The Rev. Vaughn Beckman shows one of the stoles with others hanging on the wall behind him. They are on display at the First Unitarian Church on Pali Highway. He is pastor at the First Christian Church in Honolulu.

Hawaii prepares to observe
World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day events

By Diana Leone

World AIDS Day will be observed in Hawaii with church services, a candlelight vigil, fund-raising and informative events and a traveling exhibit that makes a statement about the status of gay clergy.

Since 1988, Dec. 1 has been a day to strengthen global efforts to address the challenges of the AIDS pandemic.

Local events began yesterday with the opening of a four-day exhibit of the "Shower of Stoles" Project at First Unitarian Church, 2500 Pali Hwy.

The project has received 1,200 liturgical stoles from gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people of faith across North America -- including ministers and lay clergy -- who have been barred from serving their faith community because of their sexual orientation, or who had to choose between being silent or losing their livelihood.

A stole is a long scarf, often of embroidered silk or linen, that clergy and lay clergy in a number of denominations wear during certain services.

The Rev. Vaughn Beckman, senior pastor of First Christian Church in Makiki, donated a stole to the collection that he received from the Gay, Lesbian and Affirming Disciples when he was ordained as an openly gay minister in 1994.

This year's World AIDS Day theme of stigma and discrimination provides a link between people who are HIV-positive and clergy who are gay, Beckman said. "They're two very different issues, but both involve people who are often discriminated against."

Beckman said he originally graduated from a Baptist seminary and worked in Baptist churches for eight years before leaving the denomination because of its stance on sexual orientation. The acceptance of openly gay clergy varies in his current denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), by area, he said. His church hired him 17 months ago knowing he was openly gay, he said.

The stole project began in 1995 when two Presbyterian clergywomen revealed their sexual orientation, at the risk of losing their ordination, Beckman said. They asked other gay clergy to send a stole to show that they were not alone.

Immediately they received 85 stoles and they've kept coming ever since, Beckman said, and now include 18 different denominations. About one-third of the stoles are anonymous donations.

"I'm very honored to share mine. It does give some glimpse of hope," Beckman said yesterday.

Fifty stoles from the collection are on display this weekend, each draped on a hanger with a small card describing the story of the person who wore it, said Roland Halpern, a member of First Unitarian's Social Justice Committee.

In the 21 years since HIV was identified, HIV-related discrimination and prejudice continue in Hawaii and around the world, according to a state Department of Health release.

The Health Department said:

>> An estimated 2,300 to 3,200 individuals in Hawaii are HIV-positive.

>> Since 1983 there have been 2,676 reported cases of AIDS in Hawaii, of whom one-third are Asian or Pacific Islander.

>> Last year, 162 new AIDS cases were reported, 90 percent of whom were male.

>> An estimated 900,000 people are living with HIV in the United States, and 250,000 are unaware that they are infected.

>> 40 million people are estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS around the world.

>> Twice the number of people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks die every day in Africa from AIDS.

>> By 2010, 20 million women worldwide will be infected with HIV, and 10-15 million children will lose their mother or both parents to AIDS.


World AIDS Day events

The following Hawaii events are planned in acknowledgment of World AIDS Day:


>> "A Time for Healing," community worship service at 7 p.m. tomorrow at First Christian Church, 1516 Kewalo St. Service led by Ke Anuenue O Ke Aloha and assisted by local pastors, with music by the Honolulu Men's Chorus and others. The Names Project will display sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. For information, call 924-3060.

>> "Shower of Stoles" Project will be on display at First Unitarian Church, 2500 Pali Hwy., 2-6 p.m. today, 2-5 p.m. Sunday and 10-6 p.m. Monday. Ministers and lay clergy have donated 1,200 religious stoles as a symbol of discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

>> Candlelight vigil, 6-7:30 p.m. Monday at Kapiolani Community College cafeteria. The event will include a panel of speakers living with HIV, plus entertainment and refreshments.


>> East Hawaii's World AIDS Day Remembrance Service, 10 a.m. tomorrow at the First Church of Religious Science, Hawaiian Paradise Hui Hanalike, at Makuu and 17th streets, Hilo. Nondenominational service. For more information, call 981-2428.

>> "Dining Out for Life" is a special fund-raising event tomorrow at participating restaurants in Wailuku during breakfast, lunch and dinner. For a list of participating restaurants, please call 242-4900, ext. 115.

>> Maui World AIDS Day tomorrow at Kaahumanu Mall with musical performances by Gail Swanson and others. There will be information on the Maui AIDS Foundation and Honor Thy Children Inc. Memorial Scholarship Fund, and holiday gifts for sale.

>> Special observance at 6 p.m. tomorrow at Trinity Episcopalian Church by the Sea, 100 Kulanihakoi St., Kihei.

>> Information on other neighbor island World AIDS Day activities is available by calling 242-4900, ext. 115, on Maui; 331-8177 in West Hawaii; 981-2428 in East Hawaii; and 246-9577 on Kauai.

For more information about HIV and AIDS, including testing, treatment and volunteer opportunities, contact the state Health Department's STD/AIDS Prevention Branch on Oahu at 733-9281.

E-mail to City Desk


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