Looking over the parishioners, the Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins shows his wedding ring on his right, not his left hand. Until there is marriage equality, he and his partner in life and ministry will not move it.
“I really do believe in our lifetime, we’ll be able to put our band on our left hands,” he said.
Watkins, the senior pastor at Sunshine Cathedral, joined a nationwide movement on the eve of the Supreme Court hearings on California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Neither is in support of same-sex marriages. Across the country, more than 100 communities both secular and religious gathered in vigils to show support for marriage equality in the Light the Way to Justice movement.
For Watkins, his church’s community call to prayer was not only the eve of the Supreme Court hearings, but also the day of Passover, the beginning of the Christian Holy Week, as well as the anniversary of the Freedom March from Selma, Ala. to Washington D.C. The community came out in full force in support, with people’s cars spilling out into the roads for makeshift parking spots.
The church is a part of the metropolitan church movement that got its start in 1968, founded by LGBT Christians and their straight allies. The Sunshine Cathedral has about 600 people a week who come to worship, but more than 2,000 who come on the campus for its other services.
“We’re bringing the community together to affirm same-gender loving relationships, marriage equality, obviously in hope to do what we believe is the right things,” Watkins told SFGN. “It’s just part of our roots and our identity. We are rooted both in the Christian religion and the gay rights movement.”
During the call to prayer, religious leaders from all over South Florida — and even one from Naples — came in support of marriage equality, reading prayers and quotes of hope for a day that those sitting in the sanctuary, an arm lovingly wrapped around a shoulder, would one day be able to marry their loved one.
The Sunshine Cathedral choir sang songs of hope, “we teach the young our differences, but look how we’re the same.” The booming voices from the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida seemed to shake the church to its core, sending guests to their feet in applause. “’I dreamed a dream,’” they sang.
In a place where many LGBT people feel they’re not welcome, a house of worship, the Sunshine Cathedral dismisses ideas that the Bible scorns those who love someone of the same gender.
“I don’t think that’s what scripture is ever intended for. That is a profane use of a sacred text and it’s been done over and over,” Watkins said. “We see the message as being inclusive and justice seeking and affirming of the sacred value of all people. Of course there are people who disagree with us, but that is our stand.”
The Autonomous Playhouse puppeteers performed a short skit with handmade puppets, satirizing King Henry VIII and his changing the church in order to divorce his wife for another woman. Over the heads of the guests, a video of former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton announcing her support for same-sex marriage played, with people nodding their heads in agreement to her words.
The Rev. Dr. Lea Brown, senior pastor at MCC of the Palm Beaches, read a prayer she read on the eve of the Proposition 8 vote when she was living in San Francisco. Unfortunately, it passed, but she told the crowd her unwavering determination.
“May this be the last interfaith service to which we gather to pray for ,” she said, with a response of applause and whoops.
The Supreme Courts decisions on DOMA and Proposition 8 are expected to be announced in June.