I was ordained at a time  when it would not have been possible to speak clearly about the beloved mess of queer people from a pulpit. It still feels like an honor.
The Reverend Winnie Varghese, rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Atlanta, preached Sunday, June 12th at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. for the Cathedral’s Trinity – Pride service.
But that’s not how Varghese said she had expected to spend the day.
“I was filling in for [The Rev.] Kim Jackson who got COVID,” she said. “She was going to be there for their Trinity-Pride Sunday, so I had pretty clear marching orders.”
Jackson, vicar of Church of the Common Ground in Atlanta, became a nationally sought-after speaker with her 2021 election as the first openly gay member of the Georgia Senate.
Despite the short notice, Varghese said she agreed after making sure Sunday at St. Luke’s. was under control.
St. Luke’s Crossroads Ministries leader Tony Johns would be preaching, and retired Episcopal priest Brian Jemmott would preside at the eucharist.
“Both are beloved and well known to St. Luke’s.” she said. “That and the congregation would go forward with meetings and some liturgical changes as planned.”
“It was a whirlwind and very different than the sermon I had in the works for St. Luke’s for Sunday. But I was honored and grateful to be Kim’s back up”
While it was not the first time for Varghese to preach at the National Cathedral, the context was different.
“I’ve preached there as a part of conferences or meetings over the last 20 years, but never on a Sunday morning.”
Plus, Varghese, who, like Jackson, is also an openly gay married priest said. “It was nice to keep a similar ‘profile’ for the speaker for Pride.”
“I have [LGTBQ+ priest] friends who refuse to preach for Pride—I don’t mind it, but it can be tricky to get the readings to work,” she said.
“Considering the history of the church and sexuality, I think it can be valuable to have a day that focuses on a more inclusive message.” And, Varghese said, there were also personal reasons.
“I was ordained at a time  when it would not have been possible to speak clearly about the beloved mess of queer people from a pulpit. It still feels like an honor.”
Varghese was Priest for Ministry and Program Coordination at Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City when named in 2021 as the 23rd rector of St. Luke’s. A published author, editor, and podcaster, Varghese is a native of Dallas, Texas. She is married to Elizabeth Toledo, a public relations executive. They have two grown children.
St. Luke’s, founded in 1864, thrives by striving to be a beacon of outreach and social justice in downtown Atlanta and beyond. The church’s some 2000 members are encouraged to live out their baptismal covenant through a variety of outreach ministries.
Learn more about St. Luke’s commitment to community ministries.