Who We'll Be the Next Day
It’s hard to put this past month in the life of our church into words. We’ve had good, hard conversations about inclusion, scripture and the church. We’ve heard powerful testimonies from some of our own. We’ve learned about each other and who we are as a congregation; what binds us together, as well as the differences among us. And of course, all of this came to a head on Sunday with our vote. It has been a remarkable journey, and one that has left us with some tenderness. But I’m proud of where we’ve come together.
My prayers for our congregation over these last few weeks did not concern how we would vote on Sunday. They were more concerned with who we would be for each other the next day, and the day after that, and so on.
I knew however the vote turned out, there would be people who I love, and who love each other, on either side. And so my prayer was that we would continue to love each other despite our differences, and take this moment as an opportunity to recommit ourselves to being church with each other. And of course the beauty (and risk) of this is that the degree to which this happens is entirely up to us. My experience in these few days since is that we are on the right path.
In addition to all that we’re feeling here within our congregation, we’ve already learned that there will be many in our community and beyond who will have reactions to this news, both positive and negative. I suspect you’ve encountered some of both; we in the church office certainly have. Some of these have been incredibly touching, and we’re so grateful they would share their stories with us. Others have been hard to stomach; it’s never easy to hear unkind things said about you and people you love.
But I would encourage you, as I have tried to do myself, not to carry these things too heavily. In fact, as much as you’re able, don’t carry them at all. But if you find you must, carry them together.
More than anything, let’s not let these voices distract us from work ahead of us, which is to continue to live out the convictions that have guided us this far.
My immediate reaction following the vote on Sunday was that this felt more like the beginning of something than an end. It’s my great hope that Sunday’s decision will open new opportunities for ministry in our community. It also seems likely we will see some new faces around our church. Possibly many who have not been around church for sometime, or who have been greatly wounded. Let’s be ready to receive them with the love of Christ.
In short: what an opportunity we have before us. An opportunity not to be anything different from what we’ve always been, which is a people committed to following in the way of Jesus. But an opportunity to follow Jesus in new ways, and to new people.
Sunday was also a special day for me and my family for a different reason. During worship, you covenanted to help Audrey and I raise our son Mac in the faith, just as you’ve covenanted to help us raise our sons Billy and Sidney before him. That all of this happened on the same day gave me perspective that has been a comfort in the days since, which I offer to you: Being church is more than just taking a vote. It is sharing life together, in all its highs and lows, blessings and challenges. And even more, it is welcoming others into the fold.
We were church on Sunday. And for that I am so grateful.