Monday, June 26, 2006
UUA General Assembly, Part II
Even the St. Louis Arch sent a welcoming message.
I'm just back from the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association, where I received final fellowship in the ministry. (See Friday's entry below.) What a joy to be there!
I heard wonderful talks by such people as Welton Gaddy, Barry Lynn, Rebecca Parker, and Mary Oliver. I spent hours browsing in the exhibit hall, talking to people from organizations promoting every possible social justice issue, including sexual justice. (And yes, I left with several new books and one new pair of chalice earrings!) It was wonderful being in a religious community where marriage equality and reproductive choice are GIVENS -- not to be debated or argued, but to be celebrated.
The concluding worship service on Sunday morning was the highlight of the weekend. I LIKE megachurch. There were 5000 people worshipping together, singing together, clapping together, praying together. The worship leader was the Reverend Gail Geisenhainer from Vero Beach, Florida. She spoke of justice, freedom and inclusion. She spoke of her radical welcome into a small congregation in upstate Maine. She inspired me for the journey.
I thought you'd like to read her story of what it is to be introduced to a welcoming congregation. You can read the whole sermon at www.uua.org. Here's an excerpt.
A friend invited me to his church. He said it was different. I rudely refused. I cursed his church. "All blank-ing churches are the same," I informed him, "they say they're open - but they don't want queer folk. To Heck with church!" My friend, persisted. He knew his church was different. He told me his church cared about people, embraced diverse families, and worked to make a better world. He assured me I could come and not have to hide any elements of who I was. So I went. Oh, I went alright.
And I dressed sooooo, carefully for my first Sunday visit. I spiked my short hair straight up into the air. I dug out my heaviest, oldest work boots, the ones with the chain saw cut that exposed the steel toe. I got my torn blue jeans and my leather jacket. There would be not a shred of ambiguity this Sunday morning. They would embrace me in my full Amazon glory, or they could fry ice. I carefully arranged my outfit so it would highlight the rock hard chip I carried on my shoulder, I bundled up every shred of pain and hurt and betrayal I had harbored from every other religious experience in my life, and I lumbered into that tiny meetinghouse on the coast of Maine.
Blue jeans and boots. Leather jacket, spiked hair and belligerent attitude. I accepted my friend's invitation and I went to his church. I expected the gray-haired ladies in the foyer to step back in fear. That would have been familiar. Instead, they stepped forward, offered me a bulletin, a newsletter and invited me to stay for coffee. It was so... odd! They never even flinched!
How would your church have done? How is it that every church would not have welcomed her? May we all work for justice and freedom.