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NYCUCC Sharing God's Love at New York State Fair

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Stories from the Fair

For fifteen years, Focus on Awareness and Information Resources of New York has hosted the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (“LGBT”) Booth at the New York State Fair. This Booth provides educational resources on issues ranging from bullying of LGBT youth, discrimination facing members of the LGBT community in employment, housing and health issues, the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (“GENDA”), marriage equality and protection of LGBT families. 

As part of several themed days during the duration of the Fair, the New York Conference for has been a principal sponsor of “Faith Days. ” I am proud to add here that our Conference has been a principal sponsor of Faith Days since its inception in 2011. Faith Days is made possible thanks not only to the Conference, but also the financial support the following individual congregations:  Journey UCC, Eastside Congregational Church, the First Congregational Church of Norwich, and Presbyterian New England Congregational Church of Saratoga Springs.   We are grateful not only to these churches, but to those individuals who volunteered to work at the Booth from the New York Conference during Faith Days:  David and Marcie Agee, Chris Xenakis, Susan Fast, Paul Dreher-Wiberg, Becky West, and Janet Abel, who with yours truly ‘put a face’ on the importance of our witness as an Open and Affirming Conference.

There are many things to love about the New York State Fair – butter, sand, and ice sculptures, farm animals of all kinds, rides, games, performances by major artists (Melissa Etheridge performed a free concert as part of the Fair’s first ever Pride Day), and of course, culinary delights such as Bacon-flavored lemonade, fried bubble gum, and a 1,600 calorie sandwich aptly titled the defibrillator (I’m not kidding about any of these).

What I love most about the Fair are the stories we hear from people who come to the Booth.  Among them we heard from:

  • The woman who signed the petition for GENDA in support of her transgendered brother who recently made his transition from female to male at age twenty one and whose bisexual daughter purchased a flag to show her pride;
  • The eighty-two year old man who stops by the Booth every year who is a charter member of SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) in Syracuse and was a drag queen in the fifties.  A youth, I suspect not good-intentionally, asked him “What makes you gay?”  Without missing a beat, the response was “What makes you straight? “
  • The parents who were so proud of their ten year-old daughter who came out to them last week and who has been doing anti-bullying posts of Facebook (we need to sign her up for something!);
  • The couple who after some time decided to purchase two ‘normal’ rainbow flags;
  • The millennials who wanted lots of ‘God Loves Equality’ stickers to sprinkle around as a sort of exorcism another booth where other believers had on display a box with the following question:  “Where will you be when you look like this?” In the box was (hopefully) an artificial skull (I’m not kidding here either);

At the LGBT Booth we talked with members of New York Conference congregations who stopped by, referred others to New York Conference congregations (including a father and daughter who lived literally down the street from Emmanuel UCC in Massena), and welcomed with joy anyone who wanted (or not) to stop in.    Hopefully people were blessed by our presence at the Booth.  I certainly will say from stories such as those above we were blessed by theirs.  If you have not come to the Booth or to the Fair, please prayerfully consider doing so in 2016.  Save the date(s):  August 27 and 28, and your culinary daring accordingly.  It is both a fulfilling and fun way to be an evangelist for the New York Conference, the United Church of Christ, and for God’s extravagant welcome.

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