Pride Parade
The Vest family at the Pride Parade

For some reason or another, I have always had a schedule conflict for the Chicago Pride Parade. This year, as I was wrapping up my duties at church on Sunday morning, I noticed an email from my good friend Polly passing on an open invitation to walk in the parade with the Chicago Coalition of Welcoming Churches. After checking in with my wife, we loaded up our kids and headed up to join in.

This was a powerful and humbling experience for me. I normally don’t like wearing a clerical collar—though I’m basically required to do so on Sunday at my church—but this seemed like an appropriate time to wear public symbols of my clergy role. Whether we were wearing collars or not, the many clergy there provided a clear public witness to a version of Christianity that is open and welcoming.

It was quite moving to hear the crowd roar as groups of church members and clergy walked past. It was even more moving to look at people in the eye and make a connection, trading a sense of recognition and appreciation. I’m sure not everyone was glad that we were there, but many people were.

At one point, a colleague said to me, “This ought to give you hope for the future of the church. Today, at least, people are excited about church.” Yes, it gives me great hope indeed.

As far as I could tell, there was only one organized anti-LGBT demonstration by Christians, located toward the end of the route. They were surrounded by people drowning out their judgmental rhetoric with cheers and celebrations. When our group of churches walked past them, I was proud to offer a radically different public message of what the gospel is about.

I look forward to doing this again next year…and bringing more people with me.

John W. Vest

John is a "church hacker" attempting to overcome the limitations of church as we know it. To connect with him and learn more about his work, please visit

Reader Interactions


  1. I hope you will add this to your calendar for next year and make a commitment to walk. It is an important outreach to the LGBT community, showing what real Christians are all about. It is only an afternoon for you, but it can literally save a life for someone to see a mainline church–and especially a minister–out there walking.

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