The mission theme for this year’s More Light Sunday is:
Life-changing conversations rooted in pride and love.
More Light Sunday is June 1, 2014, a few weeks before commissioners at 221st General Assembly in Detroit consider whether or not to amend our Book of Order to allow teaching elders to marry same-sex couples, an important moment of pastoral care where clergy help couples begin a lifelong journey to take care of and be responsible for each other, in good times and bad.
This year’s More Light Sunday theme gives us an opportunity to reflect on God’s call to engage in difficult, but life-changing conversations. More than at any time in the history of our work for the welcome and affirmation of LGBTQ people, these conversations offer the possibility for transformation in our denomination. They are rooted in the fertile soil of 40 years of movement building that led to last year’s Supreme Court decision extending federal civil marriage to all loving same-sex couples.
While the freedom to marry is taking root in our society, we have many conversations ahead of us before justice stands with the strength of an Oak. The map below from Freedom to Marry on where marriage legislation stands in the Federal Appellate Courts process illustrates the progress that still needs to be made to challenge discrimination. Meanwhile, only 17 states and the District of Columbia offer Employment Non-Discrimination laws that cover both sexual orientation and gender identity. That means in 33 you can still be fired for simply being LGBTQ.
How do you have these life-changing conversations rooted in pride and love? First, it is important to have these conversations through the prism of your own personal story as an LGBTQ person or ally. Here is a guide for telling your personal story extracted from Building An Inclusive Church at the Institute of Welcoming Resources. (You may also be interested in the theory behind storytelling). Second, in light of the work we are doing in our own denomination, we need to use the best framing possible for conversations about same-sex marriage. The Movement Advancement Project and Freedom to Marry provide useful guidance in their publication An Ally’s Guide for Talking About Marriage for Same-Sex Couples.
Will you commit to having a Sunday School hour in June devoted to practicing life-changing conversations about marriage for same-sex couples using these resources?
We chose the first Sunday in June for More Light Sunday in recognition that June is the traditional Pride Month for LGBTQ people in most cities (any Sunday in June works). Pride celebrations were first held in June to honor the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969, a watershed moment for our movement. We encourage each welcoming church, campus ministry or MLP Chapter to consider ways you can be part of your local or state Pride celebration. By celebrating More Light Sunday, you will be joining other congregations, campus ministries and MLP Chapters around the country in worship, education and community mission action.
Preaching More Light Sunday
Suggested text: Genesis 45:1-15
This text focuses on Joseph’s encounter with his brothers in Egypt. He was sold into slavery by his family and they are finally reunited after many long years. Despite the oppression he experienced at the hands of his family, Joseph comes out to them and enters into conversation rooted in a love for his family (vs. 14-15) and a deep sense of pride for how God was using his life as an Egyptian (vs. 5, 7-9). He realizes that he must help his gathered family to see who he is. He undertakes a difficult conversation rooted in pride and love, not with anger or spite. This text serves as a model for how LGBTQ people and allies are to engage in holy conversations around marriage and God’s path for LGBTQ people within our church and community: with pride and love, and recognition that no matter what we are family together.
Illustrating the sermon
Just as Joseph revealed himself to his family, this is a wonderful opportunity to ask one or several LGBTQ members of your congregation to share their own personal stories. Ask each of them to read the text and use it as a springboard for sharing a two to three minute story about their own personal journeys.
Worship & Liturgy Resources:
Spirit, I have Heard You Calling (pdf), Thew Elliot
(permission granted with author acknowledgement)
More Fire! More Breath! More Light! (pdf), David Marks
(composed for More Light Sunday)
A Place in God’s Heart, A Place At Christ’s Table (pdf), Institute of Welcoming Resources
(workshop resources for the welcoming church movement)
Suggestions from Glory to God: A Presbyterian Hymnal:
I Will Come to You, David Haas
Come to Me, O Weary Traveler, Sylvia Dunstan
For Everyone Born, Shirley Erena Murray & Brian Mann
Source and Sovereign, Rock and Cloud, Thomas Troeger, ABERYSTWYTH
Heaven is Singing for Joy, Pablo Sosa
God, Be the Love to Search and Keep Me, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan
God, The Sculptor of the Mountains, John Thornburg , Amanda Husberg (Sing the Faith #2060)
Communion Setting (Sing the Faith #2257), Mark Miller
In the Midst of New Dimensions, Julian B. Rush (Sing the Faith #2238)
Welcome, Mark Miller
All My Days, Mark Miller
Draw the Circle Wide, Mark Miller
The Lord’s Prayer, Mark Miller
As your congregation prepares for More Light Sunday 2014, if you have written poems, liturgy, communion prayers, hymns, responses that you would like to share with the rest of the More Light family (even resources you’ve written from previous years), please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and send it in a doc., docx., or pdf file, and we will post it here as a resource for other More Light Churches.
Ten Affirmations for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered (GLBT) Spirituality (pdf)
These affirmations can be read as part of the worship service.
Downloadable Logos and Banners for More Light Sunday (or for your local Pride Parade/Festival)
MLP’s logo reflects our mission and incorporates the communion elements of bread and wine, as well as rainbow colors evocative of stained glass church windows. These elements express the hospitality of Christ, and of the welcoming church movement, and the theology and practice of the open table. We are called together as many grains that form one bread. We share one cup.
(All photographs from the Church of the Reconciliation, a welcoming and affirming More Light Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.)