March 1, 2010

Signs Of Life

It’s been quite the week upon my return from Florida. (Sorry to be silent for so long, but all is well.)

Last Monday the pastoral and program staff of my church met for the annual planning meeting, outlining the themes and events of 2010-11. In addition to the calendar, we talked about ourselves to get to know each other. In small groups of five, we were to name three things that are on our “bucket list.” I named the usual monetary goals, house and car and something else equally forgettable, but my third item depended on more than just me: I said I wanted to see our church’s welcome to the gay community in writing on our publications. Apparently our senior pastor overheard my remark.

Later, in the large group (of about 35), we were asked to finish this sentence: “I want our church to…” Two people spoke up pretty quickly. During a pause the senior pastor turned to me.

“Birdie, you have one.”

I looked at him. Did he mean what I thought he meant?

“I heard you say it earlier.”

So he did know what he was asking.

“I want our church to put in writing its welcome to the gay community.”

He wrote it on the list that would be made into meeting notes. I believe he wants it as much as I do and uses moments like this to remind the rest of the staff.

But wait! There’s more.

That evening was the monthly meeting of support for parents of LGBT children, which is being publicized now, several months after its inception. What’s more, the group dynamics have changed, and it is now for friends and family as well. That means I can be a member now instead of a guest. We have two more members as a result of the calendar listing, and more will come with the name change. The two new members are eager to join with me in an advocacy role and we may be forming a new group as a result. That can’t happen until fall, but meanwhile we might be able to enlarge our small group. I have been given staff permission to lead such a group (which, since I’m a member of staff, was in question). I’m very excited at the prospects.

But wait! There’s more.

A few days ago, a member of our church came to my office and asked if I had a few minutes to talk. She said the senior pastor told her to come see me.

Her nephew, age 19, just came out to his family, who is very conservative and upset. She is concerned for the boy and for his family and asked me what I recommended. We talked for a while as I determined where on the scale of understanding she lay. She was eager to learn more, and she is a beginner in her search. So I gave her three books:

• For the stories so important to changing the heart:

Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America, edited by Mitchell Gold

• For the beginner concerning sexuality:

Is It a Choice? Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Gay and Lesbian People, by Eric Marcus

• And for questions about the Bible:

Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church, by Jack Rogers (a Presbyterian theologian)

I am excited by this because 1.) A wonderful and loving person wants to help her family come to grips with this, and her nephew will benefit; 2.) I’m seen as a resource by senior staff, something that I have hoped for; and 3.) I’m seeing progress! It has seemed soooooo sloooooow that I was beginning to wonder if we’d come to a standstill. (I know it will take years to do this right.)

My energy has been focused outward as a result of the glacial pace at my church, because I can’t stop just because some aren’t ready. I am so heartened by the events of this week, I can’t express it properly. I am energized once again.


A Lewis said...

SUPER GREAT NEWS! Especially in this world of church-god-Bible-hate-the-gays it's so very nice to see churches embracing everyone on an honest level. The church we used to attend wrote it into its constitution in 1991 or's formal, written, and is now a giant portion of the church history. It is celebrate each January. "Open and Affirming" is a commonly heard phrase.

Brian R said...

Thanks be to God for the progress that is occurring through your efforts.
The church I attended in Sydney which is an otherwise very homophobic diocese places on its noticeboard and all it's publications including weekly pew sheets "We are a progressive community that welcomes all people regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, or religion."
That made me feel very welcome.

Ur-spo said...

Good news, indeed !

Anonymous said...

Birdie -
This is great evidence of the progress you have helped bring about. I'm so proud of you! The thaw is starting to happen.

It was so good to spend some time in the sun with you in Sarasota.


annie said...

well hey there, birdie. i've read you through my brother "spirit of saint lewis". today i just have to comment.

so excited to hear about the progressions in your church, and in your opportunities to help the world. i was once a member of an "open" church. gays were welcome to come and get their minds changed and be set back on the "right track". your comments are completely refreshing!

Higher Power bless you and your home!


tornwordo said...

Thanks to you, someone may not end their life prematurely. That is truly heroic work. Thank you!

Rox said...

So glad you posted because late last week, I get this email from a mutual friend and they were quite concerned that we hadn't heard from you since you left Florida. =)

Glad to see you're back and hard at making the world a better place.

David said...

You are truly awesome.

Bear Me Out said...

Gives me hope. And, as for me, seeds are planted, the harvest may yet be plentiful. It's just the waiting for the growth!

Bridgeout said...

Birdie... you are a blessing to me each time you comment and share your love and wisdom on my blog. And you are a blessing to me and so many others when you champion the cause of the LGBT youth... and LGBT persons in the church in general.
I am so grateful to say that "I know you"... Bless you bushels full friend!!!!