“How do we move on from here?”
“I just don’t know what to do…”
“Conflict is inevitable, but is middle ground even possible?”
“Besides posting on social media, how do I show support?”
I’ve had/observed several conversations with people since the school board meeting on Tuesday (It was quite a surreal meeting, as trustees ended up comparing school policies on calling parents of LGBT teens to residential schools, tried connecting sex-ed to cancer rates, and expressed concern about indoctrination).
But all my conversations seem to be ending up in the same place.
What do we do? How do we elevate the conversation? How do we create safe spaces for everyone?
In some ways, I’m lucky I’m part of a small church. At Grace Mennonite, we are committed to trying to love each other and to sitting next to each other every Sunday, even if we disagree. We have facilitated conversations about all sorts of things (environmentalism, poverty, residential schools, refugee sponsorship, and yes, sexuality), and they’ve all gone quite well. But because these conversations happen within the context of a community that cares about each other, we still work very hard at loving each other, sharing food, organizing parties, visiting each other when we’re sick, and praying for each other, even if we’re not on the same page.
So, for me, the easy part of the question “What do we do?” is simply to continue doing what we’re already doing at Grace – Try to model the life of Christ by actively working for peace and justice and accepting and caring for all people. No matter what happens, we will support each other and walk together as we try to love God and love our neighbours as ourselves.
But when the question about what to do leads me outside of our church walls, or for people who aren’t a part of my church, or people who don’t believe in the “invisible sky god” like I do, I have less answers.
But what I do have is hope.
I have hope because anytime I write a blog post about sexuality and Steinbach and religion, the feedback is 95% positive. There are thousands of us down here in the Southeast who believe in equal treatment for everyone, regardless of orientation or gender. Yes, we are a minority, but we are here, and we are learning to find our voice and use it in constructive ways.
I have hope because there are advocacy/support groups made up from local folk that are forming and continuing to network and educate and support and work towards change.
Because of the hard work of a great teenager a few years ago, there’s a Gay-Straight Alliance at the SRSS that continues to meet and receives tremendous support from teachers.
There’s a student led GSA at Providence University College that has some great professors lending support.
Steinbach Pride is organizing a march for equality this summer, seeking to create safe space for people where they can be themselves.
I’m part of a group called Steinbach Neighbours for Community that is seeking to promote understanding and acceptance of the diversity present in our community. We brought in a theatrical play last year called Listening for Grace, and we’re continuing with plans for a story telling event in the autumn featuring stories of local LGBT individuals and their families (we’re still in the planning stages of this, but I’ll keep you updated for more info when I have it).
Heck, even us pastors/clergy who are open to the conversation are supporting each other. We know that much of the opposition to LGBT equality is rooted in religion, but not every church and every pastor and every Christian is opposed. There aren’t a lot of us, but we are still here.
And none of this includes the informal conversations, coffee, emails, and other signs of support that are shared between LGBT individuals and allies.
So when it comes to how to create change on a big level, I don’t have a lot of concrete answers.
But on a smaller, local level, what I do have is hope. Lots of it.
We are here, doing our best. Change might not be as fast we’d like, we will inevitably make mistakes, but at least we’re on the road. Baby steps are better than no steps.
I’ll end with some words attributed to Oscar Romero. It’s rooted in the Christian tradition (did I mention that I like being part of a church and the Christian tradition?), but I think much of it’s applicable to all my thoughts and conversations this week.
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Grace and Peace to you all.
PS – And, as usual, if you’re looking for safe spaces or people in town, let me know, and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction. email@example.com is my email address.