Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Rainbow Clues

When I stepped onto the streets of Mexico City early Sunday morning, I quickly realized that I would be powerwalking alongside a half marathon. I couldn't detect much of what was being shouted over the loud speaker but I did discern that I was starting at what would be the end of their runs. I thrilled at the thought that I would have many sights to engage me as I accomplished my exercise for the day.

My other delight was in not having to worry about directions. The route I chose this day was an avenue that ran much of the length of the city -- Paseo de Reforma -- and included a very wide sidewalk that featured occasional parks at its side.

About four or five blocks from my hotel, I saw an old church. What caught my eye was actually the bright rainbow banner than hung outside one of the stained glass windows. I found myself getting choked up at the image and the bravery -- a church proudly proclaiming itself open to the gay community.

I wasn't that surprised at the location however. We had already discovered that our hotel was less than a block away from several gay bars. Several young men sought to make us smile with their antics one night as we sought out a restaurant.

Since I was in exercise mode, I didn't take the time to stop and explore the church -- what denomination, if any, it might be. Instead, I resolved that I would return later with my friend who I hoped would enjoy a photographic exhibit that the Museum of Art had posted outside along the avenue.

I did tear up when I told her about the church. She was impressed but wasn't quite up to another walk (having asked much of her ailing knees by climbing one of the pyramids the day before). So I took off on my own for a stroll and to investigate.

I didn't make it to the photos before my time ran short but I did end up at the church. I looked through the locked gate to see a sign posted in Spanish assuring me that this establishment didn't discriminate in regards to race, religion, age, or sexual orientation. I found myself impressed with such a bold statement by a church and also perplexed that we live in a day when such would have to be posted.

Then my eyes caught the posters pinned to the doors. Picking my way through what Spanish I knew on the announcements, it hit me. This wasn't a church. This was a bar -- a gay bar -- inside what was once a proud congregation.

So the permanent placard regarding discrimination wasn't from the church, I concluded. The bar wanted their acceptance made known.

Two evenings prior I had heard a British pastor speak of Mary's drying Christ's feet with her hair and challenging Baptist leaders from around the world heed the lesson of the story and to be more welcoming.

I wondered if any of them would be willing to fly a banner of their own?

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