News from AllianceQ: September 2021

Where do we go from here? Reflections from the EDM

I’m hoping you have the answer.

I’m waiting.

How might each of us — individually and among our faith communities, collectively as the people of God — how do we answer the question? Where. Do We Go. From Here?

The question was my sermon prompt and title back in July. I had the honor of worshiping with Overland Park Christian Church in Overland, KS.

It was my first time inside a sanctuary in almost two years. (It was my last, also; my travel is suspended again and I’m worshipping with churches virtually.) Grateful to OPCC for the invitation to be among leaders connecting Overland Park with the wider church, the “where do we go from here” prompt was the final question in their worship series I’ve Been Meaning to Ask.

  • Where Are You From?
  • Where Does It Hurt?
  • What Do You Need?
  • Where Do We Go From Here?

I invite you to read Ruth 1:1-22.

I invite you to look to a door or window. Imagine that which is beyond your current space.

Pray:

God of the journey, author of love stories, as we look beyond the walls where we find ourselves in this moment, help us imagine what may be next. Open us to wide, wild possibilities. Loving God, you invite us into deeper relationships with one another and new relationships with neighbors. Drawing upon the story of Ruth and Naomi, may we 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. Following the model of Ruth and Naomi, may we strive to bridge differences and celebrate diversity. May we shape communities of authentic welcome and belonging. Let us consider where we are from, where there is hurt, what we need; may we begin composing a new chapter. Looking at the doors and windows, imagining the possibilities, we lean into the question “where do we go from here?” Let us open ourselves to the presence of God in us, among us and through us. Amen.

Where. Do We Go. From Here?

Health concern. Unexpected diagnosis. Death. What now? Job opportunity. Birth of a child (or grandchild). What’s next? Marriage, partnerships, parenting, lunch – sometimes that’s a difficult decision! – what do we choose?

Rising COVID numbers, dissension on best practices, violence ending and sparking, between individuals and groups and toward creation; racial brokenness, economic disparity.

Where do we go from here?

Your answers (my answers, our answers) to the guiding questions from the OPCC series will give shape to the next chapter of the story.

Where are you from? Where have you been? Where does it hurt? How are you seeking wellness or reconciliation? What do you need? What do your loved ones need? What do your neighbors need? (Have you asked? If you asked, did you listen?)

I get paid to answer people’s questions with questions. I brought a lot of questions to OPCC and I sure do answer the many questions from individuals and churches with questions. 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.

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?

Related: Say what you mean and mean what you say, why and how O&A

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. 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.

In the story of Ruth and Naomi, we find women, on the margins, with drastically different backgrounds. The tale is about belonging. It seems to be a quaint story with a feel-good ending. There’s loss (so much loss!) but loyalty. And love. Deep, faithful love. God’s faithfulness is lived out in the lives of everyday, ordinary human beings much like you and me.

Ruth and Naomi choose to weave their lives together. They build power in a system where they have little power. They bridge difference. They redefine family. Chosen family is especially significant for LGBTQ+ individuals; too many of us have experienced unwelcome – in our families of origin and in churches. Too many of us (for too many reasons) have unwritten pages of pain and grief, exclusion and loss. Where do we go from here?

We go together? That’s another question. Do we (always) go together?

Ruth and Naomi quite literally move forward together. Rev. Sarah Are, in the I’ve Been Meaning to Ask poetry collection, writes:

“What I do know is I don’t want to go
anywhere without you.
So I’m hoping that you will
take my hand.
See this truth.
Trust my voice.
Look for the good.
And day by day,
we can go from here,
because we were never meant
to go alone.”

Where do we go from here? The happily-ever-after ending and answer is “we go together.” “Where you go, I will go” (Ruth 1:16).

It’s beautiful – but complicated. Loved ones go before us; sometimes loved ones separate from us. We live with loved ones whose abilities change and our roles within the relationship must be relearned. We find ourselves in community but we feel lonely. And still, there is assurance of being connected to one another and to our God. Each of us is an integral part of the Body of Christ.

When our paths align, when our paths diverge, our narratives are intertwined. Yours and mine. Your faith community and the wider church.

Into the next chapter, we carry with us memories of loved ones and lessons learned; we are accountable for righting wrongs, for reparations and reconciliation. Accountable for the collective good, we embody God’s lovingkindness. In the best and worst of times, like Ruth and Naomi, we incarnate God’s faithful love.

Where do we go from here? We go in love.

Some assignments: I mean, invitations. From the book of Ruth and from AllianceQ:

We’re invited to pursue deeper relationships with one another and new relationships with neighbors. Like Ruth and Naomi, may we 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. May we shape communities of authentic welcome and belonging.

Here we go.

In love.

Related: Transforming the Story, Pride Worship 2021

 

Invitations to Upcoming Events and New Resources from AllianceQ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Shining a Light on the Table: Exploring a Wide(r) Welcome hosted by the Northern Lights Region, September 11, 2021 (recording will be available)

Non-Binary Conversations hosted by Open Table Christian Church, September 15, 2021 (recording will be available)

Bi+ Pride Awareness Week September 16-23

Virtual Pulpit Supply featuring Reconciliation Ministry’s Rev. April Johnson, September 26, 2021

Drag Queen Bingo hosted by Gateway ONA, October 2, 2021 (tickets are limited)

 

Portions of this reflection from Rev. Loy’s July 25 sermon with Overland Park Christian Church. Listen here.