Last night was the first council meeting for me at my internship site. It was full of the regular council stuff, old and new business. Reports from the various committees. General concern about certain goings on at the church, but there was something else that was unusual. There was a report from two women of the congregation that were not part of the council. The unique part of the report is that they are the only openly gay couple that are in the congregation (at least from what I can tell). I won't go into the details of why they were there (there was a very distasteful action as well as come good conversations for them to report on) but it ended in a resolution for further communication in the congregation, especially in light of the recent actions in the ELCA. The corner has been turned and there is no turning back.
In the two plus weeks that I have been working at this church, this is the first time that a large group (approximately 15 people were at council) had discussed this in my presence. And I could tell from the reactions of the people in the room that this was not going to be an easy conversation to have. Just amongst the council there were people that seemed as if they wanted to engage in honest, open and respectful conversation; while others seemed to not care about what was going on, doing their best to not engage in what is going on. I would hope that these conversations bring the congregation closer, but I know by their very nature that they can cause divisions.
There were encouraging parts to the meeting. There were some very strong voices of support. The president of the council said that the church needs to continue to focus on the fact that all are welcomed in the church, no matter what they've done or who they are. He sighted the mission statement of the church that all are welcome, saying, "When we stop welcoming people we seriously need to reconsider what we are doing as a church." I seriously hope to be a part of this group that is discussing this, but I don't know if that will be possible.
It's interesting. I was thinking about writing a post on Monday and I didn't get around to it. It was going to be inspired by the fact that on Sunday during the second service I saw a small boy (whose name I cannot remember) literally ran/danced up to the communion rail and held out his hand eagerly awaiting the bread and grape juice that would be coming his way. And I thought that if a small boy could be that excited about going up for communion then this is going to be a great year. And it still could be, but this conversation(s) that is about to take place could cause some conflict and it is not going to be resolved by the time that I leave here almost a year from now. I hope that the conversation brings growing and closer relationships between the church's members, but I have no gauge of how it is going to go. People here seem content with ignoring the issue. But I am afraid that this is something that can no longer be avoided; and my fear is seeded in the fact that people don't know how to react. But I am hoping for the best. I think that internship just got a lot more interesting.