Friday, October 06, 2006

Ceremonies for National Coming Out Day

My good friend and homo-mentor Michael forwarded two "Coming Out Day Ceremonies" for people in the religious communities from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) website. As National Coming Out Day is October 11th, I thought I'd pass along a sample of the ceremony, as well as the press release below.

It's fascinating, because in my Lutheran tradition, there is a religious ceremony for almost anything - from the dedication of a new home to commemoration of a stillborn infant. But mainline religious traditions neither see homosexuals as people of ceremony or ritual, not as people whose "coming-out" processes are bound-up in their journey of faith. So I found these two ceremonies a blessing.

As another mentor, Ted Menten, would say, I would not treat this as a "How-to" guide so much as a "how you might" guide. As the pamphlet itself says, these ceremonies were created by people whose faith and journey may be much different than my own. So do not let specific language or concepts in these ceremonies imprison or hinder you.

As a good friend says, "we are blessed to be a blessing..."
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Litany of Blessing

A worship leader invites all to stand for the following litany of blessing:

One: Blessed be God who calls us all out of our tombs of fear, who bids us live in with yet more spirit, in yet more truth, who surely did not bring us this far to leave us!
Many: Blessed be God forever.
One: Holy One, as we bless your name, bless us. Sustain all those who risk speaking truth despite the risk, witnesses to Your love and hope and mercy.
Many: Blessed are those who “come out”!
One: Temper the hearts of those who receive “coming out” stories, that disappointment may become honor, that confusion and shame may become empathy
and support, all according to your great mercy!
Many: Blessed are those who have ears to hear, whose hearts are open, to those who “come out”!
One: Embrace those who cannot “come out” because jobs or housing might be lost, because of fear of rejection from those they hold dear, because of hostility and threats of violence, because they might lose family, children, security
or shelter!
Many: Blessed are those who cannot “come out”! May they one day be free!
One: Encourage those who are weary of “coming out,” stand by them, nourish their tired spirits, sustain them in the long journey toward truth and justice!
Many: Blessed are those who keep “coming out”!
One: Build up this community in acceptance, faithfulness, forbearance, solidarity and love, make us sisters and brothers, make us one Body, that we might serve neighbors, strangers— even our enemies— in your gracious name.

- - -
Coming Out Day Rituals Released

Celebrate Coming Out Day with Jewish and Christian Resources

To view the Jewish resource, visit here
To view the Christian resource, visit here

In preparation for Coming Out Day on October 11th, we offer two imaginative and scripturally-grounded Coming Out Rituals, one written from the Jewish tradition by Jay Michaelson and the other from the Christian tradition by Dr. Scott Haldeman. These rituals take seriously the religious and spiritual grace we give to ourselves, our families and our friends when we live full and authentic lives.

We hope you'll consider using these rituals for Coming Out Day or to pull together a service for someone you love. Please also consider using them throughout the year, as coming out is something that can be celebrated at any time. We also hope that if you are not Jewish or Christian these rituals will spark ideas for other coming out rituals. No matter how or when you use these rituals, please write us at to let us know how you put them to use. To live honestly and openly is a holy act, and these rituals honor the holiness in all of us and in our faith communites.

For other Coming Out Rituals please vistit RitualWell
and The Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation

For regular Scriptural Commentaries from an LGBT and straight-allied perspective please sign up for Out In Scripture
by visiting

For weekly Jewish commentaries on the Torah passages please see
Torah Queeries at

You can also order free copies of HRC's resource Living Openly
in Your Place of Worship by writing us at


  1. Steve,

    While I hope I have profitted from reading you, this post is stretching, I think. While we all have strongly disagreeing positions on how to handle homosexuality in the Church, this liturgy as a liturgy seems flat to my ears.

    Our tombs of fear? If I personally wish to win over my opposition on any given issue, I want to establish common ground and repoire. I would simply want to ask you to have a challenging and respectable biblical hermeneutic in composing these liturgies (not at all insinuating that you are their author). "Tombs of fear" sounds like the moralizing one hears in the christendom you are rejecting.

    I mean no disrespect, and hope that while we can disagree on important issues, we can both attempt to think through the quality of liturgy and the Holy text. Grace to you.

  2. No need to tip-around, friend. In the end, I am more in love with the idea of these liturgies than the text of this particular liturgy.

    And I did encourage folks to read past the verbage of any one idea that might be offensive, and to take this as a "how you might" celebrate coming out in a tradition of faith rather than using these exact words.

    But having said that, I personally spent thirty-five years in the closet, out of fear of what others (family, friends, the Church) would do or think if they found me out.

    To me, a "tomb" is nothing more than a stone closet - and, as one starting his life over at nearly-50, invoking the image of a loving Savior saying, "Lazarus, come forth!" is a powerful one - even if the church who first gave me that verse would probably not have me as an "out" member. So this image resonates with me in a way that very well might not, for you.

    But I am not one who holds tight to dogma or theology. My threshold for disagreement and dissent has risen dramatically over the years, especially after my time at seminary. So yes, we can agree to disagree. This stuff is all adiaphora anyway - it's not at the heart of belief, by any means.

    As a wise friend once said, "I ain't seen, heard, smelt, touched or tasted anything so damn bad that we cain't talk about it."

  3. Blund raises an interesting point. Like you, Steve, I have no commitment to any particular liturgical formulation. What is interesting is the idea of ritualizing.

    As a Catholic who has lived through thirty-five years of on-going debates about liturgical formulae, I am well aware of the weakness of old forms AND of new forms, even (especially?)those created by trained professionals. No formulation of the creed can ever replace a heartfelt, "Lord, I believe!" No coming-out ceremony will ever replace the hesitant, courageous speech to a loved one, "I am gay."

    This doesn't mean that formulae have no place. After all, liturgy is not about me, it is about "we". That is why in the liturgy I pray psalms that may be sad on days when I personally am happy. In my public prayer, I pray as part of the great WE, many of whom are sad and suffering that day. Liturgical formulae help me move beyond my self-abosrbed spiritual experience. Effective liturgy (a pure gift of God to and through God's people) does that without giving us a feeling of being forcibly wrenched out of place.

    Also, we must remember that liturgy -- "the work of the people" -- takes many forms. It includes acts of sorrow and repentance, which do not sound like acts of praise and adoration, although they are intimately connected. Liturgies for funerals are not the same as liturgies for weddings or blessings of schools. Perhaps an underlying question in any ritual is: What are we celebrating and how is that best expressed in a way that engages the whole person? It is not about having a public lecture on the dangers of the closet, but there may be a place for something like a reading of inspirational texts followed by a reflection. It is not a time for performance, but there may be a place for singing and movement. And so on.

    As an aside, I have always thought that rituals that required lengthy explanations before and/or during the ritual were lifeless. The power of symbol is that it cannot be reduced to mere explanations. When we explain too much, we risk reducing the evocative power of the symbol of fire, water, oil, bread.

    Back to what I began to say in the beginning. The best ritual will be about affirming something, not about denouncing something else. Nonetheless, the baptismal rite ask us to renounce Satan and all his empty promises. Whatever we do when we come out (whether we want to call it out of a closet or a tomb or the darkness of fear), we do renounce something that has held us prisoner -- even if some of the chains are of our own forging.

  4. Actually, folks, I understand your concerns and as a person of faith myself I share your reservations, but I just want you to know that as came to the blog and as I read the post, I found it to be what it was - a "blessing". I needed to hear it.