We at Chalice Christian Church were a wandering people. But after years and years of getting use to one junior high’s gymnocafetorium only to be uprooted and moved to another, we finally bought land on the border of Chandler and Gilbert, Arizona. You have heard the passage from Exodus, “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.” And I know that it seems ridiculous to consider rolling out bench seats, pulling the banners and table setting from out of the cabinet, taking the synthesizer from on top of the cabinet, setting up signs outside, then undoing it all to be ready to do it all again next Sunday as something akin to the “yoke of the Egyptians,” but I did. I yearned for a time when we had a place.
I knew that many of us were politically liberal. I knew Chalice’s slogan to be: A place where everyone is welcome. But in the context of creating content for our webpage, I needed to know that a place for everyone really meant everyone. So, before I knew what an Open & Affirming church was I surveyed every member of Chalice. I am ashamed to admit my own bigotry as I was nervous when talking to our Sunday school classes that had some of the older members of the congregation. They were every bit as radically welcoming and eager to share the Good News found at Chalice as the rest. Chalice would be planted among some of the most conservative voters in the country; it was there that God was calling us to be a radically welcoming church. Remembering the passage from Jeremiah, “Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you,” we changed our website to come out as a people who accepted others regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Some years ago we constructed a church building. It turns out that keeping up a building is not really less work that rolling out those benches. But it still feels good to have a place. It felt good when the people of Chalice Christian Church marched in the Chandler Ostrich Day Parade carrying the rainbow flag. It felt good to hold our Called to Equality symposium in our building. We have also become an Open & Affirming church. And it feels good to “make it official”; it feels good for our commitment to radical hospitality to be more than a pledge on our website. We are starting to send our young people off to college, young people who have never known a church that was not Open & Affirming. Perhaps they will think of Chalice and her openness when they hear the passage from Ezekiel, “Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.”