Since our meeting on March 4, I have been humbled, encouraged and energized by the response of this congregation to the denominational decision made in St. Louis. Your thoughts, opinions and beliefs have been vital to my ability to minister, guiding me as I serve as your leader during this time in the life of our church.
Our leadership team was adamant that we would not devise a plan forward without first hearing from our members who identify as LGBTQ+, and making space for them to inform how we move forward. So, on two occasions, Rev. Willet and I have met with those members. We heard firsthand the pain, sorrow, hurt and confusion this decision caused them, and we were able to begin to process those emotions together as a faith family. In addition, they shared what they would like to see FirstChurch do in response. That feedback has shaped our formal plan to move forward.
I want to make it clear that FirstChurch remains committed to the theology of the Open Table – ALL are welcome here. Yet, we realize that simply being welcoming is not enough. We must work from the inside out to tear down structures that expose anyone to hurt, harm or hate. We stand with our LGBTQ+ siblings during this time, and we will all work together to ensure that the United Methodist Church is one where all have the opportunity to participate fully in the life of the Church.
Thus, we are eager to make this commitment known to those inside and outside our church. We have created a campaign to outwardly establish ourselves as a welcoming, affirming church, offering a visible, external sign of our theology of an Open Table welcoming all into our church. This coming week, we will be launching the ‘This is us.’ campaign, which showcases the diversity and beautiful complexity of our congregation. With this campaign, we offer an immediate response to affirm and stand with our LGBTQ+ siblings, and seize the opportunity to think more broadly about how Church should look, feel and function. How can we see, sense and create a “Big C” Church and a FirstChurch that embodies the Kin-dom of God in its truest form? This campaign takes a stand for “ALL Means ALL” offering a platform for us to re-imagine what being a faith community really means.
This week, we will be installing ‘This is us.’ campaign banners on Ross Avenue and Harwood Street, displaying the following pictures of our members and a short, sharp message that makes it clear we welcome ALL. In the Easter Sunday bulletin, you will see the campaign launch on the cover of FirstNews Weekly, and a non-discriminatory statement that aligns with both the campaign as well as our current mission statement for the church. That statement will remain in our bulletin moving forward. Advertising and social media presence for this campaign will be carried out for the next several weeks.