(#3 in a series of people who
changed the course of my life)
As I have written before, I am aware of the heavy cost associated with living as an out-gay man in the ‘60s and ‘70s. But how I long to have been a contemporary of Rev. Jim Mitulski:
Rebel. Truth-teller. Icon—yep.
Liberator. Prophet. Conduit of God’s perfect love—absolutely!
He and I are only a decade apart in age (almost to the day) but despite many similarities and sensitivities we share, our life experiences could not be more different. As a young man, Jim went out and began changing the world as soon as he got the chance. I repressed who I was for decades and went down a completely different path. And yet here we are–friends, teacher and student–doing what we can to make a difference in the world.
Hearing the stories of Jim’s life—and knowing the man he is today was shaped by the very decisions he made when he was a young man—is inspiring to say the least. Consider just a few things he has done:
- He presided over services for hundreds of men who were victims of AIDS at a time when no one else would.
- He provided blessings over individual bikers and their motorcycles at a gay leather bar in San Francisco, showing that being gay did not cancel out one’s individual faith.
- When medical marijuana was taken from those who needed it to ease their suffering, he defiantly stood in the gap to provide it to those with medical necessity. From his church.
- He started a program at his church to feed the homeless, drawing the ire of the gay community at the time. But he didn’t flinch.
- He worked hand-in-hand with lesbians at a time in history when gay men and women did not work together.
He has survived fire-bombs and earthquakes and AIDS.
He pushed boundaries, challenged institutions, and called out toxic theologies.
To say Jim has survived—no, endured—is an understatement.
When he came to Dallas in 2013 as our interim senior pastor, he changed our lives, doing what needed to be done among us to prepare us and make the path ready for the one who would come behind him.And we, all of us, have benefitted from his experience and willingness to stand in the gap, speak up, act out—whatever was necessary to draw attention, save lines, give dignity to those society ignored. He has brought many of us into reconciliation with those we hurt or those who hurt us.
Sadly, many among us were so very unkind to him; yet, he didn’t let that stop him. During his time here, he challenged us to be better, to be even more inclusive, to think outside “gay” and “white.” He helped us see where we could grow. Like so many others, I thank him for those challenges, for planting those seeds, for inspiring us, for nurturing what he–with that clever grin and gleam in his eye–was able to see well before I could.
Upon his departure, I would post on Facebook:
Our brother Jim tilled the dried up (in places) ground and hoed the rows, preparing the soil. He encouraged us to weed out bias and negativity from the plot.
And with the rain of prayer and guided by the hands of many faithful people, seed planted by The Reverend Dr. Neil G Cazares-Thomas and the rest of us will take root and flourish.
We cannot thank the Goddess enough for the work you did among us. You challenged us. You guided us. You changed us. And I for one am forEVER grateful for your time among us.
And already, our church is seeing the fruit of his labors.
Personally, Mitulski liberated me from a plodding, comfortable existence and opened my eyes to the need the world has for what I have to offer. He challenged me to use my charisma and talents and to read and learn and grow so I can make the most impact with my “second life.”Jim as at once is my mentor, my brother, my dearest of friends. And we are making up for that lost time.
4. fRamily circle