The last interview ever given by the Rev. Peter Gomes, the beloved Harvard minster who died in March, will air tonight at 8 on PBS, as part of the documentary "Out in America." (Locally, it will appear on Channel 2.)
Filmmaker Andrew Goldberg interviewed a range of people for his documentary, which explores the experiences of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. When he first asked Gomes' assistant for access, Goldberg said, he got nowhere. So he found Gomes' home number. The minister answered the phone himself, Goldberg said, and was enthusiastic about the film. He was interviewed on camera for two hours last September, a few months before he had the stroke that would eventually cause his death.
It was a wide-ranging conversation, in which Gomes recounted attending both a white church and a black church as a boy in Plymouth, and spoke about coming to terms with faith and homosexuality. Not all of it appears in the film, of course, but the portions that do are filled with Gomes' trademark humor and self-reflection. Gomes recounts coming out to students during a torrid time on campus in the early 1990s:
Well, that sort of threw a monkey wrench into a lot of arguments at that point, and then conversation began to buzz, and there were many people who said: “Well, if anybody as dull as Gomes is a homosexual, it must be alright.”
And there's a special poignancy to Gomes' rumination, toward the end of the film, about not having found "Mr. Right:"
Every once in while you think: Do I want to go to my old age, and my grave, a lonely and solitary being? And you’d say: I’d like some company, I’d like to find somebody who likes me and whom I could like. But I’m not obsessed by that. And I don’t mind the solitary life. And I don’t feel deprived. I feel happy in that I have been able to carve out a ministry which takes sexuality seriously, which takes the Bible seriously, and in which I am allowed to be taken seriously in all of my complexity. Fundamentally, I am fulfilled. I am happy. I am doing, I believe, what God has called me to do, and I think I'm doing it reasonably well."