This week, the Monday Minute is about the monthly donation to a spiritual organization working to bring everyone to the table. The other week, there was a vote at the United Methodist Church Conference (UMC), that chose to continue with excluding LGBTQ people from ordination and the prevention of same-sex marriages. It is no surprise, that the UMC vote has been a part of conversations during Spiritual Direction, among other times.
I have not yet spoken with anyone directly affiliated with UMC, but hope and plan to in the coming weeks. To also acknowledge that there are many open LGBTQ and allied people participating in many walks of spiritual life. While also taking a moment to remember, that Jesus walked with all outcasts. They were not excluded and they were met where the outcast was most comfortable. For example, take a look at where Jesus met with the tax collector, what is more comfortable than one’s own dwelling (Luke 19:1-10) or the woman at the well (John 4:4-26).
As a general action in times like this, I turn toward the wisdom of Fred Rogers when he said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”, and that is what we will do this week. There are a lot of helpers, but often they are not the loud minority. (Matthew 25:40) This perhaps due to the helpers being busy helping and not talking about their own perceptions. The helpers were busy at Green Memorial United Methodist Church in Roanoke, VA offered a “healing service and celebration of love”.
The actions of Jesus were of radical inclusivity. If a home church has excluded you or your family, there are a lot of resources available for LGBTQ+ people and their allies, feel free to contact me and hopefully we can find helpful resources. A place to begin is looking at the Believe Out Loud congregations to see if there is a church close by on their “Welcoming Churches Map”.
Although, I understand people wanting to remain where they grew up and where they have felt a spiritual connection. The biggest difference that I see between the excluders and the helpers, is helpers are actively creating space or doing the work more than they are talking. Much like Jesus, helpers are active participants of merciful inclusion. This can go another step, to see the helpers are creating space for everyone to be able to fit at the table. One such group and the location of donation this month, can be found in New Orleans, LA, is the NOLA Wesley Foundation, which has a UMC affiliation, serve several local universities. Not to miss that they also have a group for LGBTQ people and allies called Prism, which is a part of the UMC.
It is easy as outcasts to see all the ways that we are cast out from our churches, communities and so on. That is where the wisdom of Mr. Rogers offers the reminder that we have to look for the helpers. The helpers are often not the loudest, but they are out there. This is where the reminder of not being too comfortable with our pain can help us see beyond the exclusion. The helpers might look different than what we think they will, but then not all our experiences are as we think they will be.
This Lenten season, may we be active participants of merciful inclusion.