MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
With the United Methodist Church’s General Conference postponed until the fall of 2021, the current denominational controversies around the LGBTQ community (especially concerning ordination and marriage) will remain unresolved for the time being. But one statement in our Book of Discipline relating to human sexuality is universally defended: “All persons, regardless of age, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured and to be protected against violence...We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God.” (¶ 161.6)
I can think of no recent movie that depicts this truth more forcefully than A Secret Love.
The film depicts the lives of Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel, a lesbian couple who began their relationship back in the mid-1940s when Terry was a Canadian utility player in women's baseball, playing mainly as a catcher for the Peoria Redwings of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The couple were together for over 70 years, but for most of that time they kept their romantic love a secret, known simply as dear friends by their families and acquaintances.
There was good reason for this clandestine arrangement. For at least four decades, identification as lesbian or queer could cost a person their job, reputation, and community standing. A Secret Love tells the story about how Terry’s extended family created a safe space for her and Pat, “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17). The film highlights the love between Terry and her niece Diana Bolan (whose son is the director fo this film). As the couple enters into their mature years and Terry begins to show signs of Parkinson’s Disease, Diana begins attempts to move the couple from their home in Chicago and to a place closer to her family in Canada; her efforts are resisted by Pat. The film reveals that there is good reason for Pat’s reluctance. The women have been part of a close community of gay friends, which they will lose if they move away. As their changing circumstances force Pat and Terry to be more forthcoming about their sheltered past, they soon discover that the family who loved them before this late revelation will continue to love them for the rest of their lives. Together, they would support one another in the hard work around failing health and end of life issues.
A Secret Love has the comfortable familiarity of everyday Midwestern life. The film evoked in me remembrances of my own family (and my wife’s as well) and how we accepted and supported our own cousins and aunts who lived their LGTBQ undercover, although not all of our relatives were as supportive as the family in this movie. I have a variety of church friends who identify at different points in the wide spectrum of opinion and theology around LGTBQI persons. And yet all of us would affirm the love that is evident in A Secret Love. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit might use this time of respite to move us toward a mutual quiet center of grace and understanding.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Five halos: A touching story about love, family, and acceptance.
One pitchfork: One crude comment that is racist and offensive.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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