How would it be for you, as a parent, if you came gradually to understand that your just-emerging-from-college daughter had fallen in love with another young woman, and six years passed, and she loved her still?
How would you feel if you belonged to a church that, around this same time, chose to examine the possibility of going on record as a place welcoming to any woman who loved a woman, to any man who loved a man, the same as it is to any person who entered there to worship?
And if one day during this 18-month-long period of study, prayer and reflection, when a woman stood and expressed her concern about how "these people" might fit in, I wonder if it would surprise you to hear the man in the neighboring pew whisper to his wife, "She doesn't realize she's talking about our son."
Or if it would surprise you to learn that a half dozen other parents were likely thinking the same thing: You speak of our children, onetime singers in the junior choir and assistants in the Sunday school. Our children, whom you have known since their infancy.
I wonder how you might then feel if, after that lengthy consideration, your church voted, "Yes. Let the word go forth that we in this 150-year old community of the UCC unanimously choose to be known as an open and affirming congregation."
And if you were yourself one of these parents and your daughter and her beloved sought to undergo a Liturgy of Commitment here, I wonder how you would feel to have the deacons say, "Yes. By all means, yes, we are delighted. For you are our own daughter, and this one that you love is our daughter now, too."
I wonder how you might feel if, during this ceremony, your husband of 33 years, with his hair now white but his manner still so gentle, stood to recite a fatherly poem to the two; if he prefaced it by saying that he knew he spoke too for the much-missed dad of your daughter's beloved; if he then paused and said aloud to the very large assembly that he couldn't be happier that his daughter had chosen this woman to be her life partner.
I wonder if it would lift your heart to hear the verses he read by poet Gail Mazur: "What you want for it you'd want for a child, that she take hold; that her roots find home in stony winter soil; that she take seasons in stride É that she know, in her branchings, to seek balance; that change not frighten her, rather that change meet her embrace ... that she find her place in an orchard."
And if, in the year following, a baby should come to their house, would you not rejoice and be glad? Just as we rejoiced last month when we first saw this newborn with his grave and curious look, with his chest no wider than a lady's hand, held so tenderly in their slender young arms?
I think you might, if it became personal for you this way. I think the realization might dawn within you that this is what is chiefly asked of us here: That we make a family. That we spend ourselves over the long years in many deeds of care and kindness and make a place where such children as we are sent can shelter.
And take root.
And one day find their own place in the orchard.
Terry Marotta, a syndicated columnist, is a 27-year member of First Congregational UCC in Winchester, Mass.