That group of eight communities of faith joined together to march under a unified banner in the 2013 Baltimore Pride Parade with the goal of showing their strong moral support for the LGBTQ community and to show that community the strength of the support for them from faith communities in Baltimore. From this common purpose, Faith Communities of Baltimore with Pride (FCBWP) was born.
That first year, 115 people marched together up Charles Street to an overwhelmingly supportive crowd. Those marching felt it was almost a spiritual experience. As he headed up Charles Street, Dick Ullrich of St. Matthew’s Catholic Church, turned to his colleagues and said, “Look at all these good people, cheering and clapping – this is a very sacred moment for us!”
Buoyed by the excitement and energy generated by their experience, several members of that first marching group began reaching out to even more faith groups. In June 2014, the group of marchers swelled to 225 people representing 20 faith groups and communities becoming what is now the all largest contingent in the Baltimore Pride Parade. FCBWP looks forward to marching again this year, with an even larger contingent.
In 2014, FCBWP partnered with the Interfaith Fairness Coalition of Maryland (IFCMD) for the first time to coordinate and plan the annual Pride Interfaith Service in Baltimore, to which all are welcomed, that has brought together faith communities who support the LGBTQ community for more than a decade. This year, a planning committee composed of members of both groups is hard at work making plans for the upcoming service to be held at 7 p.m. on July 21, at Grace United Methodist Church (5407 North Charles Street, Baltimore).
In addition to events around Baltimore Pride, FCBWP has also co-sponsored the Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20 in Baltimore, as well as the community World AIDS Day Service held in Baltimore on December 1.
Today FCBWP counts more than 30 affiliated groups, and is actively working to expand that number, to hopefully include all of metropolitan Baltimore’s faith communities. “The vision we see for the FCBWP continues to unfold,” said Ryan Sattler, the lead coordinator and one of the initial founders of FCBWP. “Our experience gives us faith that we have started an important movement that has great potential.”
In addition to marching each year in the Baltimore Pride Parade, they also have staffed booths at the Baltimore Pride Festival, where they have shared literature about all of the affiliated faith communities.
“We believe that many more are just waiting to be asked to join us. Together, we are working toward the healing, reconciliation, and liberation of LGBTQ individuals among us,” said Sattler.
To learn about the welcoming, inclusive and affirming faith communities in Baltimore, and to connect with others with similar interests, be sure to attend the 2015 Interfaith Pride Service; look for FCBWP in the 2015 Baltimore Pride Parade; and look for their booth at the Pride Festival.
Bill Redmond-Palmer is a long time community organizer and advocate for HIV/AIDS and sexual- and gender-minority related issues.