The leading idea for this month from The Lewis Center for Church Leadership speaks to my heart. As I continue to be invited to coach area church leaders around the topic of inclusion the conversation about welcoming also becomes important. We are blessed, friends, with a foundational DNA that naturally and easily extends the hand of Christian fellowship with special and just-right attention to our visiting folks. Somehow we have come to value the open door and the open heart as our minds continue to be open to the understanding of Jesus’ teaching to love ALL without reservation.
I’m sure you’ve visited a place or two where the welcome was less than warm, maybe even non-existent, inhibiting your experience of worship and your eagerness to visit ever again. You’ve told me stories of these experiences and I’ve heard many times over around the membership orientation table that it was the wonderful welcome they received that prompted not only a return visit but an interest in pursuing membership.
This glorious gift is one that I’ve come to depend on as you embrace ALL people who enter our doors; it’s easy to get comfortable and even complacent in attending to this call of hospitality or to start ‘programming’ it in a way that it looses its spontaneity. I remind myself, each Sunday, that it’s intentionally written in the green sheet first under the servant leaders that ALL of us are ministers together. I am just the leading minister; not the senior minister, as I still have a lot to learn about my own hang ups and rough edges when it comes to offering an authentic welcome to everyone.
So, to that end, I have been granted permission to engage in a week-long mission field immersion in the deep south as I join 9 busses of gay men, intentionally bringing their mission of hope, unity, and understanding to communities that may be less than receptive. The Lavender Pen Tour Entourage has accepted me as a supporting member for this tour and I can’t be more thrilled to have this experience! There will be concerts, sing-alongs, panel discussions, small group chats and receptions on college campuses, high school gyms, state house lawns, and courthouse steps. Beautiful concert halls and United Methodist Sanctuaries are welcoming The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir to bring their message of unity and hope to people who are working to create more safe and welcoming space for ALL people in the southern United States. “The Lavender Pen Tour will encourage LGBTQ people and our allies to come together, prompt conversations around civil liberties for all, and raise funds for local LGBTQ organizations.” I am so excited to be a part of this mission and I’m grateful for the time to go. The Lavender Pen Tour is October 8 (after church here) through October 15 and I welcome your prayers for ALL of us as we venture south to bring a message of love, unity, and hope.
How very blessed I am to know that I will return to a Church that leads the way for others as a place and a space that welcomes everyone. You are fearless and faithful, Bay View UMC!
God bless each of you!