“Why do you always say ‘Everyone is welcome’? It’s everywhere – on your website, on the Facebook page, in the bulletin. Isn’t that a bit overkill?”
The answer is simple – we say “Everyone is welcome” because not every church does. When the United Methodist Church voted to ban openly gay clergy and to refuse same-sex marriage, a clear message was sent. Everyone is, actually, not welcome there.
So we’ll say it with symbols – the rainbow wreath on our front door, the rainbow stripe on our church sign out front, and posters throughout our church – and we’ll say it with our actions.
We need to say out loud what we wish was simply true everywhere. “Everyone is welcome” ranks right up there with the phrase “Black Lives Matter” in terms of expressing important truths.
Yes, we wish it wasn’t necessary to say that “everyone” is welcome, but lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, and queer folk hear people debating their worth and value every day.
Yes, we wish it was clear that “all lives” matter, but too many people of color have been wounded by unequal treatment and by obstacles in housing, education, and employment.
Our congregation is called to proclaim that everyone is a beloved child of God, created in God’s image, and cherished by God. Every day we need to wonder – What if we treated everyone with grace and forgiveness? What if we took Jesus’ words to heart and really loved our neighbors?
We’re not perfect as a church. We don’t always get it right and there is still much we need to learn and do. But our intention is to be welcoming. Our mission is to learn from those on the margins and to listen to those who often feel overlooked or unheard.
This is not a time to declare our church or denomination “better” or more open than another. It is simply time to redouble our efforts to be even more intentional and more extravagant in our welcome.
May we take these words to heart, “Jesus didn’t turn people away. Neither do we.”