Many Christians mark Good Friday, the commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus, by meditating and praying over the events of his last day alive, a ritual referred to as "the stations of the cross." Members of Most Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church, St. Francis Lutheran Church, and the Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist joined in a "stations" walk yesterday from San Francisco's very gay Castro district to the heavily Latino Mission district. They stopped to pray and give thanks in front of a series of community serving institutions and monuments. It was an interesting walk between cultures.
Across the street from Most Holy Redeemer, Coming Home Hospice opened in 1987 to serve the casualties of the AIDS epidemic when HIV infection was still very much a "gay disease." Though today drug treatments keep many AIDS patients alive longer, the facility still is deeply embedded in the gay community.
The next stop was outside the office of the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center (LYRIC) where we got a salutary reality check. No one had alerted LYRIC that the Christians were coming! Staff emerged nervously, wondering if they were confronting fundamentalist exorcists. Not exactly, in this very gay Christian crowd. Nonetheless, the nervous smiles of the LYRIC staff should not have been a surprise to us, as we LGBT folks do still sometimes have to bear being treated as agents of pollution.
After a few more, cautious, stops in the Castro, we walked downhill into the Mission. Fr. John Kirkley of St. Johns remarked: "now we'll get to where people don't think we have horns."
He was right. I alerted the bored security person, a young Latino guy, at the Women's Building that we would be out front. He didn't bat an eye; processing Christians were fine with him. There was a time when our reception might not have been so casual. In the 1980s, someone threatened by the founding of a women's building bombed the front entrance.
Soon we worked our way down Valencia Street, past the Mission police station, Centro Del Pueblo, and the new Valencia Gardens housing project, finishing at St. Johns. Here, a Good Friday procession might look odd to the young Anglo migrants who flock to the cheap housing. But to the homeless, we were just some plausible potential marks to panhandle. And to local Latinos steeped in the observances of Semana Santa, we were simply an appropriate sign of spring.