July 7, 2023
One of the highlights of the American Baptist Churches, USA (ABC) Biennial/Mission Summit I recently attended was spending a meal with the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB). As many of you are painfully aware, this community, of which Lakeshore is a founding member, has faced significant attacks, silencing and exclusion over the decades. And today’s current climate reflects intensified attacks on our LGBTQIA+ siblings. This year alone, roughly 500 anti-LGBTQ laws have already been introduced in state legislatures across the country. And yet, the atmosphere at our breakfast was one of deep hope and celebration for the expansive and all-embracing vision of all of God’s glorious children! AWAB was celebrating its 50th anniversary, and this was the first biennial ever that AWAB was officially recognized as an ABC community. We who have been relegated to the margins for decades were finally part of the “official” American Baptist family. We celebrated. We feasted. We worshipped and offered exuberant song fitting of the historic rainbow choir. It was a powerful time of coming together in the midst of the fray – to be an embracing community, to remind ourselves of where we’ve come, and to ground ourselves for the work ahead. Here is the opening prayer that set the tone for our time together, offered by Madison McClendon, a Baptist leader from Chicago and a colleague of Jim’s on the Board of Directors of the Baptist Joint Committee For Religious Liberty:
Strong, handsome, fierce and powerful Mother. Sweet, gentle, beautiful and sensitive Father. Parent whose nurture and protection surpasses understanding. We have gathered for another morning. Most of us didn’t get enough sleep last night. Most of us had a full day yesterday. Most of us have a full day in front of us.
Last night, we heard a word to be woke. But for some of us, the work of being awake for decades, awake when others were asleep, working while others slumbered, that work has been exhausting. Many of us have had too many sleepless nights worrying about what it means to be ourselves in a world that refuses to understand. We fell asleep last night once more, not into an ignorant sleep, but into a desperate rest.
But now we have reason to celebrate. Now we gather in rainbow glory. Wake us today to more than just justice. Enliven us to see the inexhaustible beauty of your creation, a beauty that emerges precisely from the impossible diversity and inexpressible abundance that is the watchword of being alive. Every face here is a creation you made to be beautiful and fragile, glorious and vulnerable, extraordinary and queer. As we awake together, make us wholly alive to the beauty of your queer and wondrous world. Let that beauty be the fuel that lets us do more than just see the injustice around us. Let it empower us to set our hands once more to the task the day demands of us. Let it teach us once more what it means to rise in power.
Amen, and amen.
May the joy of Pride celebrations linger long, even as the attacks around us continue to mount. And may we continue to be God’s ambassadors of love, embrace and inclusion.
PS – Lakeshore will celebrate Pride Sunday on September 3, the Sunday before the Oakland’s Pridefest.