The local baker said during our transaction: “It looks like your church is an interesting place.”
We were hashing out specifics for a huge cake order honoring Pentecost; I’m newer to the Methodist (and Christian) church world and just learned myself that Pentecost is the actual birth of the Christian church. I’m still getting clearer on the details of the biblical celebration but it’s a grand thing which many of faith party-hearty for every year; …lots of history still to learn and ponder on my end!
So then the baker and I finessed what the orange and red flames could look like in fiery cream cheese icing.
“Our church IS interesting, you’re welcome to Sunday services anytime,” I said back.
The baker replied:
“Nah you all wouldn’t want me. I’m gay and my old church already kicked me out.”
A ton of thoughts zipped through my head right then: what’s a kind and honest way to respond? Will my words come across as too sappy or too familiar or forced or ugh…
After a few seconds, I just wanted to at least convey a sense of acceptance in our conversation. He shared such vulnerability already in what his former church did. Finally I got over myself and said he was more than welcome to participate anytime.
“Really?” he said in surprise. “Is my partner welcome too?!”
Then we talked about LGBTQI advocacy and marriage briefly and how it’s all supported in my neighborhood (and certainly at my church community).
Later after this talk of cake and justice — what struck my memory was how certain he seemed that his exclusion from a religious place was eminent. It was as if his emotional labor had already been invested, confronted, toiled over and rejected, with no expectation for fruits of that labor to grow a different or more communal type of hope. He inherently assumed he wouldn’t be welcome…that his desire to be apart of a formalized community of folks was not a relevant or acceptable or palatable desire for others to validate given who he was as a human.
There’s so much about formal religion for my heart and mind to grapple with, so many questions. But while still on this journey of learning, that first Pentecost celebration thousands of years ago comes to mind, vibrant and hopeful and in motion well before various biblical interpretations were ever published. At that moment was the spirit of Jesus nailing lists to trees that would soon become church doors declaring: “Hey forgiveness and love are all for YOU & US but not for them or those other types…”
Or were the newest followers of that freshly born faith quivering with loving compassion for everybody….in what my pastor calls wonderful, radical hospitality?