For the early part of my adult life I was a Christian fundamentalist believing in evil spirits, generational curses, and the desperate need to reach out to a lost and dying world. As a fresh-faced 19 year old in Glory Tabernacle, the little storefront Pentecostal Holiness church I attended on West 106th Street in NYC, I frequented prayer meetings, where with my brothers and sisters, I faced the four directions screaming against demonic warlords. One day our Pastor Willy announced that in order to take authority over “principalities and powers of darkness” he felt called to organize the first ever NYC March for Jesus. Think of it as Christian Pride Parade in church drag.
Unable to get support from other pastors who had their own fiefdoms to protect, our tiny congregation marched alone. Picture it: Central Park West shutdown from 72nd Street to 59th on a Saturday morning as 30 born-again Christians in their Sunday best marched with banners proclaiming Jesus’ triumphant reign over New York City. The police set up barriers in vain because no spectators lined up to see us, just the occasional dog walker or parent with child who stopped momentarily as we waved at them and pleaded the blood of Jesus.
That was in 1987. Fast forward to 2014 and the 350,000+ people jamming Central Park West for the People’s Climate March. I saw pagans addressing the four directions beseeching their blessings. I heard people from many nations crying out against the powers and authorities who make money as they pollute the atmosphere, and I felt the urgency to save a sick planet overburdened with endangered earth dwellers.
At their core the two messages from these two different periods are similar. Repentance and Salvation. Renewal and Revival. Renunciation of Past Evils and the Promise of a Better Future.
On Sunday I stood on West 83rd Street, two blocks from my former apartment. Assembled with the Queers for the Climate we promoted a “gay agenda” unlike anything Pastor Willy ever preached against. Cleaner air, justice for those most affected by environmental damage, and a commitment to consider the intersections of gender, race, class, and nationality. Marching the same route nearly 30 years later, I remembered my former days and felt grateful for personal growth and a growing movement.
Recently I began working on a new podcast (check out the short, fun, audio confection: Climate Stew Podcast) In 1995 I left NYC to train in the UK as a radio presenter and producer for a new position running a station in Zambia. In a little studio in West Bromwich, England, I learned how to record and edit radio programs. Then I moved to Zambia and became an on-air presenter and programme manager. Years later I find these skills still in place, albeit a little rusty (need to work on levels!)
In the old days at church we talked about God doing a new thing and the need for new wine in new wineskins and the creation of a new heaven and earth. These days those concepts are still real to me, but in a completely different way.