News from AllianceQ: October 2021

Hugged and uplifted

What it means to welcome and be welcomed

From Ministry Intern Dr. LaTayna Purnell

Ministry Intern Dr. LaTayna Purnell

As I reflect on “what it means to welcome and be welcomed,” I think about the journey that led my wife and me to the Disciples. Our story begins on May 17, 2004, in Cambridge, MA, the day same-gender marriage became legal in Massachusetts. As my now wife and I celebrated this judicial milestone, I quickly began to think about when we were going to take the leap. We feared there could be a push to overturn this ruling by the conservative governor, so we quickly began planning our wedding. Our pastor agreed to perform our wedding with a caveat. He was unable to officiate the vows and would need a second clergy to officiate that section of the ceremony, or he could be removed and fired. We were both taken aback and felt betrayed by our faith community, which espoused the notion that they were open and affirming. At that point, we decided to leave the denomination in search of a welcoming space.

We stumbled upon Hope Church in Jamaica Plain (a neighborhood of Boston). The moment we walked through the church doors with our 2-year-old son, we felt at home. The congregants welcomed us with an appropriate balance of open invitation and friendly greetings. The congregation offered an extravagant welcome and fellowship that attracted a diverse community of members, many of whom were also LGBTQ+. We were a youngish bi-racial couple with a 2-year-old biracial son, and that was celebrated. After our first visit, we felt we had to go back because what they were offering was something we wanted more of – a congregation that felt and loved like family, with a diversity of families that looked like us, music that continued to float through our heads well past the church doors, and weekly messages of hope amidst the messiness of life and faith. The lead pastor was a gifted preacher that ensured everyone felt seen and heard. My wife made the statement that she would leave the church feeling hugged and uplifted. We have since moved to another state, but every church is measured against the experience of Hope Church, and we search to have that feeling again.

How do we and should we welcome and sustain an inclusive church community? What can we/you do in churches to welcome all into your surroundings and provide individuals with the needed “hug” of love and acceptance?  What are some ways we (big “C” church) need to rethink what welcome means to us and what it might mean to others? How can and do we engage, support and honor all?

Good questions; we don’t have your answer

From Melissa Guthrie Loy

Good questions. LaTayna asks good questions. AllianceQ doesn’t have your answers.

I get paid to answer people’s questions with questions; my role – and yours too, really – is to nurture the next question. Why answer questions with questions? A). I don’t have the answers. B). The context matters. Your context – your story – matters. AllianceQ resources and tools are helpful when used intentionally and organically in each context; nothing is prescriptive but instead invitational.

To write the next chapter, we examine our histories. What has worked well? What didn’t work at all? Who was involved? Who is missing from the story?

The mission of AllianceQ – the Disciples LGBTQ+ Alliance – is to build a just and inclusive church; we lift up and we center marginalized voices. Disciples are most familiar with our resources for Open & Affirming Ministry; with ecumenical partners we provide Building an Inclusive Church trainings. (There are two trainings on the calendar; details here!) We accompany churches and organizations on a welcoming journey, one that never ends; equipping them to shape communities of authentic welcome and belonging where every body is honored in the body we call the church. (LaTayna’s big “c” church.)

What are the values of your faith community? What makes your church special? What draws people to the church and keeps them there? What does the general public say about the church or organization? In your public proclamations, does your ministry say what it means and mean what it says? Do actions give life to your words?

Check out this article: Say what you mean and mean what you say, why and how O&A

Watch this four-minute video from Alysha Laperche: Why O&A, The Power of Naming

Going deeper, what’s next

We’re invited to pursue deeper relationships with one another and new relationships with neighbors. We’re invited to examine our definitions of family and community. May we ask hospitable questions to learn about one another, may we engage gracefully with one another, may we seek connection. May we care for each other. May we strive to bridge differences and celebrate diversity to shape communities of authentic welcome and belonging.

Resources + Tools for the Journey

Virtual Building an Inclusive Church Toolkit Trainings

This Northern Lights Shining a Light on the Table Event Handout, Building an Inclusive Community Overview

The Building an Inclusive Church Congregational Assessment Tool

Our Building an Inclusive Church Toolkit Overview: Tips, Suggestions, Resources

Most used resource: The Building an Inclusive Church Toolkit

A 45-minute video overview of the welcoming journey, Open: Exploring a Wide(r) Welcome

All the videos on our YouTube Channel

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Keep asking questions. Listen to one another. Your authentic welcome may help someone feel hugged and uplifted.