Today is Thanksgiving and we at Ascension, United Church of Christ would like to reflect on a recent event at our church. Run for the Immigrants 5K that was held at our church on November 4th, 2017. After the 5K, the We Are One Action Fair was held in the Fellowship Hall of our church. Special guest speakers included Rep Matt Bradford and Senator Daylin Leach.
Ascension, United Church of Christ celebrated our Transgender Day of Affirmation on November 12, 2017. We featured special musical performances as well as guest speakers such as Jane Reynolds, and Kira Kinsman with Equality PA, both speaking about their personal journeys with coming out to friends and family.
Ascension United Church of Christ, where I serve, is an Open and Affirming Church. We fly a rainbow flag. On the sign in front of the Church, we attempt to make provocative statements – at least in between letting people know about our Church events and activities.
Last night a woman stopped by my house which is attached to the Church building.
We were just about to serve dinner for some guests. I thought to myself this is not the best time. But I went to the door to speak with her.
The story is becoming familiar to me – very familiar. It goes sort of like this: “Hi, I drive past your Church every day. I see the Church, I see the messages on the sign. I wanted to stop in for a long time, but I haven’t. Today, I just . . . I just decided to stop.” Somewhere in the conversation there will be an apology. “I am sorry for bothering you.” It may take a long time for them to get to the reason they have been wanting to stop in at the Church.
“My child is gay.”
“Your church appears to be a welcoming place; my church isn’t.” “I don’t know why I haven’t stopped by sooner; we haven’t been to church in a while.” “We always went to church, but we have not felt welcome, you know, because. . . “ “I see the Church, I see the messages on the sign. I thought my child; I thought we might be welcome here at your Church.”
It is our goal to be welcoming. In our Open and Affirming Statement, we say, just as we welcome into our family of faith people of every ability, age, race, nationality, economic and social status, faith background, marital standing and family structure, as an Open-and-Affirming congregation, we welcome those of every gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.
We looked for ways to live out what it means to be an Open and Affirming Congregation in the United Church of Christ. We created a scholarship for students involved in their school’s GSA. We sponsored a support group for lgtb students and their families (Qmmunity Alliance). We began flying a Rainbow flag in front of the Church. The members of our Church were very receptive. Then there were times when someone would ask, “Why do we need to do that?” The answer is simple, “I see the Church, I see the messages on the sign
I am amazed by these people who have stopped by my house to talk about life; fear and pain, love and hope. I am honored they would want to share their story with me. I do not say much in these conversations, mostly I listen. There are somethings I am certain of: God loves them, and I am called to love them and they are indeed welcome at Ascension Church.
Imust admit, I am extremely happy to hear ““I see the Church, I see the messages on the sign and I thought I might be welcome here.”
You are welcome at Ascension United Church of Christ.
We are a peculiar people at Ascension Church. That’s okay, because we worship a peculiar God. To some this may sound like an odd thing to say, but it is true.
At Ascension, you will find people who have been Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Baptists, lifelong United Church of Christ and those for whom the church is a brand-new thing.
We have folks who are Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and straight, as well as those who are trying to figure out how to define themselves.
We do not all agree on every issue. We know that there are differences of opinion and we lift our desire to hear the voice of the other in celebration. If we really want to speak Truth, we need to hear and listen to every voice.
We are a faith community that is held together by the God we have come to know through the Good News of Jesus Christ.
It is for all these reasons I say we are a peculiar people at Ascension Church. We are a peculiar people, but that’s okay, because we worship a peculiar God.
We worship a God who reaches down into mud pits to raise slaves from their bondage and leads them to freedom.
We worship a God who speaks in earthquake, mighty winds and fire. And we worship a God who whispers tender words of love and compassion.
We worship a God who is shown in the life of child born in the poverty of a stable, and executed as a trouble maker. And we worship a God who cannot be held by the bonds of death. We worship a God of life.
We worship a God who sees us as we are and loves us.
We worship a peculiar God, but that’s okay because we are a peculiar people.
I invite you to come join us. You are welcome here!