Monday, May 29, 2017

Why I give.

As part of a stewardship campaign at my church, I was asked to speak for about 2-3 minutes about why I, personally, choose to give. Saying yes was the easy part. Keeping it short was the challenge. Put me in the pulpit, ima wanna give a sermon. Especially on this topic, where the theological aspects of "putting money where my mouth is" are deeply meaningful and intellectually fascinating to me. Here is what I settled on saying.

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Giving as I am able is second only to the sacrament of communion in my experience of connection to the Body of Christ. But that's kind of abstract. Let's try for direct and concrete:

I give because I know that when someone walks through the door at Metropolitan Community Church of Portland, they will hear that God loves them and feel that the people on the pews beside them welcome them.

Being welcoming is not simple. In the nearly 20 years I've been an actively practicing Christian, I have been involved one way or another in nine faith communities: three United Church of Christ, two Unitarian Universalist, two MCC, one Lutheran, and one Quaker. All of them proclaimed themselves to be welcoming to everyone. None are perfect. In my experience, though, the MCC congregations come closest.

Explaining what makes MCC different would take a sermon. So here are two highlights.

First, whether as a deliberate choice or through the combined weight of our personal histories, MCC Portland (and MCC as a denomination) practices trauma-informed care. We understand that trauma is "broad, deep and life-shaping" and that it "affects how people approach services."

The queer community has faced decades of active discrimination and centuries of casual abuse. We endured the death and demonization of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Today, according to a 2015 survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality, more than 40% of transgender or gender-nonconforming people have attempted suicide in their lifetimes, and more than 30% have experienced homelessness. I doubt anyone in this room is a stranger to trauma.

The second distinctive thing about MCC is that our dominant culture is natively queer. Everywhere else, being welcoming has been a reactionary posture. Here, it is who we are and have to be. Going back to that 2015 survey, more than a third of transgender folks identified as non-binary or genderqueer. Researchers estimate that 4-5% of American adults participate in a form of consensual non-monogamy, such as polyamory; it appears to be more common in queer communities.

(Which reminds me, the Marriage section of our website still needs updating. People who aren't already here, or who aren't paying close attention, won't know that families like mine are welcome.)

Somewhere, I bet MCC theologians are considering how being a furry reflects creation theology. If it hasn't happened already, someday a person in full animal persona is going to walk through that door, and I trust we will shake their hand or paw or hoof and greet them with the Peace of Christ.

And that is why I give. Not for my own sake, but for everybody's. Even when I don't have it in me to come to church, even when I acknowledge that we most likely will never remove every barrier that keeps someone from feeling comfortable here, the need for this place remains.We can't help everyone, but some of the people we help, nobody else can.

That is why I give and keep giving. And I hope you will too, as you are able.

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