Reflections on 18 Years of Belonging to Open & Affirming Congregations

My first experience of an O&A church occurred in 1995. A friend suggested that I might enjoy Pilgrim Congregational Church in Seattle. It is in a gritty neighborhood and the small congregation was alive with many other young adults. It was the first time I enjoyed going to church in my life. The services were unique and different; they might include chanting in Latin or raising our hands in praise. The choir was fantastic and there was my inroad to belonging to this congregation. Through the choir I got to know many others who were equally in love with singing and God.

Over the years I learned their stories. The amazing thing was how even after being wounded and judged by the church these amazing people continued to contribute and find a place whose theology, as I see it, was more in line with the teachings of Jesus requiring acceptance and love.

The hands down saddest funeral I ever attended was for a young man my age that died from AIDs. Even when he was dreadfully ill, and could no longer work himself, he still went to help others who were equally sick and alone. We had the privilege of attending their wedding and experienced a special joy in celebrating their love and commitment. It was a wonderful blessing to have a minister and congregation that openly and enthusiastically supported their relationship, especially when the time they would have together turned out to be so brief. What purpose would it have served condemning these people and the live they created together? I am sure God was at that service celebrating with the rest of us. I would never have had the pleasure of knowing Buzz or his lovely husband Todd were it not for our church.

My current faith community Findlay Christian Church has been O&A for over 25 years.  The members of this church have helped to raise my children. I love and respect them immensely and at times have secretly and selfishly appreciated that these wonderful people were sent to us mostly because many of the rest of you wouldn’t have them. Enough time has passed that we no longer feel the need to know which side of the fence you sit on; all are welcome at God’s table equally and without restriction, and if you would like to become part of our community and serve on a committee that would be great too!

As a teenager sitting in  comparative religion class I could not rectify the teaching I was going to heaven because I believed in Jesus and yet those Muslims who stopped everything to get down on their knees and pray not once but twice a day were doomed to eternal damnation. This is a view I have struggled with ever since. The same can be said of anyone who is different and is judged to be not enough.  Again and again I have witnessed amazing strength, dedication, commitment and faith in my gay brothers and sisters that is unparalleled to many in the straight community. Some of these people have become my life long teachers and friends.

Over the years I have enjoyed sharing struggles and my faith journey, heard music that was amazing beyond belief, and wouldn’t trade my fellow congregants or change them in any way.  The richness in life is found not when we force those around us to conform to a preconceive notion of what is correct, but when we open and accept what is. There is where you will find the presence of God.

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world…

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