Also receiving “Light of Pride” awards were Nicole Murray Ramirez, a LGBT national activist who founded the Imperial Court de San Diego, and Father Don Greene, who pastors Dignity, a group for LGBT Catholics and their friends.
The cathedral was bathed in rainbow colors Wednesday night to note the start of Pride week.
“God did not create me for someone to hate me,” said Perry, to applause. “We’re not afraid anymore!” Perry recalled he was 29 years old when he participated in his first Pride march. He said MCC was the first church ever started to recognize the needs of LGBT people. He said the denomination now has 43,000 members that includes 300 congregations with churches in 37 countries.
The start of MCC began Oct. 6, 1968, when 12 people met for services in Perry’s living room in Huntington Park in the Los Angeles area.
Perry recalled when he was invited to the White House by President Jimmy Carter in 1977 as part of the first LGBT group to visit the White House. He came back in 2009 when President Bill Clinton invited him and others for a conference on hate crimes.
Perry mentioned the largest mass murders of 49 people at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in June, 2016. “We remember them tonight. We will not forget them,” he said.
Perry noted he received an award in Havana, Cuba, almost two months ago and he was the first American citizen to receive the CENESEX award. It was at the 10th Cuban Gala Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
Nicole Murray Ramirez recalled “the dark years” in 1974-75 when it was a struggle to get a permit for the first Pride march. A permit was denied in 1974, so people marched anyway, some with paper bags over their heads to avoid identification. But a permit was granted in 1975 by San Diego Police.
Ramirez noted there were a variety of faiths within the LGBT community. Approximately 30 ministers and pastors from other denominations participated in the service including a rabbi and someone from a Buddhist temple.
“Whatever your faith is, be proud of it,” said Ramirez.
Greene said Dignity has been around for 45 years. He described it as “people of faith called to a greater purpose.”
“Perfect love drives out hate and perfect hate drives out love,” said Greene.
The Very Rev. Penny Bridges of St. Paul’s Cathedral said afterwards there were 313 people at the service, which included members of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus who sang the John Lennon song, “Imagine.”
“We count people at all of our services,” said Bridges.
Bridges read this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”
The service was sponsored by both San Diego Pride and St. Paul’s Cathedral and every row was filled.
“We were thrilled to have him,” said Bridges of Troy Perry.