourselves closer to God.”

This is the first of seven stories detailing each day of the Week of Action.

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