“Dear Friends,” A Thank You to USG from Mark and Michael

Dear Friends,

Back in September at one of our staff meetings, I mentioned that Michael and I had finally gotten married after 40 years of being together. Kent immediately said that the congregation would want to celebrate us and the rest of the staff agreed wholeheartedly. I wasn’t so sure, but I figured it would be a nice way to mark a life cycle event, something that I’m not very talented at doing. Silly me to have been so skeptical. A committee formed to plan everything and October 27 turned out to be one of the best days of my life.

The upstairs assembly room was decorated beautifully with flowers, balloons, and M & M’s. The potluck dinner was really lovely, with so many people generously contributing their best dishes. The choir serenaded us with an original parody song, and Bev sang a favorite Streisand classic, ”Why Did I Choose You.” Peter and Tom read an original Walsh creation, and Soyini read an amazing piece on love and marriage. Michael’s brother, a recently retired cantor, sang us a popular love song. Family and friends from outside the USG community came to share in the celebration. It was an evening of affirmation, acceptance, and most importantly, celebration.

Since both Michael and I were alive in the bad old pre-Stonewall days of hiding our true selves, it has been an evolution for us (especially me) to gradually come out to people about who I really am. I wouldn’t say that I was exactly in the closet at USG; rather it was more a sort of being “in the dark” about things. But when Michael and I showed up at our celebration on October 27th,  we were enveloped by so much love, affirmation and acceptance that it has been a little overwhelming and quite a leap forward for us.  It is amazing to me that the world has come so far in accepting and actually welcoming LGBTQ people. The incredible thing to me was that the USG community brought this acceptance and welcoming to me specifically so that I felt it directly, not just abstractly. It was great to have no secret life and to feel like a regular person. The party day really was one of the best days of my life.

It is dangerous to thank people by name because somehow someone always gets overlooked. But I will try. Thanks to the USG staff – Kent, Gloria, Carolyn, Ryan, and Mike – who first put the germ of an idea in motion and a huge thank you to the planning committee who really made it happen. They are Linda Brunn, Andrea Parry, Delores Hill, Jan Young, and Beverly Gross Spencer. Thanks to our resident sound guru, Bob Williford, who made everything audible. Thanks to the choir for getting behind the celebration idea so thoroughly and doing it with so much love and enthusiasm. Then too, somebody had to clean up – thanks to whoever did it. And an additional thanks to Bev for the gorgeous wedding cake that she made us. That was another thing that I had never envisioned for myself.

Thanks also to those of you who attended and helped us celebrate. You really helped to make the evening unforgettable. And finally, thanks to all the people who congratulated us either by word or card.  USG really is an amazing place filled with warm, caring folks. We both thank you.

Mark and Michael