News from AllianceQ: October 2019

Bridges: Greetings from Rev Melissa Guthrie Loy

Rev. Melissa Guthrie Loy, as she steps into the expanded role of Executive Director and Minister of AllianceQ, seeks to build bridges.

Since we may not yet know one another, hearing my voice may help you receive my words. Here’s a recording of this greeting. I get to work from home in Greensboro, NC, and I thought about wearing my pajamas. I decided against it but I am, however, barefoot. This is holy ground.

Bridges. They’re necessary to traverse difficult terrain. They’re necessary to cross troubled waters. Bridges bring people and places and songs and stories together. Or at least they prepare the way.

Bridges require foundation and support. And maintenance. And improvement.

I’ve been called a bridge-builder. I actually can’t build anything. I have no patience for assembling furniture or toys nor piecing puzzles together. (I did successfully assemble my youngest child’s crib with the help of my wife; so far the crib has been safe. My wife and I are also still married.)

Rev. Melissa Guthrie Loy

Rev. Lee Hull Moses, who called me a bridge-builder in my service of ordination, now serves our church in the Office of the General Minister and President as Chief of Staff. I think she’s building bridges, too. Perhaps we’re all called to build bridges.

I am grateful for the opportunity to join leaders and members and friends—and you, the individual who isn’t at the table with us yet, especially you!—I’m grateful to join with you as we strive together to proclaim God’s unending love and abundant grace. (As a former English teacher I’m aware that “abundant” seems to be an excessive modifier of “grace” which by definition suggests said abundance. But isn’t God’s grace abundant and abounding and unbinding and…)

Setting a place at the table for all has always been a part of my call. Perhaps because I was asked to leave a leadership position in a church when I came out as gay. Perhaps because my son and I were unwelcome in a different church because of his disabilities. Perhaps because I understand God as an embodied God whose image is in every body. I didn’t spell ‘everybody’ wrong; I am intentional about affirming every single body. I need your help learning about and understanding our diverse bodies (individuals, congregations, regions, ministries).

At my ordination we sang Marty Haugen’s “All Are Welcome.” It’s a beautiful song if you don’t know it:

Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live…
Let us build a house where prophets speak, and words are strong and true,
where all God’s children dare to seek to dream God’s reign anew…
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

I want to “build a house where all God’s children dare to seek to dream God’s reign anew.” I need your help building this house. I am excited about the goal of the Alliance to work in intersection with other justice-seeking organizations. With the gifts of Green Chalice, Refugee & Immigration Ministries, DJAN, DPF, NBA, Disciples Center for Public Witness, Reconciliation, Convocation, Convencion, Obra Hispana, NAPAD, Center for Indigenous Ministries, Disciples Justice for Children and—there are so many of us!—with all our varied gifts for this work, we can do our best to bridge the compartmentalization of identities.

May we work alongside one another and together so that the wholeness of our holy selves is embraced entirely. In some circles I am the “special needs mom;” in other circles I am the “gay Christian.” There are too many circles. I don’t want circles. And I don’t like squares; you know, the checkboxes on forms that never quite encompass our realities. Why must I pick one side, straddling the lines? I want to erase the lines. Jesus had no lines; well, to hear him and see him and touch him. But no more lines! One holy, accessible Open Table. As denominational and ecumenical partners, we will transform the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Church universal!

I know the work is difficult and complicated. We are a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world, even as we are fragmented people. We’ll make mistakes as we navigate the terrain seeking to build bridges. The work is worth it.

Lutheran minister and public theologian Nadia Bolz-Webinar says she has a regular spiritual practice of warning people that she will disappoint them. “I will fail to meet your expectations, or I’ll say something and hurt your feelings. It’s not a matter of if, it’s when. Welcome… we will disappoint you,” she says.

A church, this organization, we may disappoint you. I commit to challenging our churches and AllianceQ to engage in difficult conversations. I will bring to the Alliance opportunities for assessment and evaluation alongside visioning and planning while sustaining the teaching and intentional emphasis on widening the welcome at our tables. Ambitious, I know. Hopeful, most certainly. We are going to be busy.

In addition to Haugen’s “All Are Welcome,” another favorite song of mine is Addison Road’s “Hope Now.” The chorus repeats: “everything rides on hope now / everything rides on faith somehow.” With hope and in faith, I commit to listening to your story. Thank you for listening to some of mine. We all come from different places with different stories. I celebrate the diversity of our human family and the unity of our call to love and justice. Thank you for joining me in the call to build a just and inclusive church.

Regarding inclusion, a student in my class at Wake Forest University School of Divinity challenged me. Shakeisha said, “What if we are ‘expansive,’ not just ‘inclusive’?” The angelic choirs sang.

The table isn’t mine or yours. It’s God’s banquet table. Sooner than later we will be facilitating conversation about building a bigger table, not just making room at the table.

So, bridges. And building. Here we grow.