(This message is part of our Imagining Abundance giving campaign. If you’d like to donate directly, you can click here to do so.)
One thing I didn’t anticipate before I started this job was how often people would come out to me. I’ve now gotten used to the way folks ask if we can talk. Sometimes it’s at a conference booth, sometimes through an interaction on social media or an email asking for some support. Once we meet, I can tell by the way they casually and sometimes awkwardly shift around before sharing this huge part of themselves – a part they’ve shared with very few people, if any. Sometimes it’s a parent whose child or spouse has just come out, more often it’s a pastor or active lay member who is trying to figure out how to share who they are with their church family. Coming out is a vulnerable process steeped in a space of uncertainty without any assurance of how people will respond. And even with the complications that can come with sharing one’s truth, there is a certain peace that comes with sharing our authentic selves with another person and with being seen in the fullness of who we are.
At More Light, much of our work is about helping congregations cultivate spaces where people know they will be seen and affirmed. The process of becoming More Light often involves days, weeks, or even years of vulnerable conversations, and communities are often changed through the journey. As people dig in to the conversations about how to welcome LGBTQIA+ people, they discover the shared value of hospitality and the experience of what it is to be seen and known.
People often reach out to us because they feel a call to become More Light, but they are worried it will create conflict or stir the pot. More often than not, though, what we see in the process is that a congregation is more often at peace with itself as they take the journey, so even conflict or disagreement becomes secondary to the ways they are knit together in the body of Christ. As people’s hearts and minds open to the radical welcome offered by God, the space itself opens up, abundance becomes not just an idea, but an embodied practice, and the invitation to vulnerability becomes part of the lifeblood of the church.
The text from Isaiah for the second Sunday of Advent offers a poetic vision for the reign of the coming Messiah:
“The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.”
Isaiah’s vision of peace goes much further than just the absence of war. There is an intimacy in the relationships of the animals who dwell together and a vulnerability of trust in their shared safety together. In our experience, peace requires vulnerability. The journey to inclusion doesn’t require that we have all the answers or never mess up, but only that we say yes to the invitation to let ourselves be seen and to see one another.
In churches where vulnerability is honored, something as simple as a pronoun button on the lapel of congregation members becomes a way to show their heart and an invitation to others to do the same. It’s a simple act of vulnerability that invites others into the space. In the past year we have welcomed 40 new More Light churches and campus groups who have declared their sanctuaries spaces of welcome. As we’ve traveled to congregations and conferences all over the country this year much of our work has been to model courageous space as a radical counteract as so much of our nation continues to draw lines of mistrust and division.
As we move forward into 2020 we know that these spaces of hospitality and inclusion will be needed more than ever. As I shared on Giving Tuesday, we have a goal of raising $5,000 this month which will be matched by the More Light Board of Directors to equip us to create spaces of abundant inclusion. Here’s how your gift can be a gracious offering of space to another in the coming year:
Help us create space on a display table:
A gift of $500 ($41/month) enables MLP to have a display table at a ministry conference where we can connect with church leaders who want to shine More Light in their faith communities.
Help us create new spaces of More Light:
A gift of $200 ($16/month) provides for a year of membership for a new More Light congregation who may not have the resources to join.
Help us create space on a campus:
A gift of $25 covers a shipment of buttons to a campus ministry group so they can share God’s welcome at their school.
Whatever the gift, we are continually grateful for the opportunity to do this work with you and for your continued dedication to creating a world where all of God’s children know they are loved, seen, and affirmed in the fullness of who they are.