Soulforce declared Nov. 6-12, 2005 a "National Week of Prayer and Vigils" to help change the hearts and minds of the Roman Catholic Church’ hierarchy as the U.S. Catholic Bishops met in Washington, D.C. For the first time Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) and DignityUSA collaborated with Soulforce to collectively pray together. Thousands of people prayed the special prayer that was written specifically for the week. Letting the Spirit lead us, the focus this year was more on prayer than in the past. Several cities held vigils, trainings, letter writing programs, as well as educational movies, and special Masses. They have shared their powerful experiences with us.
Soulforce Southwest Florida
Soulforce Southwest Florida held a vigil in front of the Chancellery of the Diocese of Venice from 4:30 to 5:30 pm on 10 November 2005. We had 18 people including two priests (one Episcopal and one Roman Catholic), a pastor of Trinity MCC Church in Sarasota, and the Moderator of the UFMCC Church, Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson.
In addition we had the president of the Sarasota PFLAG, the coordinators of INTEGRITY SWFla, and the former President of DIGNITY Sarasota.
We began last month with a proposed letter asking Bishop John Nevins of the Diocese of Venice to speak with a committee about the approaching Conference of Bishops in Washington. The five person committee consisted of the representatives of Soulforce, MCC, Dignity, Integrity, and PFLAG. The letter was then taken to meetings of all of the groups and additional signatures were asked for. We had a total of 42 signatures on the letter sent to the Bishop.
At the vigil we asked everyone to wear white or red t-shirts, and made a Rainbow stole (a la the ones used at ELCA in Orlando) for each individual to wear. There were large signs for each group and the Soulforce banner, and if the vigilers did not hold one of these they held one of the "STOP spiritual violence" signs.
Soulforce Denver staged a silent vigil Saturday afternoon outside the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception to dramatize the devastating effects caused in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people by Catholic Church hierarchy’s public statements and actions and to bear witness to the intrinsic dignity and worth evident in the lives of LGBT people. Earlier in the day, we also staged a workshop including a panel discussion and training in nonviolence.
The 25 members who participated in the workshop and vigil felt it was "powerful", "organized" and "excellent". The three panelists, Rick Smith, Bob Popovich, and Randy Cummings (all leaders in various local faith communities) led an especially engaging discussion.
Ann Minzer, a 70-year-old woman with stage 4 breast cancer and stage 4 lung cancer was so excited about the opportunity to participate, wrote to Soulforce Denver afterward, saying:
"Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to participate in the Vigil today! I appreciate your caring and being so protective of me… This was a truly pivotal day in my life. As I stood on the corner… I asked myself, ‘Why does this make me so happy?’ I meditated as I watched the cars go by, heard the honks, heard someone ask, ‘What is spiritual violence?’ and the reply, ‘I don’t know’, and listened to the one man and his ‘finely’ dressed wife, still wearing a name tag from some event, walk in front of our line and sneer as he read the signs out loud. The answer came to me. I was so happy and peaceful because I had broken the bonds of cancer and felt ‘real’ again!!!
Many hugs, Ann Minzer"
Soulforce St. Louis
Our vigil was more exciting than usual. We had approximately 55 people attending. A group of about 40 ‘counter vigilers’ appeared. We were on the steps of the cathedral. They processed back and forth on the sidewalk in front of us, saying the rosary, and singing ave maria. We’re not sure what group they were from. There is a COURAGE group here, so that could be it. The women all wore LONG skirts, no pants. A few seminarians.
As our vigil ended, the police arrived, having been called by the good priests in the rectory above, to get us off the steps. Our group shook hands and greeted the counter vigilers, sharing viewpoints, etc. All remained peaceful. This is the 2nd year that Catholic Action Network has joined Soulforce in our vigils.
Soulforce New York City
On Nov 16th, Soulforce NYC sponsored and Interfaith Prayer Vigil and Writing Campaign at the St Francis Xavier Catholic Church (Jesuit) in New York. The Vigil coincided with the actual US Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in DC. The bishops at the Conference were informed of this service. Close to 70 people attended this deeply moving service which was presided by clergy and representatives of 10 traditions,. They included straight, gay, lesbian, and transgendered people representing the faith traditions: MCC Church, Episcopal, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, Buddhist, Methodist, Dutch Reformed and Catholic.
The pastor of St Francis Xavier and the Catholic nun who established the St Francis Gay and Lesbian Catholics Group 13 years ago greeted the group warmly and presided as well. DignityNY also presided and prayed with us for the Spirit to touch the hearts and minds of our bishops and all our religious leaders. After the prayer service, participants were asked to sign two letters, one to the United Methodists’ Juridical Committee and the other to Archbishop Edwin O’Brien who is heading up the Vatican site visits to all American Catholic Seminaries. People also received training on writing their own personal letters to the Archbishop or to The Juridical Committee as people of various spiritual paths concerned about the grave injustices being handed down to LGBT people and their families. Music during the service was provided by the well known gay musician, Gerry Dieffenbach.
St Francis Xavier extended their welcome and hospitality afterwards with a wonderful reception. A week later people are still talking about that evening. It was truly a night of many miracles for us as we shared with each other and in a Catholic Church. The tone was serious as everyone knows what we face. But it was also celebratory in that we were all together-in one heart-with many faces. This is our vision for the world. SoulforceNYC was deeply moved and honored to have convened this event.