June 25, 2020 was World Pride Day! It was a day to celebrate LBGTQIA+ individuals and the movement for acceptance. I was able to watch Toronto Community of Christ online worship ton June 28th which was focused on LBGTQIA+ awareness and radical hospitality. It was an awesome worship led by ministers who are LBGTQIA+ in the Community of Christ in conjunction with Harmony (non-profit organization focused on LBGTQIA+ advocacy and education to congregations in Community of Christ). You can check it out on the YouTube video below.
LBGTQIA+ individuals have historically been rejected and ostracized by faith groups for centuries causing deep pain and great harm to people. The inner conflict between beliefs which have been instilled in individuals and their own sexual orientation has caused significant turmoil to navigate. Some have found refuge in family while others have been rejected by those closest to them. Faith communities have often turned their back. Though the world today is slowly becoming a better and more safer place for those who are LBGTQia+ religious organizations tend to still be a place of division and pain for such individuals. Especially for those who grew up in one of the largest religious institutions who continue to not uphold same sex marriage and equal rights for those who are LBGTQia+.
This is one of many reasons why Topeka Community of Christ felt compelled to have a booth at the September 2019 Topeka Pride Picnic. They wanted to show support and give another perspective on religion and faith. To provide an open door for those who may want to talk about faith. Community of Christ was one of three faith groups who had a booth at the event. The community of Topeka has over 40 different religious denominations.
It was a wonderful event in which people were celebrated for who they are without any judgment. The members of Community of Christ said just being present at the event and talking with those who came by was a learning experience about how to be more welcoming as a church. It was a first step in creating an atmosphere were others can come and feel welcomed immediately and supported for who they are. They learned about the importance of using inclusive language, having documents and materials openly state the acceptance of all people, and clear visualizations showing all are welcome. Topeka hopes to participate further in Topeka Pride and be a safe place for all those who come through the doors.
Thank you to all those who are out there supporting and advocating for LBGTQIA+ in your communities. Keep it up!
This week connect with someone different than you. Listen to their story and learn something about who they are that you didn't know.
Happy belated Father's Day to all those father's out there. I had a great time with my boys however I reflected more than usual on the short amount of years I had with my father. I remember we decided not to attend church the first Father's Day after he died as it was just too hard. However as years passed my family did start attending church on Father's Day again. I remember distinctly crying my eyes out when the hymn "This is My Father's World" was played. It written as a poem by Maltbie Davenport Babcock and was set to music by Franklin L. Sheppard in 1915. Here is a great video of it if you haven't heard it by Fountainview Academy.
For me I had a loving, generous, hardworking, and caring father. It was easy for me to think of God as a father because of the relationship I had experienced. However many have not had the same experience and relating God to a father may be difficult and put strain in their spiritual relationship with the divine. As a follower of Christ I must acknowledge words mean a lot and can cause much pain to people when they are used in the wrong context or cause past memories to surface. I believe churches have an obligation to try to bring wholeness to as many people as possible which means language plays an instrumental role. It is through our language where we hear who God is in our lives. It is through language in which we creatively understand our experiences with the divine. Often times we get stuck on tradition including our language instead of moving with the spirit of love and peace.
In Community of Christ Sings the lyrics for "This is My Father's World" were changed to be more inclusive and sensitive to those who do not experience the divine as a father. It is now "This is God's Wondrous World". Though I will always relate this song to my father I am extremely proud of the the change that has occurred because it shows an awareness to the use of language in our lives. When we are sensitive to the needs of others and take action toward those sensitivities, than we are walking in the Saviors stead.
There will be some who disagree with this and only see God as a man. Changing the words is not a challenge to your own perception rather an acknowledgment that it can cause deep pain in others. Continue to view God in your way, but know your perception is not the only one. If we as disciples can create healing relationships and acknowledge others perspectives different than our own than we are following Jesus.
What relationship do you equate with the divine?
Is there language you use that may cause deep pain in others?
How can you bring wholeness to others through your words?
I appreciate everyone who continues to spread hope and love in this world during this year where life has been turned upside down.
This week reflect on how you use language and take measures to make it more inclusive.
With what is happening in the world, I have had a lot of time to listen and reflect about various aspects of our society in regards to race. Me being a white man will never fully be able to understand the experiences of those in the black community. However I can reach out to them, listen, speak up when I see injustice, and join with my brothers and sisters in fighting for just and equal systems.
When I was a kid, my father was the pastor of our local Community of Christ which was located in a small town mostly comprised of white people. One woman in our congregation was married to a black man who she would bring with her to church. Me being a kid didn't think twice about it. This man and I built a friendship over the years through common interests.
When I was a teenager, years after my father passed away unexpectedly, this man and I were talking. The man said the first time he came to our Community of Christ congregation he was worried about being accepted for his skin color and his interracial marriage. He had faced racism from the surrounding community and didn't know how church would be. When he walked in the door, my father immediately stopped what he was doing up front in preparation for the service, came back, shook his hand, and welcomed him. This one act put some of his worries aside knowing the leader of this congregation cared enough about him as a person to walk straight back and welcome him. To this man, this small act of acceptance and welcoming meant so much more.
It is this radical welcoming of people for who they are, both their similarities and differences to which we are called as disciples.
What Can We Do
These last few weeks have been quite a ride for many of us as we have been faced with the racism that still exists and ostracizes part of our population. The killing of unarmed black men have been senseless and do not reflect the values we seek as followers of God. The current systems in place are not holding to the standards we deem appropriate. We believe in the inestimable worth of all people which means things need to change to ensure all truly feel they have a place at the table.
Now how do we do that? I don't know entirely. I acknowledge I do not fully understand the issues because of my own bias and privilege, but I am willing to listen and sit with the stories of those in the black community who are living in the injustice without inserting my opinion. I can research systematic racism to have a greater understanding of the issues. I can consciously be friends with those from different cultures and backgrounds than myself. I can teach my kids about racism and read books about other cultures. I can join in the non-violent protests using my voice and actions. Like many of you I have a lot to learn and understand, but I cannot be silent when I see or hear of injustice.
We as individuals have a power to enact change. Saying its not my problem turns our back on our power as individuals and as a collective society. So I encourage you to look for ways to act, use your voice, and help change society for the better so that all those oppressed, abused, downtrodden, no matter your skin color, income, past, etc. will be accepted for who they are and have equal rights and voice.
Thank you to all those who follow along. Please comment about your thoughts and feelings over the past few weeks.
This week reach out and listen to those in the black community and hear their stories.
Craig Hidy like the majority of ministers in Community of Christ is a bi-vocational, self sustaining ordained minister. He is a member of the Midlands Mission Center Emporia Team and an ordained Seventy. He and his family, live in Topeka, Kansas.
The mission of the Seventy
“After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.” Luke 10:1-3 NRSV
What is a Seventy?
The Seventy carry out missionary work for the church in close association with other missionary leaders. They represent Christ primarily as ministers of evangelism through witnessing, inviting, and church planting.
They especially proclaim and promote Jesus Christ’s invitation to faithful discipleship through vibrant witness, and train individuals and congregations in witness and invitation.
They particularly minister with seekers, individually and in groups, to share the gospel in relevant ways and to invite response.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.
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