My Dad wrote this sermon years ago… I just today discovered it in the archive of his sermons he left behind when he died. I just have to share it.
Dad, I miss you so much. You have forever touched our lives, and there is no way to express gratitude of such magnitude. Thank you.
TOUCHING AND BEING TOUCHED
(Dated July 16, 2004)
by Rev. Fred Anderson, Sturbridge, MA
It has been twelve years since my son Gregory and I first shared a pulpit... together. The gathering, within the sanctuary of the First Congregational Church of Shrewsbury, MA, was for a Service of Prayer, Healing and Thanks sponsored by the local Ecumenical AIDS Support Group. The evening’s somber, hope filled experience is still deeply etched upon my memory. The scripture lesson for the event focused on two women who were healed when touched by Jesus (Matthew 9:14-26). Gregory and I spoke of the special ways that we had touched and had been touched by each other’s life and faith, resulting in remarkable transformation of awareness, perspective and understanding for both of us!
At the time, Gregory had just been graduated magna cum laude from Clark University and was serving as the first Youth and Young Adult Coordinator for the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns. Also, at that time, I was serving in my tenth year as the senior pastor of United Congregational Church in Worcester (MA).
But that was twelve years ago!
Before that time was the time when Gregory was quietly discovering who he was and who he wasn’t. Throughout his high school years at the Worcester Academy, Gregory long ago explained that he knew. He knew he was different. He knew he felt differently and perceived things differently then his closest of friends and classmates. But, with whom could he confide and talk openly about what he realized?
I still sense the painfully lonely, isolated struggle that Gregory experienced as he was discovering the special person God created him to be. The thought that I might have a gay son, at that time, never entered my ever cluttered, frequently preoccupied mind!
Gregory needed to talk with someone! Within his family, he chose to speak first with his mother, Alison. In that initial time of sharing, I have since learned, both Gregory and his Mom each found more than either could have ever imagined. Each touching and being touched by the embracing empathy and overflowing love of that candid, caring time together.
My conversation with Gregory concerning this remarkable reality came two days later, when we were in the car together. It was a moment in time I shall never, ever forget! “But Gregory, how do you know you’re gay?” I caringly questioned. “Dad, how do you know you’re straight?’ he impulsively replied. After a long, pause of parental reflection, I questioned again: “When did you first realize you are gay?” “Dad, when did you first realize you are straight?” This unforgettable conversation soon proceeded beyond questions, through a poignant period of tearful silence, into a mutually experienced moment of deeply felt embrace and affirmation. Much like the great Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, I, too, experienced transformation on the road to Worcester. The conversation that Gregory and I shared together on that memorable afternoon gently pushed, onto a new and much higher level, my rapidly growing awareness of the inclusive, embracing, affirming love of God through Jesus Christ!
In the next few years Gregory threw himself into working with AIDS Project Worcester, and then in starting Supporters of Worcester Area Gay and Lesbian Youth, which in 1995 became the focus of a 60-minute WGBH (Boston public television) documentary entitled “When a Kid Is Gay.” “I restarted SWAGLY,” Gregory explained, “because I realized that lesbian and gay youths in the Worcester area had no place to go except the streets when they wanted to make contact with a community of people who understood their differences.”
Today Gregory and Steve, his wonderful partner, live in Santa Fe, New Mexico where Gregory manages technical resources for the College of Santa Fe and also teaches in its Contemporary Music Department. Steve is a psychotherapist in private practice. Their remarkable lives are continually touching others and being touched.
Going back into the pulpit in Shrewsbury that we shared together twelve years ago at that memorable AIDS Service, I can yet recall Gregory explaining “like Jesus, we are all healing each other every day just by being present. By doing what we do and living as we live and touching the people we touch, we are constantly spinning threads of love and thought.”