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2 Samuel 5:1-5,9-10; Psalm 48; 2Corin.12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13

On this PRIDE Sunday, and with images from the gospel reading of being sent on a journey of discipleship and God’s mission, I have been thinking about the journey of this congregation to become Queer affirming. The Reconciling in Christ process began here around 2007. But it is important to honour that Reconciling in Christ celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year, with the first communities becoming RIC in 1974. If my memory is correct, the first community in Canada was King of Glory in Saskatoon in the mid eighties. I recall hearing a story about the discussion leading up to that congregation’s vote to become RIC that I believe I shared during our own process. I was told that at the meeting to consider this, there was lots of concern being expressed about taking this step. And then a young mother with a child in her arms stood up and said, I think this is about and for our children. If any of our children, like my child, comes to discover themselves as gay or lesbian, I want them to know they are welcome and have a place of acceptance and belonging here in their church, just as God loves and welcomes them as God’s child. There was a significant time of quiet before someone said, I think we should vote. And they did. And the motion to become a Reconciling in Christ congregation passed with a strong majority.

           I think our journey to becoming RIC and the ongoing work of growing and living authentically as a Queer affirming congregation continues to be about the children, and their knowing they are welcome and have a place of love and acceptance and belonging in this congregation together with anyone of any age who is 2SLGBTQIA+ or searching and discovering who they are, as God loves and welcomes them, just as they are, as God’s children.

           As I said, the RIC process here began more intentionally around 2007 as we completed this new addition on the building. We had a series of discussions or “Dessert and Dialogues” looking at the resources and studies available through the ELCIC and partner churches and what was then known as Lutheran’s Concerned (now Reconciling Works). We also engaged in “caring conversations,” hearing directly from gracious Queer folks willing to share their experiences within and outside the church. And a group of people then worked together on a statement, following the guidelines of the RIC process. And at the AGM in 2010, we adopted almost unanimously our statement of welcome and inclusion and applied to be recognized by Lutheran’s Concerned as a Reconciling in Christ congregation which happened that same year. I want to acknowledge even recalling this history and that we discussed and debated whether Queer people were welcome and accepted just as anyone else is in God’s love, caused and still causes harm today to Queer siblings. I am sorry for that past and present failing of the Church of Christ Jesus. And that we are called to a continuing journey in God’s mission together to embrace and celebrate our beautiful diversity as human beings, to be accountable for our actions including our failures, and to advocate for inclusion of Queer, Indigenous, Black and other People of Colour in this and all communities of Christ, willing to face resistance and rejection standing together, shaking the dust off our feet where necessary, and moving on. And to be proud, all of us together, of exactly who we all are as God’s children, welcome, included, beloved by grace, which is sufficient for you and me and all of us together.

           I recall that when the Evangelical Lutheran Worship book was released in 2006 one of the new songs was “All Are Welcome” by Marty Haugen (641). It became a kind of theme song for us for both the opening and dedication of the new addition including this beautiful sanctuary, and for the Reconciling in Christ process, proclaiming that all are welcome including and celebrating our Queer Siblings. Some words are:

      Let us build a house where love can dwell

and all can safely live,

a place where saints and children tell

how hearts learn to forgive.

Built of hopes and dreams and visions,

rock of faith and vault of grace;

here the love of Christ shall end divisions:

All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome, in this place.

Other verses express,

      Let us build a house where love is found

in water, wine and wheat:

a banquet hall on holy ground

where peace and justice meet…


…Here the outcast and the stranger

bear the image of God's face;

let us bring an end to fear and danger:

and finally,

        Let us build a house where all are named,

their songs and visions heard

and loved and treasured, taught and claimed

as words within the Word.

Built of tears and cries and laughter,

prayers of faith and songs of grace,

let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:

All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Over time we also learned that singing or saying on our sign “All are Welcome” was not sufficient and met sceptically by some Queer siblings because it didn’t assure their acceptance nor safety. And with particular thanks to Pastor Lyndon, we began to see it was essential that we more clearly indicate with rainbow flags and clear statements on our website and sign that we are striving to live out our being Queer affirming, sharing all aspects of life and ministry in community, and encouraging the gifts of Queer, BIPOC and other minority people in mission  together. In connection with another of Jesus’ stories, we couldn’t and shouldn’t hide this light under a basket for no one to see. And so we strive to live out God’s gracious inclusion and diversity together with PRIDE and to be ever-reforming on this journey of Jesus’ mission and ministry to the world.

I can think of a few specific instances that stand out in my memory. A confirmation Sunday where a young Queer person read one of the readings before affirming their Baptism. And hearing later from someone who was in worship that Sunday, who had not been here for a long time, who said, “This is a church I want to belong to, where a young person is affirmed and celebrated for exactly who they are by God’s grace.”

And following a recent Reconciling in Christ Sunday where much of the leadership was shared by Queer members of Inclusive Christians from UVic, more than one person came out after worship thanking each of them, and then saying to me and Pastor Lyndon, what a wonderful Sunday, and acknowledging how far we have come in this journey of living Reconciling in Christ to which Jesus calls us. A calling to leave familiar securities behind, and depend solely on God’s Spirit leading us and the hospitality of strangers, not without resistance or rejection, but also welcome and new friendships and beautiful diverse community in Christ Jesus together.

As Pastor Ed from Luther Court and I met with the Chell family to talk about the committal and memorial for Pastor Ted Chell, more than one family member said, “It was all about God’s love for Ted.” And the verse marked in the Bible, to be read at the committal today, was from 1 John 4, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” It reminded me of a time early in my ministry when the discussion at a Synod convention was about the question of Queer inclusion. And an elderly woman sitting next to me leaned over and said, “I don’t know about all of this… but I do know God loves everyone and that’s how I’ll be voting.” I thanked her for her wisdom and truth and I have never forgotten it.

We have a new worship book in All Creation Sings and new songs to express our life together in wonderful diversity and PRIDE and the mission and ministry to which Jesus continues to call us, especially for the children, in grace that is sufficient for all. The Hymn of the Day we will sing in a moment, “God, We Gather as Your People,” includes these words:

Oh, we sing for all the children, that one day they be free;

and we sing for generations yet to be,

that they never have a reason to doubt that they are blest.

May they, in your love, find rest.  Refrain

Oh, we pray for all the young lives cut short by fear and shame,

so afraid of who they are and whom they love.

May the message now be banished that your love is for the few;

may their faith in you renew.  Refrain 

Let it be so, with PRIDE and grace, in all our relations. Amen.