As I note on our Ministry’s Facebook page, “Brian’s ministry through RCM is separate from, but informed by, his work as Sister Flirtatious Romanovsky of Middlesex. Sister’s vows were taken in Toronto on 1983 and never renounced.”
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence was founded in San Francisco in 1979. As their website notes: “Since our first appearance in San Francisco on Easter Sunday, 1979, the Sisters have devoted ourselves to community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment. We believe all people have a right to express their unique joy and beauty and we use humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit.”
The Order arrived in Toronto in 1981 and in 1983 I was accepted into the Order. In 2014 I engaged in a time-honoured OPI tradition of adopting a new Sisterly name. I am now Sister Flirtatious Romanovsky of Middlesex. This name honours two pioneering gay musical groups that long have influenced my life and continue to bring joy:
# The Flirtations; an acapella group active (with various members) from 1988 to 1997;
# Romanovsky & Phillips; gay folk duo active from 1982 to 1999.
The Sisters are not a traditional religious Order. The Universal Life Church is not a traditional religious denomination.
The Universal Life Church (Monastery) members hold a wide variety of spiritual world views. We are joined in a broader commitment. The ULC ordains Ministers who may legally perform weddings, funerals, and other spiritual rituals within the understanding that “we are all children of the same universe“. While the majority of ULC Ministers appear to identify with some form of Christian Faith, membership is open to, and includes, those of other faiths; from earth-based paganism to ‘major religions’ to atheism, deism, agnosticism and humanists.
Membership in The Sisters is open to, and includes, those of various religious faiths; from earth-based paganism to ‘major religions’ to atheism, deism, agnosticism and humanists. While each Abbey of Perpetual Indulgence establishes its own Statement of Purpose, we share the Sisterly commitments to:
# expiate stigmatic guilt;
# spread universal joy;
# serve our communities.
The vows I took in Toronto include vows to:
@ uphold the Spirit of Stonewall, the Destruction of the Closet, and the Celebration of the Body, which bourgeois society has banished to the Valley of Shame;
@ keep my soul pure by getting regular VD checkups;
@ dedicate my spirit to the exploration of love in all its numberless manifestations;
@ consecrate my being to the delights of sensual and sexual liberation;
@ undertake to explore the aspects of my desire for frolic and adornment.
The founders of The Sisters, and the early membership, were gay men. Now, however, the Sisters identify as an order of Queer Nuns. Membership includes a variety of sexual orientations and genders, including some who identify as non-gender specific, trans, and gender fluid.
I entered the Sisterhood during a time of social upheaval; gays and lesbians (the ‘alphabet soup’ of sexual variety had not yet appeared) fighting for minimal protection of our basic human rights. In Toronto, the February 1981 Bathhouse Raids were a brutal reminder of where we stood in the social pecking order. I joined The Sisters as a Guerilla Nun, fighting for rights with humour, gender-bending and ‘cognitive dissonance’.
As both a Sister and an Ordained Minister, I continue to fight for social justice.