RCCares’ work this past week provided a scope of snap shots of the many different parts Being church incorporates. There are many more faces to ministry as you surely could attest. We enliven the praxis of living into the kindom of love’s reign in many bits and pieces. Our life is a lively kaleidoscope of how we love in sorrow and joy every day. Thank Goodness that we do not stand alone.
On Saturday we were engaged via phone conference with other Rainbow Access Initiative board members in the Capital District in New York as we designed the next steps for establishing the program format for RAI’s Art of Health Expo 2012. Focus on breakout sessions included discussion on the content of the presentations and the support needed for proposed sessions. The aim of the Expo event is to bring the artistic skills of LGBTQ people to the foreground for the purpose of enhancing healthy living amid creative exchange. RAI supports consumers and providers in uplifting that which is the best of what we can offer each other, giving LGBTQ community opportunity to be our gracious and healthy selves. We celebrate with serious reflection on the desires of our community, honest sharing, good humor, compassionate caring and moments of joy.
Sunday was a day for gathering in Raleigh as the Coalition to Protect NC Families worked to educate and encourage involvement in social action. RCCares joined over 70 other community organizations, religious and/or secular based, to collaborate in the effort toward helping NC voters understand how they will be impacted by Amendment One which is on the ballet for May 8, 2012. [The first sentence of the proposed amendment states “Marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.”] On Sunday we were able to talk with leaders from NC, including Jimmy Creech, as well as to renew our acquaintance with Rev Dr Mel White, one of Soulforce’s compassionate founders and a celebrant at Holy Relationships in Iowa City, Iowa, in 2006. We weave the net of connection wider and stronger with each conversation, allowing for more influential actions in Being the church together. The significance of moving the moderate middle to vote against the amendment in response to the needs of all families is imperative to equality and justice for LGBTQ people, our family, friends and our community. Where we had failed to support each other in the past because of our differences, we now affirm our hope for a better way of life and join in care of neighbor as self.
Monday evening we joined The People of Faith group, a coalition of local faith organization congregants whose mission is supporting all NC families and leading the vote against Amendment 1. Their plan includes public actions in which they intend to engage, including one on one educational conversation with those in their social network interested in families, speaking through the public media, collectively participating in the march in February advocating with the NAACP for issues of justice and equality in our community, and bringing speakers to their congregations’ gatherings to continue the education process regarding the need for all families to receive the benefits offered. Their strategy is to be a faithful voice of equality and justice for LGBTQ families in their personal relationships, within supportive communal gatherings and in the public forum where legislation and policies are formed. We have discovered that as we tell our stories, what can be revealed in that telling is the good news of freedom and release to truly live.
Tuesday we met with the OutRaleigh steering committee to propose an OutRaleigh Clergy component to that annual event. Discussion centered on how clergy might be brought publically into a commitment to offer support to LGBTQ families as identified OutRaleigh Clergy. Committee consensus was that criteria for inclusion in the brochure would require public actions that demonstrated support and affirmation of LGBTQ families. The OutRaleigh clergy should be present during the event to respond to requests of event participants. A confirmed, connected network of publically affirming and responsive clergy can serve to counter and denounce threats of hate violence due to religious intolerance based on anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. Where policies and legislation exclude LGBTQ people based on ‘religious morals’ and family value, the OutRaleigh Clergy act to expand the inclusion of all families in community.
Wednesday we attended the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (NCHRC) Transgender Discussion Group. As is too often the case, a person joined our conversation who had never met with others with whom they could identify. Exploring terminology while expanding our self expression is a blessing we offer each other every time we gather. Welcome, acceptance, breaking bread (and peeling an orange) together, forgiving our own shortcomings and that of the other, offering care and support in ways that matter, and encouraging each other to keep on caring are the sustenance of every meeting. We inspire each other, empowering in ourselves the goodness in which we participate, nourishing us for co creating justice and reframing inclusion in our daily lives.
Thursday we attended a presentation at a local coffee shop that has become home for us even, and especially, in the midst of a chaotic community issue conversation. To have a venue where all voices may be engaged in community building is a valuable resource which we support with our heart and soul. However, we were brought up short in the bigotry and hateful language spoken by the presenter. The possibility of open exploration was derailed by the presenter’s personal and immovable opinion of the assumed ‘given’ of the abomination of our lives as LBGTQ persons. Others at the presentation felt called to engage in a rhetorical dialogue with the presenter, so we allowed the space and time for them to pursue that task as we disengaged. God bless us all, everyone. We were willing to admit that our passion in ministry is to those who would have ears to hear.
Friday our work week culminated with the Affirming Faith Forum at the LGBT Center of Raleigh. We led a discussion about the movie “For the Bible Tells Me So” with community members interested in exploring scripture for Biblical support of same gender love and gender self identity and self expression. Our conversation incorporated our understanding of God’s creating us in God’s image and how we have been blessed with supportive people in our lives. A question was asked, “How can we prove that God loves us?” We sat there quietly, heart and soul in love and care for each other, touched by the love that is beyond all understanding. We inherently believe that God loves ALL of God’s creation and who could prove otherwise? The Affirming Faith Forum will continue to meet at the LGBT Center of Raleigh, however, instead of every 3rd month we will be meeting every month on the 4th Monday of the month. The Affirming Faith Forum provides a venue for open exploration of the deep passion for love, the desire for a satisfying life and the joy in a self-connection shared. The forum will also offer the opportunity to explore and reflect upon defusing the power of systemic evils of religious intolerance and bigotry.