Now through March 14, Smith College in Northampton, Mass. is hosting the Shower of Stoles Project, an exhibit of liturgical stoles and other sacred items from gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender church leaders from 26 denominations in six countries. These beautiful one-of-a-kind vestments are accompanied by personal stories of the wearers’ quest to share their spiritual gifts with a congregation that also accepts their sexual orientation. There are also “signature stoles” covered with messages of support from straight allies.
The exhibit will resonate with anyone who has ever loved a church community yet felt pressure to hide one’s difference from them, whether that difference is ethnic, sexual, theological, class-based, or a matter of personality. This Robert Frost poem, which was displayed with the exhibit at Smith, spoke to my own continuing sadness about not finding a church that loves gay people and preaches the gospel:
Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.
The woods around it have it–it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.
And lonely as it is that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less–
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.
They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars–on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.
(I find it amusing in a sick way that the banner ads accompanying this poem online are for “Funeral Ringtones” and “The Soulmate Calculator”.)