Everyone is welcome at the table (holy week in exile)
The week after I was let go from my job, was Holy Week. This year, I had a station of the cross art piece up during the entirety of Lent, including the day I was let go. It was an art installation piece, about Jesus being stripped & I used one of my poems, the sound of it all unraveling, as background and asked the congregation to participate by pinning pieces of cloth. Just like the years before, my station was undeniably factual. I was in the process of being stripped & letting go of seemingly everything in my life. I very intentionally used rainbow colored embroidery thread in the piece, it was as if my voice was trying to use a raspy whisper to tell my story to the church. It felt like I was down to that last shred of clothing as I felt the undeniable humiliation of holy week.
In my grief, I attended a service at Zeteo, an affirming church that I had been made aware of. I knew it would be a difficult service for me to sit thru & I knew I would feel a lot of emotion. But I also needed to feel the presence of God in the way you do when you sit in a service with friends and hear the word spoken aloud in the room. The pastor spoke about David Kato, an Ugandan LGBT activist who died for the cause. Using his story to relate Jesus's death to current events. It affirmed my own loss, my own story in a shared way. When it was time to take communion, the pastor spoke the words
"Everyone is welcome at the Table"
going on to help define who she meant by everyone... "No matter what your race, sexual identity or gender." I went up to receive communion, having the once silent said. That I was welcome & could receive communion as a whole person. That the communion bread and wine could, finally, creep in past that place in my heart I had been hiding and be fully received. That God, came to earth clothed in humanity, died for me & loves me as I am. It seems silly to have to say aloud every single identity. What if we accidentally leave out a person who is welcome? Why do we need to name every single thing? But for me, to have this piece of my identity, which had cost me everything to own, named in the room; meant that I finally could feel the weight of forgiveness. It meant everything. It was healing.
Silence in the room of church speaks loudly. Ambiguity from church on the subject of affirming LGBTQ identities is painful to LGBTQ people. Is everyone welcome at the table, or not? Name it. Say it. When we do not speak it, it leaves room for the unintentional. It leaves room for the hatred we profess to have no part of, as Christians. It leaves room for unintentional or intentional marginalization, suppression, repression & discrimination. One thing I learned as a teacher, is that there is a thing called 'THE UNSPOKEN LESSON' and how the unspoken lesson speaks louder than the spoken lesson. Meaning if I am teaching my class a lesson about an historical representation of hatred but allowing bullying to happen in the classroom, I might as well stop the lesson. The unspoken lesson is speaking louder than anything I am saying.
We need to take a hard look at the unspoken lesson, currently, of church. Is it speaking louder than the biblical narrative we preach?
I have more to say, soon, on what I have learned about Identity and sin. Making the distinction between what is sin & what is identity is a huge part of what we are missing, as Christians, in caring for and truly understanding & loving LGBTQ people. It is something that I have learned only by going into the parts of myself that I had hidden and realizing that God created me & loves me as I am created. It is the conversation to be had on this subject, if you are willing to engage and listen.
The following is a video of Sara Miles and it feels like a perfect complement to my holy week experiences.