By Pam Brokaw
May 16, 2016 | Portland, Oregon
A Wesleyan message of God’s love for all children rocked the packed Portland’s First Congregational Church Friday night as the Indigo Girls musically preached to a sold out show. Momma’s Boyz, Kingdom Krew and J Mase III also brought opening acts of rap and poetry as a heavy base beat often surged through the church sanctuary reminiscent of a camp meeting powered by electronics and a roomful of people who joyfully danced and applauded.
The fundraiser was sponsored by the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN). “It’s a witness to the fact that the tide is turning for LGBT inclusion,” said RMN Executive Director Matt Berryman as he looked out at the full house. Methodist clergy, including retired Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, attended showing their support and appreciation for the performers and the work of the RMN.
Interviewed before the show, Bishop Talbert said he was a fan of the Indigo Girls. He said his children are, too. “I’m going to call them tomorrow and say ‘Guess What?’ They’ll be envious.”
Concert goer Kate Forster tried to sit still as she waited for the lights to go down and the show to start. Forster drove six miles from Enterprise, Oregon, to see the Indigo Girls. She’s been a fan for 10 years going back to college days.
According to its website, “Reconciling Ministries Network envisions a renewed and vibrant Wesleyan movement that is biblically and theologically centered.” The group seeks to mobilize “…United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to transform our church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love.”
Volunteers in purple T-Shirts that said “It’s Time,” showed people to their seats as they handed out purple fans with the same words. The words are part of a campaign calling for the United Methodist General Conference endorsement of full inclusion of LGBT clergy and church members.
The movement for inclusion has yet to gain approval from the General Conference. Last week, the General Conference voted down proposed Rule 44 which would have provided a way to engage complicated and controversial issues, such as issues around sexuality, in a conversational manner.
At the concert, however, as the church rocked and volunteers moved about opening stain glass windows to let in the cool evening air, the moment was one of solidarity and celebration.
“This is a lovefest,” said Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls. “We’re here to support the work of the RMN. It’s time. There’s a lot of people who haven’t given up on the Methodist Church yet.”
Before the Indigo Girls duo of Saliers and Amy Ray dazzled the crowd with deeply personal songs of their own journeys, the rapper/singing duo of Momma’s Boyz began its set calling people to “VOTE.” The duo’s rendition of Glory, the theme song from the movie Selma, immediately infused the evening with a musical energy of meaning and beat. The duo was later joined by Kingdom Krew making its rapper debut that brought the clergy-filled audience to its feet.
J Mase III brought an intense message about white privilege and his search for freedom as a black, trans person. “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love one another and protect each other. We have nothing to lose but our own chains,” Mase shouted as the audience enthusiastically repeated the message.
Warmed by the heat of the evening and the fire of the opening acts, the Indigo Girls took the stage as they sang favorites well known to many sitting in the church pews. Their message was poignant and loving and the theme of faith moved through their lyrics like Holy Spirit bringing truth and life.
The song “Let it Ring” resonated as an anthem for the evening as well as the faithful efforts of the Reconciling Ministries Network seeking a church united in the Gospel.
“I’m gonna let it ring to Jesus,” went the song. “’Cause I know he loves me too. And I get down on my knees and I pray the same as you. Let it ring. Let it ring. ‘Cause one day we’ll all be free.”
Pam Brokaw serves as pastor at the Castle Rock and Winlock United Methodist Churches in Washington. She is a member of the PNW Media team serving at General Conference 2016.