My friend and fellow priest called this afternoon. We talk enough on the phone that the simple pleasantries like “hello” and “how are you?” sometimes get bypassed for a more direct greeting. At least, that was the case today, when I saw her name flash on my phone. I picked up the phone and said: “I’m putting Whitney on the Prayer List.” She laughed (I knew she would) then replied “And that is just one more way our parishes are so very different” (she’s right).
I don’t usually put celebs on the prayer list. (In retrospect perhaps we should’ve put Kim Kardashian on the prayers for those preparing for marriage, but I digress). But I put Whitney on the prayers for the deceased. And not as a joke, or to be cute. But because she was/is an icon. Living in the heart of Boystown, where no one glances twice at a man dressed like a woman or two boys walking the street holding hands, it’s easy to forget that life for the queer community has not always been so welcoming or kind.
As we walked out of Bible study today, one of my parishioners told me of his grief over the loss of Houston. In the cruel world of high school, in the new stages of knowing what it means to be different, to not fit in, Whitney’s voice sang out a language, a song that spoke to him. Other parishioners have told me how she was part of their coming out, how they would sing to her music and it was one place to be safe about who they were.
So we’ll pray for Whitney. And each other. And we’ll keep singing.