Things Change. Living for one another, a blessing of our union
The story of Alessandra Brussato and Manuela Vinay for the ‘Things Change’ special, as published in Riforma, weekly newspaper of Italy’s Waldensian, Methodist and Baptist Churches, November 26, 2013. Translated by Peter Luntz
“One day you think you’re ok… another you wake up and you have to start from scratch”. These words were written by a famous Italian singer-songwriter and they basically represent what daily life is like for any lesbian, gay or transsexual person in our society.
You feel ‘ok’ about yourself, you love your life, like who you are, love others as much as you can, you do your best to be an active and attentive part of this world and thank God for this gift of being here just as you are. Then you realize that this way of ‘being here’ – that your way of ‘being’ – is not welcome in society.
Often you need to start all over again, with each new person you meet, with civil rights that are denied to you. This is a source of suffering that makes our lives more difficult. You always have to explain who you are and prove that you are just as valuable as anyone else.
God became man and yet he never dealt with the issue of civil rights simply because we are all his children and we are all equal. He freely offers us his love without judging people, ideas or orientations. His love is blessed and his love blesses love between people because this is his commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you”.
Our community, the Waldensian community of Piazza Cavour [in Rome, Italy], first welcomed us lovingly as individuals. For me, Manuela, it was much easier since our community is my family. I was born into this community and I couldn’t do without it even if I wanted to.
It was in this community that I sought refuge when everything seemed wrong; when I thought I, myself, was wrong… it was in the embrace of God the Father that I found comfort. Since then, I have always found words of encouragement and love for a daughter who was never disavowed.
For me, Alessandra, it meant meeting Manuela and rediscovering my faith in God. I had always known God but I had distanced myself from him on and off. This double emotion has strengthened the presence of love in my life. I was falling in love with Manuela and my love for God was coming back. When we were getting to know one another early on in our relationship, we began speaking of faith and God, especially of God’s agape [unconditional love]. In talking about our timid faith, we realized that our paths would become one and we felt that our love was blessed and welcomed by God. From that day onward, we have always felt God leading us closer to each other and God finding a way for us to be together.
Now we would like to continue along our path together within our community, with the same loving embrace we received as individuals. Our path leads to life as a couple in God’s name and with the blessing of our earthly companions on this journey. Our faith is nurtured by our individual experiences with God but also by community experience, prayer, love and the welcoming of others.
It is in this spirit that we ask the Piazza Cavour Waldensian Community to bless us as a couple, just as the community welcomes and blesses a newborn, a new entry, a new member of the community. (What follows is a letter by Alessandra and Manuela to the Consistory of the Piazza Cavour Waldensian Church in Rome, Italy, dated September 2, 2012).
An Update from Manuela
Each and every gay person fighting for LGBT rights is profoundly hurt whenever a young person takes their own life because they cannot put up with the scorn and bullying that comes from their peers. We always wonder what more we could have done. We often ‘overreact’ when we lose a political battle or hear the latest verbal attack.
I had tried everything I could to hide from my homosexuality. When I was finally forced to face who I was, I sought out comfort in my church community because I was afraid of being rejected by society and by myself. Knowing that the Waldensian church was ‘open’ towards gay people, and knowing two great pastors like Maria Bonafede and Monica Michelin Salomon, made my own path to acceptance much easier. It helped me take those first few steps to gaining the peace of mind that I now possess.
In 2010, when the Synod approved blessing ceremonies for same sex couples, my partner Alessandra and I were overjoyed. We knew it wouldn’t be a quick or easy thing to do, but the best things in life often take time and a lot of patience.
The whole process that led to our blessing can be summed up in the words of a fellow member of the congregation during an interview for a TV program called ‘Protestantism’: “I looked on this event with fear and trepidation, so how did I overcome my worries?
Even if the Bible does condemn same sex relations, the Bible itself gives us the answer. The answer is in the Bible’s commandment to love one another and therefore a relationship built on love can be nothing else but blessed.”
Among other difficulties, Alessandra and I were not able to have the ceremony on the day we had chosen, so it got postponed to May 26, 2013.
After the date was confirmed, I remember that as soon as we got home I ran to check the Lectionary to see what Bible passage was assigned on that day. I broke out in liberating tears of joy when I read, “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26). Amen.