Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. -Ephesians 4:31-32
What does it mean for a congregation to take seriously the call to be a Sanctuary and a Home in a congregation's community?What does it mean for First Trinity to be a safe place for our sisters and brothers who may not feel safe in other religions, other churches, at home, or on the streets? What does it mean to be home, a place of belonging, a family, for those of us who may not feel quite at home anywhere else—including other churches and houses of worship?
What does it mean to do these things in the name of the Trinity—the Triune God?
For years, at First Trinity, we've struggled with these questions together.
We've asked ourselves and others how we might shape our church buildings and our community of people into a sanctuary and a home. In addition, we've looked outward, and sought to shape our world, our society, and our political situation in such a way that the world becomes a safer place and a place where more people belong, are at home, are embraced as a part of the human family and God's good creation.
It's not easy work. But we're doing it.
It happens. In spurts. On occasions. At worship. In community. At a meal. In an act of love. Often, it comes with fragility. And it's sometimes fleeting. But we experience, here, sanctuary and home. And we share that experience with others. And we do it in the name of God. We are building and becoming a sanctuary and a home in our community, and therefore a place where others can also experience that peace and belonging. It's part of our mission, and we're well on our way.
Conversations this month about gender and sexuality have been quite eye opening to me. I must admit, I was nervous at the beginning of the conversation—I wanted badly for us to take St. Paul's advice, to have us all “put away...bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven [us].” After all, that should be a hallmark of the Christian Community.
But I was afraid we might forget this call.
Because, well, these topics are personal—that is, they're about people. About us. About our family members and our friends.
After the first few sessions, I am at ease. You all have treated one another with deep respect and a patience and openness I could have never predicted. And, although the conversation is ongoing, and we disagree on details and ideologies at times, we all seem to get the need for respect and love, as well as the need to welcome all people as God's Children.
After all, if we choose to become a Reconciling In Christ Congregation (that is to officially welcome folks from various sexual orientations and gender identities) we're not debating an issue. Rather, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we're welcoming people. Period.
Welcoming people. To sanctuary. To home. Welcome. For those who have often felt unsafe or unwelcome—in other religions, other churches, at home, or on the streets. Welcome. Belonging. Community. Sharing God's grace and love. Welcoming people who, in turn, will help us welcome other people, other sisters and brothers in need of Grace, hope, healing, and love. Welcoming partners in God's mission at First Trinity in Bridgeport.
Of course considering becoming an RIC congregation is just one small part of the larger mission of welcoming all people, of creating Sanctuary and Home in the name of God. And a vote alone will not make us suddenly “the-most-welcoming-ever.” No, that work is left to each of us, as we live the welcome, as we gather each week in song and word, sacrament and prayer, community and creativity.
May God guide us in the decisions that are before us. May God gives us hearts big enough to love as Christ loved us.
I pray that you see God's love in the articles of this newsletter, written by your sisters and brothers. Some thoughts on our way, as we grow together as a unique and growing mission and ministry on Chicago's South Side.
Rev. Tom Gaulke, pastor
*All pictures are from 2013 Trinity Sunday BBQ :)