So I had a pretty intense and extraordinary weekend. In my third week of travels out of the last four weeks I was in New Orleans for the long weekend. I was there to officiate the wedding of a dear friend from college ( more on that later).
It was Pentecost Sunday, my favorite Sunday or the year, so church was a must. The hotel had a listing of near by churches. There were two United Methodist Churches near by so I looked them up on my iPhone. The first one looked all well and good but the second one peaked my interest. St. Mark's UMC's front page says Warm, welcoming, reconciling, SOLD. Let me tell you I am so glad I did. It was everything that Church should be. Gay, straight, white, black, latino, rich, poor, and everything in between. This was Church. There were amazing moments of prayer, of lay leadership, sharing of scripture, reading of the gospel, sharing of a message and offering. The laity address was one of the most moving things I had hear, and that was followed the congregation being offered the space to take a flower from a table and place it on the alter and then be there in prayer. I am normally not a kneel in prayer but I was so moved and did so and felt so moved. St. Mark's also celebrated 100% payment of apportionments. Now in my current frustration with the UMC that is not as important to me. ( PLEASE DO NOT HEAR THAT as a CALL TO WITHHOLD APPORTIONMENTS), but it was moving because looking at the socioeconomic makeup of the congregation it meant everyone was sharing what they could, some sharing more, some sharing less, but all sharing.
I left this church and sad in a park and cried for 20 minutes. I was so moved. So overwhelmed at how welcomed I felt in this church. Overwhelmed by the commitment to following Jesus this church had.I wonder why the church did not look like that in every place. I wondered how I could be a part of that world. How could I make the Kindom become a reality? This church was certainly on it's way to being there or was at least as close I had ever seen. I was also caught in my need to make an impact on the world. My desire for my whole life including my career to be making a positive impact on the world. God told me to be patient. And for those of you wondering God did not move my hear to pursue ordination, but God does continue to keep me tied to the church.
And if that wasn't enough for Pentecost Sunday...
My dear friend Amy married her partner. Shannon at one of the most gorgeous wedding sites I have ever seen, the chicory. I was extremely honored to be asked to this ceremony. Amy and I had been very good friends in college and had not stayed in as good of touched as we would have liked, but Amy remembered that at one point I was going to be clergy and asked if I was would preform the ceremony. Being a United Methodist if I had been ordained clergy the answer by disciple should have been no, but since I decided not to pursue ordination and the legal pieces of the marriage were being taken care of before the actual ceremony I was happy to do it (even if I was clergy I would have said yes!). So on Pentecost Sunday I married Amy and Shannon. In a beautiful ceremony that the three of us planned together they were married. God was clearly present and I was so glad to represent the church, as associate an conference lay leader, in a marriage that was clearly steeped in faith and commitment to love and family.
I received a lot of positive reaction from the ceremony. I was so moved. So happy for Amy and Shannon, but also happy for myself. Happy that I could do this for them and it not have it impact my career, not risk being brought up on charges by the church. I was also sad that, that is the reality for my clergy friends within the UMC. I truly felt that I was providing a service of Christian Love for my christian sisters and friends. My clergy friends can not with out the risk of repercussions. It is a shame. It is shameful. It was awful for me to have to explain to the people there why and how I could do this ceremony, the stance of the UMC and how it had not changed this year.I, again, had to explain why I stay, and as a straight women i am sure some were slightly suspicious of hardship it presents me. Let again say I stay, because I love God. I believe that in so many ways God is at work within the UMC, I stay to make sure the voices of ALL are heard, I stay so that someday ALL will mean ALL. I stay and work for change so the Shannon and Amy's son can grow up in a church where his two moms and their marriage are recognized in their wholeness.
Thank you Amy and Shannon for letting me take part your day. Thank you Spirit for always moving.