Friday, November 14, 2014

"It's About Community"

            The story I share about officiating at my daughter’s wedding starts out with a conversation I have with Sarah about where she and her partner Ali will stand. Sarah tells me they will not be sitting together during the wedding. I’m incredulous. I ask her, “Why would you do such a thing. This service is all about the two of you.”
            Sarah says to me, “It’s not about us, Dad. It’s about the community.”
            I experienced community at Sarah’s wedding that special August day in the pavilion at Druid Hill Park in Baltimore. Over sixty people spoke in the service. Dozens of people helped with the physical work of setting up chairs for the wedding and adding tables for the potluck that followed. Most of the local people brought food for the potluck. The evening was concluded with an ‘open mic’ where people shared stories and music and some of their talents. The wedding was truly about ‘the community’.  
I also experienced community the past few weeks.
I was thankful for community when I met the Bishop for the third time on October 30th. The advocate who has gone with me to meet the Bishop each previous time was not able to make it. Len Shoenherr’s father was in the hospital so Len couldn’t go with me. Fortunately, Matt Weiler was willing to step in at the last minute. He was helpful as I processed many last minute negotiating that needed to happen. In addition, there were people praying for me before and during that meeting in a nearby room. I couldn’t have gone through this process without the community of pray-ers (in person and from a distance) over the past six weeks. Thanks to all of you!
I also experienced community the morning of October 30th. We held the first Michigan Area Reconciling Ministry Network meeting in recent history. Reconciling Ministry Network (RMN) is the United Methodist organization that advocates for and with LGBTQ persons. In Michigan, we have some local churches, some Wesley Foundations, some groups, and some individuals who have been affiliated with RMN. It was good to gather together as one group from both Conferences on October 29th.
We came together that morning as a community with a passion to make a difference in our Conferences, in our churches and in our communities. We talked about the work of our Marriage Equality Task Force and the hundred and ten pastors who have signed that they would be willing to officiate at a same gender wedding. We talked about the Supervisory Response process for Ed Rowe and myself and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was coming out of those meetings. We had a frank discussion of “Holy Conferencing”. We concluded by talking about potential legislation for 2015 Annual Conference. We set our next meeting for January 14th at 10:30 at University Church, East Lansing.
I experienced community the following Sunday night at Nardin Park UMC in Farmington Hills where the Dedicated Reconciling United Methodists (A Detroit area group) had their Annual Potluck. The speaker was Matt Berryman, the executive director of RMN. He talked about how we interact with a baby – we’re willing to act a bit crazy. This is the same type of hospitality and love we’re invited to show to all people. It was good that evening to be in the midst of this wonderful community of folks who understand what this means and live it out daily.
Finally, I experienced community this past Wednesday as about fifty people gathered together at University Church to celebrate the signing of the “just resolutions”. Ed Rowe, Detroit pastor, signed at the same time as myself. Ed is passionate about setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission where LGBTQ persons can share their stories. Part of our event on Wednesday was live streamed by RMN to people around the country. It was also covered by some church news sources. We gave thanks to our Bishop for choosing to follow Jesus’ law of love and inclusion in both of our just resolutions.
Martin Luther King Junior referred to God’s kingdom as the ‘beloved community’. He said:
“But the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”
from “Facing the Challenge of a New Age,” 1956

I’m thankful for that ‘beloved community’!

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