Pastor Jan Shannon holds a sign at the Spokane Pride Parade in 2015/Sarah Taylor - SpokaneFAVS

Interfaith Pride Service Aims to Embrace LGBT Community

By Matthew Kincanon

As part of OutSpokane’s Pride Month events, the fourth annual Interfaith Pride Worship Service will be held on Wednesday, June 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the McGinnity Room, 116 W. Pacific Ave., to celebrate unity of diverse faith traditions and affirm Spokane’s LGBTQ community.

Jan Shannon, ELM campus ministry pastoral intern at Eastern Washington University and one of the service’s more than a dozen organizers, said that the service will be a blend of individual faith leaders’ voices speaking from their tradition and asking the attendees if they would like to speak with or sing along with the leaders. She added that the purpose of this service is to let the LGBTQ community in Spokane know that there are places where they can worship in many faith traditions. 

“Because we know that, like myself, a lot of the queer community have been chased out of various kinds of faith traditions including Judaism and Christianity and we have not always found a safe space to worship in whatever faith we’re called to,” Shannon said. “And so, we try to provide a space that’s completely safe and affirming of the entire queer community that also allows them space to explore other faith traditions that they may not have encountered before.”  

Faith traditions represented will include Buddhism, Judaism, Evangelical and Mainline Christians, and others across the faith spectrum.

Maureen Jones Smith, board member of OutSpokane, said that the service is a place where anyone can feel comfortable regardless of their religious background, or lack thereof, and whether they are part of the LGBTQ community or not.  She added that it is important that members of the LGBTQ community are able to feel comfortable to go to a religious or spiritual service that accepts them as who they are and is not telling them that they have to change.

At the conclusion of the service, Shannon said that communion will be offered to anybody who would like to partake in it and is not exclusive to only Christians.  She added that every year at least one or two people come up to the faith leaders offering communion, in tears, and ask “are you sure you mean me?,” to which they say yes. 

“We quite often hear stories of how as soon as they came out as a gay man or a bisexual that they were turned away from their church and not allowed to partake in communion anymore, which, from the Christian tradition, is really a major part; a central religious rite,” Shannon said.  

Shannon said her favorite part of the service is working with the other faith leaders to create the different aspects of the service, who she described as gentle and caring toward each other and cautious in ensuring that what they say does not offend anybody.

“The group of leaders that come together to produce this service are living and breathing examples of what true inclusion and peace across faith traditions can look like,” Shannon said.

Aside from Shannon, other faith leaders who will be speaking at the service include Rabbi Elizabeth Goldstein, religious studies associate professor at Gonzaga University; Ven. Thubten Chonyi of Sravasti Abbey; Melissa Opel, minister assistant at Spokane Buddhist Temple; Rev. Chris Snow, youth and children’s ministry coordinator at Northwest Church of Christ (Disciples of Christ); the Very Rev. Heather VanDeventer, dean at St. John’s Cathedral; Isabel Call, intern minister at Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane; Rev. Andy CastroLang, senior pastor at Westminster Congregation United Church of Christ; Rachel Bechtol and Nathaniel Nelson, National Benevolent Association XPLOR residents in Spokane; Rev. Heather Tadlock, pastor at Bethany Presbyterian Church; Michael Jepson executive director of Hivster.com and former board member of OutSpokane; and Rev. Arianna Arends, Lutheran Campus Ministry pastor at Eastern Washington University and pastor Emmanuel Lutheran Church.

Ven. Thubten Chonyi speaks at the Interfaith Pride Service in 2016/Tracy Simmons – SpokaneFAVS


Smith said that Shannon goes to great lengths to make sure that it is a creative service and is not just someone standing and speaking.  She added that this year there will be a tree, a symbol used in multiple religious backgrounds, to represent growth.

“The OutSpokane theme this year is to thrive, not just survive,” Smith said. “So she [Shannon] is using the tree as an element of growth to represent that.”

The family-freindly service is expected to have around 150 participants and food and beverages will be provided along with a no-host bar after the service.

More information can be found on Facebook.

About Matthew Kincanon

Matthew Kincanon is a former Digital Content Producer with a journalism and political science degree from Gonzaga University. His journalism experience includes the Gonzaga Bulletin, The Spokesman-Review, and now SpokaneFāVS. He said he is excited to be a freelancer at SpokaneFāVS because, as a Spokane native, he wants to learn more about the various religious communities and cultures in his hometown.

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