This past Sunday my partner and I attended a service at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Boston. We decided to attend because we had just started couples spiritual direction with Rev. Pam who is the rector there. In many ways the Episcopal Church is a funny home for us as a couple. She grew up and still identifies as part of the Roman Catholic Church while I grew up in Evangelical spaces and do not claim a specific Christian denomination as home right now. After the service, my partner told me that she noticed how for all the progressive leanings of the Episcopal Church, the service felt more Catholic than her simple Catholic service back in Münster, Germany.
Throughout my time with Life Together I was always quick to make fun of my friends who were “cradle Episcopalians,” many of whom found comfort and home in the liturgy and Book of Common Prayer. I’d often joke about how I couldn’t find a Bible in the pews of an Episcopal Church or question the sanitation of all sharing the same cup during Eucharist. Yet, for all my jest since leaving Life Together I have chosen to delve even deeper into this Anglican wildness. As I was sitting there, in front of their ornate altar and underneath intricate stained glass I found myself wondering, how did I get here?
I know how I got here. Because of the people in the church. Because I knew Rev. Pam through Rev. Arrington and the queer Christian network of the Episcopal Church. Because my partner and I felt more comfortable talking about the historically heterosexual institution of marriage with someone who understood. I knew Rev Bob who also works at 138 Tremont and was preaching that Sunday. Because I knew Hannah Field, a current Life Together fellow who was carrying the cross that Sunday. Because it was so beautiful to see queer leadership at church on an ordinary Sunday morning, being treated as simply leaders in the Church.
For those of you who know me, you’ll know that I am more often found challenging the Episcopal Church than praising it. But a lesson that I have learned over the past few years, especially in the year since I left Life Together is that in order to be able to challenge a community, you also have to be part of it. And to be part of a community means some part of you has to love it. In my relationship with my partner, I have often been humbled by her commitment to her church. I have learned so much about what it means to remain committed to institutions that often are not where we want them to be. To love the people in the church even when the Church itself disappoints us. To recognize that a community is so much more than its leadership. That the body of Christ is so much more expansive and diverse than what rests at the head of it.
This past week, my heart has been particularly attentive to my friends and queer siblings in the United Methodist Church in light of a recent vote to uphold homophobic theology. It breaks my heart knowing the tension they must be holding in their very being and I know whatever their path forward, God will continue to love them as the beloved children that they are. In some ways I found great spiritual comfort in the prominent queer leadership I saw on Sunday knowing that it was supported by the Episcopal institution. On the other hand, I knew that Pam and Bob and Hannah being up there did not start with the leadership, it started with local communities who lived out God’s radical welcome long before it was voted on in General Conference. I know that same radical welcome existed and continues to exist within the United Methodist Church.
What I wish for all of us whether we identify as people of Christ, people of faith, or people of this globe is not that we can find perfect communities. Rather, that we may all find communities worth fighting for and people worth fighting with. To end, I will close with the ultimate Episcopalian move-with a quote from the Book of Common Prayer borrowed from my favorite Episcopalians, Enrique's, Facebook feed:
O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing; Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(Collect for Epiphany 7, Book of Common Prayer)