Words escape me when I think about how much Rev. Jim Gertmenian of Plymouth Congregational Church has meant to Minneapolis, and to me personally. They escape me when I know he is fighting a battle with cancer. And they escape me when I remember all he has done for the community, and for so many individuals.
But words don’t escape him, and so many times he has used the power of his sermons and talks to inspire us to be better. So as we send him our prayers, I encourage you to read the words below that he used to comfort members of our city in 2004 in the wake of a series of elections that threatened the rights and lives of the LGBT community. I last thought of this sermon at a far better time: as Jim and I stood on the steps of the City Hall Rotunda on August 1 of this year and conducted together the first legal same-sex marriage in Minnesota, of our friends Margaret Miles and Cathy ten Broeke. And I think of these words how when he needs all of us to create the sanctuary for him that he has created for so many of us.
God bless you, Jim. We are with you every step of the way.
“In my closing minutes, I want to address a few, more focused words to those in our congregation who are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgendered and to your family members and friends. A number of you have written or spoken to me in the last few days to say how dismayed you were to see amendments against gay marriage and, in some cases, even gay civil rights, being passed by large margins in eleven states. Some of you spoke of feeling frightened, imagining, as well you might, that a new wave of hatred and fear is about to wash over you. You feel betrayed by a country that promised to value every human being equally … and perhaps even more damaging, you feel betrayed by representatives of a religion that claims love as its foundational value. I understand your fear. Many of us here at Plymouth do. But I want to remind you that this spasm of hatred is the lashing out of a dying dragon. This dragon, homophobia, is angry because it is dying. And it is frightened because it is dying. And in its anger and its fear it may even seem stronger than it really is. But it is dying. What is being born is the love of God which will show forth in a time in which your God-given value will be recognized by all. In the meantime, though, I want you to know this: Whatever happens anywhere else, in this place, and in this family, you need not be afraid. Even if every state in the Union were to pass an amendment, these walls stand to protect you. This is a sanctuary where your lives will be celebrated, and your loves blessed, and your relationships honored. And from this place we will go out and fight together for human rights for all. That is a solemn covenant which we here make with one another. And woe to this church if it should ever break that covenant, for in so doing it will have broken its own heart.”
–Rev. Jim Gertmenian, Plymouth Congregational Church, Minneapolis, from a sermon delivered on November 7, 2004