“If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” - Revelation 2:29 (Jerusalem Bible)
My church will soon adopt a vision statement with three priorities to focus on in the next three years. One of the priorities is: “To grow in intimacy as the weird and wonderful body of Christ.”
The word “weird” stirred some big feelings, both excitement and alarm. An empathic public health nurse in our congregation who has started a mental health ministry was worried about how “weird” has been used to target and belittle people with mental illnesses. She suggested we could use another word like curious, mysterious, or unexpected.
A trans activist, one of the wordsmiths of the statement, answered in this way: “For those of us who have had the word used as an insult against us, my hope is that including ‘weird’ in our vision statement can act as a reclamation...and a signal to newbies that all sorts of people are welcome here, without using a word like ‘diverse’ that can read as buzzword-y and disingenuous.”
Ze added, “Of course, not all of us think of ourselves as weirdos individually. But I think the Body of Christ as a whole certainly is weird, and we ought to celebrate that! I can't think of anywhere but church that such a wide variety of people have the chance to share fellowship and peace so deeply together.”
The nurse supported the expanded use of “weird” if it came with that eloquent explainer. And just like that, a retired nurse and a pink-haired trans millennial embodied the very community they were trying to express.
What’s the quote we attribute to St. Francis? Preach the gospel—when necessary, use weirds.
God, thank you for the miracle of an email thread that fosters relationship and understanding instead of conflict. And thank you for putting all us misfits together, so we have a place, a purpose, and a people to belong to. Amen.
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister of First Congregational Church UCC in Berkeley, California, and the author of the best-selling Real Good Church, Standing Naked Before God, and her newest baby, Bless This Mess: A Modern Guide to Faith and Parenting in a Chaotic World.