Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Keeping an Open Place at the Table

These days, when I walk from the parking lot to the main office door at our Massachusetts church, I automatically check the rainbow flag to see if it is still flying proudly. You know the sun has been assaulting those bright colors all summer and winter. Spring winds will be especially cruel. One part or another of that rainbow flag is torn loose with such regularity that repairing its destruction has become just routine maintenance. New flag, new pole even. But still it flies.

Rather like a metaphor for life, isn’t it? The attack on gay and lesbian and bisexual life continues every day across America, and folks like us have to keep rising up to the challenge and maintaining the flag so that it may continue to fly bravely and proudly.

I feel the pride when I see the rainbow flag outside our church door, because I feel, also, the pain we had to brave in order to get to the point where we could agree to fly it, and, then, continue to shoulder our way through the consequences of our decision.

It was 1997 when we voted to make a place at our table for gay and lesbian folks. What a change that has made for our community!

As I think about the changes that face us in the future, I remember this one big change in our past.

The thing that surprises me most about our decision is how good it has been for our life together. I mean, I never really questioned whether it was the Right Thing. That has always seemed abundantly clear to me. But I hadn’t really appreciated how Good it would be; what a tremendous asset to our community all the new people would be!

I knew we were supporting good people (usually families), but I didn’t really appreciate how good, or how loving and thoughtful, talented and dedicated these new people who flocked to our church would be.

I hadn’t anticipated how alive it would feel because of their presence; how it would not just be the people here at the time of our decision that I loved, but a whole new crowd of exciting presences.

And, then, I began to notice other, apparently unrelated consequences, like: “Hey, we’re pretty good at this welcoming stuff when we put our minds to it! I’ll bet we really can welcome everyone just as our hearts tell us we want to.”

The more we welcome, the stronger we actually become. The more able we are to make a place in our life for others — even older long term members whom we haven’t felt all that much at ease with; even kids crying in the morning services and clogging up the basement classrooms.

Perhaps we don’t have to circle the wagons as we thought to protect this precious life together because others will treasure it just as much as people have in the past; maybe more so, because they haven’t known it before out there in the world of sixty hour work weeks and arrogant disregard.

Well, I am a very conservative person and I don’t want to ask you to push this one idea too far; I just wanted to outline what I think are some of the consequences of opening up our life to others.

I have gone through virtually every major change in my personal life kicking and screaming: “I want things to stay the same!” And, sometimes, I have believed that I need to hang onto even the things I hate. I can be so stubborn it takes a good smack from a 2x4 to get me to change direction. But, now, I am sad to see so much of our country hanging on to hateful ways, and wonder how to smack the whole stubborn populous up the side of the head.

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