Neil CazaresThis weekend we celebrate Pride here in Dallas.  As a newcomer to the Dallas community, I am very much looking forward to being a part of this annual event.

Over the years I have been asked why I march in a LGBTQ parade. Why is it important for me to be a part of this annual event? Both of these are good questions and worth pondering.

Throughout the years I have participated and marched in more Pride events that I could possibly count and remember. As a spiritual leader and pastor I have marched with congregations in Bournemouth, London, Europe, Los Angeles and, this weekend, Dallas.

It has been and it continues to be an honor to be a part of these events.

As a person of faith I believe it is important for me to a visible witness through my life. I believe that the love and faith that I enjoy so freely has often been denied many who will both participate in and line the streets this weekend.

I know that many who see my witness will have been rejected and ostracized by the very institutions and faith that I represent.

It is important that all people get to see people of faith that have a fuller understanding of God’s love which includes all people. It is imperative that LGBTQ people know that there are spiritual leaders and communities of faith that don’t just affirm them or tolerate them, but who celebrate them as divine children of God.

We should never underestimate the difference our presence can make.  I know that my participation over the years has made a difference for people of faith, for the young person who was kicked out of their home or church for being gay, for the parent who is trying to come to terms with their child coming out, for the transgender man or woman who is coming into their fullest identity.

It makes a difference.

Whether this is your first, or as for me, one of many Prides, it is important to “come out” and to be a part of this diverse community.

I sincerely hope that many who celebrate Pride will get a glimmer of hope from my presence and might decide to give God a chance, perhaps a second chance. My personal prayer is that those watching Sunday might find the joy, hope, peace and love that comes from a life of authentic faith.

If you see me on the Parade route or at the festival on Sunday, please come by and say hello as I along with my husband, Isai, and our daughter, Sofia, make our new home here in Dallas

I look forward to celebrating our love, our diversity and our community this Pride and in the many to come. Help me to help others use this experience to “Color our World with Pride.”
Happy Pride Dallas!

The Rev. Neil G Cazares-Thomas is the senior pastor of Cathedral of Hope UCC (United Church of Christ

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 18, 2015.