I’ve been meaning to write for the last week but have somehow been running around like crazy (for once). I could complain, but it has felt more like the craziness of college – and anything that brings me closer to that gives me reason to be thankful. Anyway, my most recent enlightening experience took place last weekend:
LVC Short-Term Recruiter Andrew invited/encouraged me to attend a Welcoming Church Training (…I learned later that he mainly didn’t want to be the youngest person there, so bringing me was a sure way to avoid that). I really didn’t know anything about what the training might include, but with his high recommendation and LVC’s agreement to pay for it, I said sure, why not. The training was put on by the Reconciling in Christ program of Lutherans Concerned North America. LCNA is basically an organization that fights for the rights of LGBT people in the Lutheran Church. Reconciling in Christ is a way for churches or organizations to openly state that they are welcoming of LGBT people. For example, both Luther College and Luther Place are RIC congregations. Now, becoming an RIC congregation is quite a process requiring much dialogue and training, followed by a congregational vote. Then your name gets added to the list and you get a neat plaque to hang up… but it doesn’t stop there. Being RIC requires an active, rather than passive, role of constantly welcoming others (and not just saying you do).
So I really had no idea what to expect. I knew what RIC meant, and I would say that I supported it… passively. I have friends that are LGBT, but I’ve never had extensive conversations about what that means for them, nor have I ever really found the need to separate “them” from “us.” But spending three long days with a diverse group of thirty people who are all really passionate about the work that Lutherans Concerned does really introduced me to a world that I never realized existed. Not everyone at this training was LGBT, but most had been directly affected by their sexuality or that of someone close to them. We heard story after story of people not feeling welcome in the church. Multiple LGBT seminarians were there, nervous about their future. Some LGBT pastors and leaders in the church were there, hurt by their past. I was there, well, for some reason that I wasn’t yet aware of…but with every conversation, I was more sure of the importance of my presence.
We learned a lot about what it takes to become a Reconciling congregation – much of which consists of community organizing. We learned how to really listen to someone through a One-on-One conversation, how to pinpoint their skills and what they can do for me and I can do for them. It is not about being selfish, nor is it about being completely selfless. Rather, it is important to recognize yourself among others. Now this was a new concept to me, though right alongside my Love Yourself blog entry which I have expanded on so much over the past few months. Obviously being selfish is mostly bad. But selfless…now that sounds more like it. It’s important to give and give and give to others, right? Well, sort of. “If you’re completely selfess, you lose yourself,” our trainer Emily said. So it’s some tricky balancing act. Emily called this vocation. Right on…I can totally dig that. Vocation is one helluva tricky balancing act as I’ve experienced it thus far. She says that vocation is the place between selfish and selfless…it’s where “your deepest gladness meets the world’s greatest need.”
If you’re anything like me, you need a minute to let that juicy quote sink in. Go ahead…take it.
What I most appreciated about this phenomenal training was how proactive it was. We didn’t just sit there and think about how lovely the world could be if we would all just be welcoming of all people. We didn’t just read a textbook about how to listen and respond. No, we actually DID one-on-ones with one another and we made propositions for how that other person’s gifts could help me and I could help them. We made action plans for how to address LGBT issues RIGHT NOW, and we have doable roles to play and jobs to do to make immediate changes. Now that’s what I’m talkin about!
What I also liked about this training was how much it encouraged our creativity. The tables were clothed with paper and crayons so we could draw our little hearts out. (Andrew and I were some of the only ones that really took this seriously – see above photo). We were given PARTY HATS! (I was the only one to wear mine…) AND there were little containers of Playdoh at each place setting! (I stole everyone’s who wasn’t using it and rolled each color into several little balls. THEN I refilled the containers with multiple colored balls. Talk about diversity in action!)
All in all (gotta love that camp song!), the weekend was NOT restful.
It WAS challenging, inspiring, thought-provoking, moving, and empowering. I’ll take that over sleep any day.