Written by Marilyn Pagn-Banks
Acts 2:26 “…therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope.” (NRSV)
Several years ago, I was standing outside the sanctuary and one of the choir members grabbed someone I had never seen in church before and pulled her towards me. Holding her by the hand, Janel looked me straight in the eyes and asked me, “Would she be welcome in our church?” “She” was a trans woman. Without missing a beat, I responded, “Of course.”
I will never forget the smile on Mimi’s face and the “I told you so” look on Janel’s. That following Sunday, Mimi got up and testified to what it meant to her to be welcome. When the choir sang, she joined in and danced in the congregation with joy.
The church had not done a study. We had not taken a vote. We didn’t have any quick answers to issues of gender identity nor all of the resources we have available today. But we were a congregation made up of mostly marginalized folks, so we knew what it meant to need to belong. And we took the commandment to “love our neighbor” to heart. Long before it was a denominational tag line, “no matter who you are…you are welcome here” was our understanding of being the church. The messy, imperfect, risk-taking, hope-inspiring, welcoming church of Jesus Christ.
Prayer: God of him/her/they – God who loves us all, thank You for Your abundant welcome into wholeness, the beloved community and to Your reign here on earth. Truly our hearts are glad and we testify to Your love and power, with body and soul. Amen.
Bio: Rev. Dr. Marilyn Pagán-Banks is Pastor of Namasté UCC, a new church start; serves as Transitional Pastor of San Lucas UCC; and, is Executive Director of A Just Harvest in Chicago.