“Inspire Authenticity: Pride” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

June 25th,2020 Categories: Stephanie Kendell Letters, Weekly Letter

Beloved Church,

HAPPY PRIDE!! Yes, that was in all caps because as I typed it, I yelled it! HAPPY PRIDE! It is one of my favorite Sunday’s of the year. A day in which to celebrate the fullness of diversity that God has created. So why would we not yell that good news? This Sunday is the last Sunday before I take some time off, so I wanted to let you know of a couple things coming up. First, instead of my weekly reflection, the newsletter will include that week’s scripture and some questions to think about. I won’t be working on my time away and with everything happening in the world right now, writing for a time unknown to me, felt inauthentic to who we are as a present and justice seeking community. So, scripture and questions will be given so that hopefully you will be inspired for some personal reflection (and is a hint at July’s Inspire theme!). I also hope that the scriptures and questions also lead you to participate in Bible Study every Sunday at 10 am with Rev. Dr. Richard Sturm and Minister Candace Simpson who will be joining us in my absence.

July has a lot of fun and new things happening. We also have a new Interim Family Minister who is leading our children’s ministry this summer. Rev. Cara Gilger will continue to write and share in the weekly newsletter what is happening with our young people. Finally, July will have new inspire curriculum, so be sure to be on the lookout for that. Pastor Kaji will be leading July’s Inspired Dialogue. This is all in addition to our weekly YASS Happy Hour, monthly Soul Food Fellowship, weekly worship, and so much more. We hope to see you at all of these incredible spaces of ministry and God’s welcoming and justice seeking work.

It is hard to think back now, but there was a time before my life in church. I did not grow up in the church. I came to church in my late 20’s seeking a new form of community. The first time I went to worship, I sat in the back pew and entered after worship had started so I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I was scared. Honestly, the reason I hadn’t gone to church before that wasn’t a lack of knowledge, I knew about church and Jesus, but it was a lack of welcome. Growing up in the Bay Area the only religious people I knew were not very welcoming- and in some cases outright hurtful- toward people that were different than them. And while I may have been welcomed because of how I identify, I didn’t want to belong to a community that wouldn’t welcome everyone.

So, there I sat in the last pew hoping to go unnoticed. The sermon talked about justice issues, there were women in leadership, and the music was remarkable. I may have slipped in unnoticed by people, but God definitely saw me. At the end of service, a woman about my age introduced herself and invited me to the church gathering after worship. I had been seen and welcomed by both God and Her people. So, I said, yes…and in a way never left. But I may not be writing this to you today, if it hadn’t been for the welcoming introduction of that one member. The one person who saw me alone in the back; scared and unsure of what comes next.

This week’s scripture talks about that very type of welcome. Let’s read together this message from Matthew 10:40-42.

40 “Those who welcome you also welcome me, and those who welcome me welcome the One who sent me.

41 “Those who welcome prophets just because they are prophets will receive the reward reserved for the prophets themselves; those who welcome holy people just because they are holy will receive the reward of the holy ones.

42 “The truth is, whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these lowly ones just for being a disciple will not lack a reward.”

I was welcomed into church by someone who welcomed me because that is what Disciples of Jesus do- we welcome. We welcome because all are not only needed but necessary when building the kindom. But we are building a kindom in the midst of a lot of hurt and a lot of grief. Which is why not only during the month of Pride is it necessary to preach and teach and learn about God’s beloved queer people, but we must do so often and with a boldness of love that can only been seen as God in action. When we as people of faith celebrate Pride, we chip away at the closed doors that have kept people away from church and worship. When we as people of faith celebrate Pride, we let a piece of God work freely in our midst. When we as a people of faith celebrate Pride, it is the good news of Christ Jesus in action.

Friends, the church boldly celebrating Pride is an act of justice and liberation. We are beloved and proud every way that God made us, and I am so grateful to serve a church that welcomes the full expansive body of Christ. A body that is diverse, contains multitudes, and is confident enough in its relationship with God to offer radical hospitality to all.

Shalom Y’all,

Rev. Stephanie

A quick prayer for your week: O Lord I am beloved and proud. Amen