We’re an inclusive congregation, which sounds all warm and fuzzy (at least to some). It typically means that we’re a church that welcomes gays and lesbians. Which we do. But, the reality is, it goes far beyond that. And it’s not always warm and fuzzy.
People often visit and attend our church because it’s urban, inclusive, and committed to social justice. And as a pastor, I try to help make this place where we can worship God and build a community–a place where friendship, care, and a responsibility for one another can grow. The interesting thing is that…well…we have difficult people. Just a small handful of them. Every congregation has them, right?
You know who they are. She is the woman on the flower committee who has to rearrange every peony, to the dismay of the person who just spent an hour arranging them in the first place. He is the man who scowls every time a child is heard as well as seen.
We heartily welcome LGBT persons. We welcome the homeless, and on any given Sunday, you’ll find a wide range of ethnicities in the pews. And with the couple of rude people–we’re small enough that members can usually whisper the person’s specific situation into the ear of the offended, we surround the person with the space that they need, and everything’s okay.
But we’re growing. Every year, we’re getting a little bit larger, and one of our growing pains is that we’re not always able to catch when it happens. New people have been offended.
I’ve been told that I need to talk to the rude people. Which I do. I’ve been told that I need to get rid of them. Which I won’t.
Here’s the thing. Each one has a complicated life history, and some… well, I don’t need to go into all the details. We all know about how a mind can play tricks on a person. And, after all, let me remind you, we are an inclusive community. Which doesn’t just mean that we accept the nice people. It means that we accept the people who wish they were nice as well.
On a related note, my husband and I often wonder if people have forgotten what some old people are like. Perhaps we’ve forgotten the particular situations of the elderly. You know, when you’re in pain, or your eyes are clouded with cataracts, or you’re trying to figure out how many more years that you can live independently, then you’re just may not always be nice.
And so, at our church, we’ve decided that we’re going to have a frank discussion in the new members’ class. The HOS says it’s like when a person’s about to get married, and the soon-to-be spouse says, “Let me tell you a little bit about the people you’re going to meet at the wedding….”
So what do you do?