Wasn't worship this past Sunday fun? This has not been a season in which joy has come easily for me and being invited to practice and pay attention to joy is such a gift! As you can imagine fairness and justice (our theme for this coming Sunday) have been very much on my mind with all the learning I've been doing about racial justice and our own work as a congregation moving towards a discernment around Open and Affirming. I wanted to share a little bit about the latter.
Open and Affirming means affirming the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and non-binary people (LGBTQ+) in the church's life and ministry. Becoming Open and Affirming involves a time of study, dialogue and prayer after which a congregation may adopt an Open and Affirming covenant committing its members to welcome LGBTQ+ seekers, support their relationships, and offer them full inclusion in the life and ministry of the congregation.
I want to re-iterate something that I have shared with our Executive Committee and with our congregation in my sermon on June 14 (you can read that sermon here or watch it here). After many conversations with colleagues and mentors, I have come to understand my role in relationship to the Open and Affirming process as that of pastor. I am here to be pastor to everyone in our congregation and to walk alongside the congregation through a process initiated and led by you, our members. I am here to listen to you -- those of you who wanted us to become Open and Affirming ten years ago and those of you who still do not want us to engage in a discernment process. Because of past hurts experienced in conversations about Open and Affirming, my role as pastor is particularly important.
As I have been reflecting on racial justice and Open and Affirming, I have also been thinking about the connections between joy and justice. Joy is deeper emotion than happiness, for joy is connected to a sense of peace, gratitude and deep contentment. And these things are possible even in the midst of struggle, loss and uncertainty. Justice, like joy, runs deep. It runs deeper than a surface-level "things are fine." It is that deeper sense of rightness, of all God's children having access to basic needs and having their full identity seen, acknowledged, honored and respected.
I love that the Biblical stories invite us not to easy and comfortable lives but to lives that are marked by joy and beloved community that is marked by justice. Philosopher Cornel West says that "justice is what love looks like in public." This is not the sentimental love of Hallmark cards but the love to which Jesus calls us when he says "love your neighbor as yourself." Justice is what it looks like to love our neighbors as ourselves in a public, communal, corporate way. I think communal joy stems from that love.
What do you think love looks like in public? What joy have you experienced from seeing or feeling that public love? What joy do you think is possible as we strive, as a community to extend that public love out to our wider community? I hope to *see* you on Sunday where we'll explore this some more!
In peace and grace,
p.s. Thank you so much for your gifts to our COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund. Over the past 2 weeks, we have assisted two families with $650 towards groceries, utilities and gas.