Michael and Suzanne (because she was responsible for Community Engagement at the time) used to talk about how the UCC lost some of its distinctiveness, even identity, as the other mainline churches – at least the Lutherans, Episcopalians and the Presbyterians – updated their teachings to include queer folk’s equality before God. Of course, justice for LGBT folks, greater acceptance of diversity, welcoming lgbt people as equals – all this is what we hoped for all along.
But before it happened, the UCC’s ability to welcome queer folk (and the rarity of that in the wider church) was sort of a shorthand for “so much more” about how our denomination believes and practices the Christian faith differently. LGBT people at home in our churches was, one might say, the visible object lesson for our ‘not putting a period where God put a comma.’
Michael expected that as other denominations caught up — and to be honest, the society as a whole was outpacing all the churches –the visibility of our UCC congregations’ queer-friendliness was going to become less important. Less unique. Less visible. Less necessary.
Sadly, in the overheated cultural politics of our day, that has turned out not to be true at all. Gay and trans lives have become one of the hot button issues in the culture wars:
~ states are prohibiting trans health care;
~ school boards are demanding curriculum free of any history of persecution or praise of diversity;
~ communities are banning books about queer characters and by queer authors from libraries.
~ queer folk, perhaps most especially trans folks, have begun to think more than before about places that might not be safe for them, even to visit. It’s not unusual in this political environment for people who are lgbt to feel threatened or in danger.
In light of all this, hasn’t it sadly become even more important, necessary that we trumpet loud and proud our faith — that we stand for welcome, respect, justice, equality for all God’s children?
Mike W. had seen the UCC displays of the rainbow doors (image above), and had asked Michael if we might create something like that. Michael laughed and responded, “With a building and a half about to be demolished, we certainly can find the doors.”
And as Michael thought more about it, he realized that it might be another way we make sure the church looks open while half the yard is a construction site. Sort of a replacement of the “Be the Church” and the “Black Lives Matter” signs that were on the corner. (The JVMT is also considering how we might use the construction fence for messaging!). A splash of color to draw people’s attention and interest, even in the shadow of the construction.
Think about it: the bushes along the front of the church are soon to go (in part so we can add the lighting to flood the facade for more attention and light.) What if we put the rainbow-bright “door display” along the front wall of the Sanctuary building east of the front doors once the shrubbery is gone? And what if we add the additional colors — more doors — that are included recently to broaden its reference to queer people’s experiences:
- A black and a brown door to reference how queer people of color often have different experiences and struggles for justice;
- the light blue and the pink (with the white being our actual front doors!) to reference trans folks’ experience and struggles for justice.
Michael is pretty sure we can salvage 10 different doors. And if the 8 service camps this summer help us paint them, we might include a whole discussion of the politics of gender and sexuality in our society and in the church as part of their Philadelphia experience this summer. (seems like a fitting Philly topic).
The UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns is responsible for recommending the wording “God’s Doors Are Open to All.” But if we have more doors, don’t we need to come up with a second sentence for our additional doors – maybe something about our doors / welcome / faith?
If you have any ideas, questions, suggestions, concerns, speak to Michael or Mike W. Also, if you’d like to get involved: t would be great if we could get someone who wanted to help each service camp paint one door while they are here…