Fresh Greetings for the Advent Season to All Our Global MCC Family,
I am Rev. Elder Carolyn J. Mobley-Bowie, coming to you from Saginaw, Michigan in the USA, representing all the Elders, and our Moderator, the Rev. Elder Cecilia Eggleston. It gives me a tremendous sense of joy to share the first in a series of Reflections from the Council of Elders for this Advent Season.
This year marks the 35th year since the World Health Organization first designated December 1 as World AIDS Day back in 1988. However, it was in 1981 that we first heard the announcement that AIDS was a pandemic in America. In those early days, we knew so little about HIV/AIDS and there was so much fear, anxiety, shame and stigma attached to it that people who became infected felt alone, rejected and abandoned. It did not take long for us to understand that AIDS was a worldwide pandemic. The thematic focus for this year’s commemoration is “Remember and Commit.” We all need to remember how things were, how far we have come, and we must commit ourselves to continuing this fight until no one has to live with HIV/AIDS.
I find it so appropriate that the MCC Advent theme this year is “The Gift of Being Present.” Indeed, this is exactly the way we, as a denomination approached the AIDS epidemic before World AIDS Day “became a thing.” We knew in our spirit and in our heart of faith, that God still loved us all and was in fact with us in the midst of all the trauma and drama we were facing. We understood that our loved ones and people with AIDS everywhere, were worthy of love and support and fully deserved our compassion, our acceptance, and our presence. So, we were there for each other. Ours was a ministry of presence, when so many others were turning away from people with AIDS.
MCC pastors and congregations were among the very first to reach out in love, and with compassionate-creative care for people living with AISD. We got busy leading HIV/AIDS Support Groups; we got busy raising funds to support people who needed help with food, medicine, and housing; we got busy building clinics and group homes for those who had very few resources; we got busy developing Care Teams and creating agencies. We were present.
I can also remember a San Francisco activist, named, Cleve Jones, starting the Names Project (the AIDS Quilt) in 1987, the year before World AIDS Day was founded. Many MCC Congregations formed quilting groups to make quilt panels to help us collectively remember the names and the stories of those who died of AIDS (sometimes without the dignity of a funeral or any kind of memorial service). So, in 1987 many of us participated in the initial roll-out of the AIDS Quilt on the National Mall in Washington, DC as part of that year’s National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Even then, we were offering ourselves as the “gift of being present” to people living with AIDS, to our larger LGBTQI+ community and to the world. World AIDS Day has become one of our best platforms for:
- Increasing Awareness of the ongoing reality of HIV/AIDS around the world.
- Exposing the inequities in HIV/AIDS funding, treatment, education and other resources worldwide.
- Remembering all those who have died while finding new ways to support and lift up all who are infected now.
- Developing effective programs to prevent new infections and strengthen research to eventually find a cure.
Join me is this simple prayer:
Loving Creator-God, our Great-Physician-Healer,
We know you have made us in your own Divine Image, and so,
We thank you for choosing to be with us and in us at all times and in every place.
Forgive us when we forget that we are One With You and one with each other;
May the truth of our Oneness heal our bodies, our relationships, and our world.
In the name of Jesus and in all your Holy Names, we pray with your blessed assurance. Amen!