Shower of Stoles fills Judson Baptist sanctuary

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KINGFIELD — Pieces from the Shower of Stoles project, a collection of liturgical vestments belonging to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) church leaders, will be on display at Judson Memorial Baptist Church on Sunday, Oct. 20.

A stole is a long band of fabric that hangs around the neck of an ordained church leader.

“Every stole is similar to an icon, so they each represent a story of a LGBT person that was ordained or could not be ordained,” said Rev. Travis Norvell. “They celebrate both stories of joy, but also stories of lamentation.”

The full collection, housed at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Institute for Welcoming Resources (IWR), has over 1000 stoles from three different continents. Judson will showcase about 100.

“These are statements of people being able to say, ‘This is who I am,’” said Barbara York, who hung the stoles around the sanctuary.

IWR Faith Work Coordinator David Lohman said the stoles mainly come from three different types of church leaders: those who kept their sexual orientation secret so they could remain in their position; those who came out and were stripped of their title; and those who were able to serve openly in their congregations.

Judson Baptist has hosted the display twice before. York said viewers came from around the state to celebrate stories of acceptance and to reflect on stories of rejection.

“For some people it’s a visitation. It’s a memorial service in a way,” she said.

Judson Baptist belongs to the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, a group of churches, organizations and individuals that supports the LGBT Baptist community. Church members participated in the campaign against the same-sex marriage amendment last fall, and the church has hosted three same-sex unions since that time.

Norvell wants the exhibit to serve as a reminder of the continued fight for full inclusion.

“South Minneapolis is obviously kind of a bubble, and people may not realize that not everything’s like this outside of this confine,” he said. “All God’s children ain’t free yet.”

The community showing runs from noon to 2 p.m. on Oct. 20 in the church sanctuary. The stoles will also be on display before and after the hour-long church service, which begins at 9:30 a.m. Judson Memorial Baptist Church is on the corner of 41st and Harriet.